In our last blog post we looked at how you can carry out efficient and effective audience research through the use of surveys and participatory discovery sessions. But to build a great website, you need a multi-faceted approach.
So in this post, the second in the audience research series, we will focus on Method 2 – Analytics. Here, we’ll be discussing how analytical data can improve quality, drive traffic and increase user interaction to make your website the best it can be.
Demographics and geographics
Although there are arguably more useful pieces of information to gain from your analytics data, there is still definite value in looking at standard demographic and geographic information.
This type of data includes your audience’s age, gender, language and location, and is quick and easy to analyse. It’s clear, for example, that if you’re selling lip-gloss and your users are predominantly males age 65+, there’s something not working with your design and marketing!
Psychographics data is in many ways the new kid on the block, and provides a far deeper and effective way of analysing data and targeting users than simple demographics and geographics.
Psychographic information can be broken down into:
- Lifecycle data, e.g. the ages of a user’s children, first purchase of substantially higher-value goods;
- Behavioural data, e.g. which ads users have clicked on or what they have searched for;
- Social profile data, e.g. relationship status, interests and occupation.
Although this data can be more difficult to analyse quantitatively, it allows you to build up a much more complete, rounded profile of an individual user and lets you really get into their mindset. In terms of website design, this is almost akin to asking them in person, and can profoundly effect not only your design work, but also your bottom line.
Knowing how your visitors access your site – whether it’s direct, via a search engine, a referral or social media – is crucial in terms of marketing and placement.
If you know that 70% of your users arrive at your site via Twitter, for example, then you can focus on that particular channel as a marketing strategy and also use the information you learn there to inform your decisions regarding other channels.
Similarly, you can analyse the terms your visitors are searching for when they find your site and adjust your content accordingly to enhance your SEO and drive even more traffic.
And every time you make this type of change, you should do more analysis to find out whether your changes have been beneficial!
The way in which your audience interacts with your site also provides valuable insight and helps you make effective design and marketing decisions.
Some elements of user behaviour you will certainly want to analyse include:
- Visitor flow – how your users move through your site, which pages they visit, where they land and where they exit;
- New vs. returning data – the proportion of your users who return versus those who are new to the site, and comparing this information against other statistics, such as landing page or psychographics;
- Frequency – how often people visit your site allows you to see whether issues lie with your content or with your marketing;
- Engagement – how much time users spend on each page and what actions (e.g. clicks, downloads, purchases) they take whilst they are there.
We will focus more on this aspect of audience research in our next blog post.
Trends are cycles of ups or downs that take place over a long period of time, typically three months or longer. Analysing trends is a great way of predicting longer-term changes, allowing you to see how your website fits in with your industry as a whole and informing bigger decisions that will affect your whole website design or marketing strategy.
When analysing trends over time, it’s important to plan out what you are looking for and ask the right questions. These might include:
- What are our top-selling products?
- Which are our top-converting keywords?
- What gives us the highest ROI?
- Which marketing channel leads to the most conversions?
- How does our data this year compare with that of last year?
The questions you ask will be dependent upon your type of business, the purpose of your website and your aims for the future. Trend analysis should always form part of your long-term website strategy and inform your decision-making process.
And to finish, a few general tips
To make the most of your analytics data, there are a few general rules to follow:
- Plan carefully what you want to learn and which questions you need the answers to.
- Use recent data. The more recent, the better.
- Make sure you have enough data. It’s no good basing your whole decision-making process on just a month or two’s information.
- Segment your data before you carry out any detailed analysis. Drilling down into the data will ensure that you know exactly what you’re looking at and can make sensible and informed decisions based on what you see.
- Remember to compare your data – between time (e.g. this year versus last year) and between you and your competitors where possible.
- Don’t jump to conclusions. Decisions need to be based on evidence.
- Don’t forget to look at strengths as well as weaknesses – there may be lessons which you can apply to other parts of your site.
- Use analysis as an ongoing tool, not a one-off event.
Of course, there are many other types of data you could analyse, from site loading speed to campaign figures. The most important thing to remember is that analysing data requires forward planning.
Once you know what you are looking for and have identified the essential questions for your business, you will be able to target the right type of data, gain a deep understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of your site, and make changes that will affect the traffic, conversion rate and ultimate success of your website.