Are the people who are visiting your website really the audience that you're trying to target?
The more you know about your website visitors, the better you can
tailor your content to attract the audience you want to reach — but for
nonprofits and associations with a limited budget, market
research can be a tough challenge.
One way to learn more about your website readers is to ask them
directly about their purpose in visiting the site, their background,
their expectations of your organization, and so on. And we've talked before about various free tools that can help you to set up quick polls and surveys to collect feedback from your readers.
Website traffic reporting tools (such as Google Analytics, free and
comprehensive) can also give you a lot of information about where in
the world your readers are located, how they use your website, and what
pages of your website are getting the most traffic. Analytics reports
can tell you which sites are linking in to your own and bringing new
visitors, as well as how many visitors come to your site through search
engines — and what keywords they're using to find you. Even the
analytics information about what operating systems, browsers, and
screen resolutions can give you a hint about the technological
sophistication of your audience.
If your organization is active on social media and social networking sites — such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Plurk, and so on — check to see who is "following" you or listed themselves as a Friend. Do you see a pattern there? If you're hoping to attract an audience of North American teens, for example, but the bulk of your social media contacts are European
professionals, that may be an indication that your website content isn't quite on target for the audience you want to draw!
And here's another free market research tool you might want to try —
QuantCast is intended
primarily to help advertisers track down websites with audiences that match
their target demographics, but it's useful for anyone who wants to do market
research on a tight budget. Just enter your domain name in the search box to see various types of information about the kind of people who visit your site.
There are two small caveats here, however: First, at present, this service will only report demographics for American website traffic — it works by matching up US Census data to the zip codes associated with the computer IP addresses of site visitors. Secondly, if your website is new or has little traffic, there may not be enough
information available for QuantCast to give you a detailed or reliable
demographics report. A sort of Neilsen ratings-style (panel data) approach does its
best to fill in the gaps — but the smaller the sample, naturally, the less accurate the results will be.
You can improve the quality of the demographics information received
through QuantCast reports by signing up for a free account to
footer of your website pages (similar to the tracking code you might
use for Google Analytics) will help QuantCast make a more accurate
measure of your website visitors and give you a fuller report of who
QuantCast was one suggestion in a recent podcast at Marketing Over Coffee, responding to a listener's question about how nonprofits can use
social media or other low-cost methods to find out more about their
audience. This topic begins just past the 6-minute mark in the podcast — and I think you'll find it's a
discussion well worth hearing.
And now it's your turn!
If someone wants to learn more about their website visitors, what other low-cost tactics and tools for market research can you suggest? What's working for your organization?