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How to Learn More about Your Website Audience

Lori Halley 24 September 2008 10 comments

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!

QuantCast.com market research tool screenshotAnd 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 "Quantify" your website. A snippet of copy-and-paste javascript in the 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 they are.

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?

Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Posted by Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

Published Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 3:54 PM


  • Jamie Grove - E-Commerce Guy said:

    Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 10:01 AM

    Great overview of both the strategy and the tools available to website owners, Rebecca!  I'd also recommend Compete.com.  Using Compete and QuantCast together can give you a very good picture of traffic around your site (upstream/downstream).

  • Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot]

    Dmitriy Buterin [Chief Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 10:43 AM
  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 11:19 AM

    4Q looks like a terrific free exit-survey tool - and I especially like this line in Avinash Kaushik's blog post about it:

    ...the greatest survey in the world only has three questions!

      1. What is the purpose of your visit to our website today?

      2. Were you able to complete your task today?

      3. If you were not able to complete your task today, why not?

  • Michael Martine - Remarkablogger said:

    Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 11:27 AM

    I have used surveys and polls to great effect. There are poll widgets for WordPress and survey services like surveymonkey.com and surveygizmo.com.

  • Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot]

    Lori Halley [Engaging Apricot] said:

    Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 11:38 AM

    I just came across another terrific tool for doing your marketing homework -- not a web app but a worksheet: David La Piana's Competitor Analysis Worksheet designed especially for nonprofits.

  • John Haydon said:

    Wednesday, 24 September 2008 at 4:59 PM


    Google Analytics is a great (free!) way to analyze who is visiting your site. And for non-profits, Grassroots.org has an SEO guide that shows you how to set up Google Analytics. Here are some more benefits for non-profits:




  • Cindy King said:

    Sunday, 28 September 2008 at 1:49 AM

    A very interesting post. I stumbled it and included it in my Get International Clients Sunday Blog Carnival (posted at http://getinternationalclients.com/get-international-clients-sunday-blog-carnival-21/).

    Come over and vote for the best post of this weeks entries.

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Monday, 01 December 2008 at 11:14 AM

    Nonprofits looking to start using social media as a marketing tool with find a wealth of sound advice

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Tuesday, 23 June 2009 at 11:44 AM

    For every hour your non-profit invests in social networking, an hour is lost to other projects that might further your cause more effectively. How can you know if social media is the best possible use of that time, unless you’ve first figured out what

  • Wild Apricot Blog said:

    Wednesday, 02 September 2009 at 11:18 AM

    NTEN is offering a chance to win a free registration for the Online Nonprofit Technology Conference this month. It's not only a great chance for some lucky non-profit folks to get free professional development, but there's a quick lesson in online marketing

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