Knowing your audience is key to a successful website. What if you don’t have plenty of analytics data to work with because your site is new or just planned? What if you haven’t captured the data you need, either because you don’t have analytics installed or because you have too few visitors to provide the data you need? What if your current website is so far from what you need that the data you have doesn’t even seem relevant? How can you discern the user journey without having a mp or traffic information?
Let’s try a thought experiment.
1. How will your visitor find your website?
Maybe your current site isn’t bringing in much search traffic, or you don’t yet have a website. Determine the best keywords for your business and check out the competition. This lets you know what you need to beat in your quest to be the best choice for people searching for those keywords. Is it realistic to think that you’ll have lots of search traffic? If so, what kinds of searches will bring people to you?
If you can tell that you won’t be getting lots of search traffic right off, consider how paid search ads, social media, or offline marketing might get your visitors to you. What kind of person will find your website through these other strategies?
2. What will their initial experience be?
For one site we’re working on right now, the site owner thought their most common visitor would be a journalist. Yet the content they planned didn’t speak to journalists. We’re talking right now with someone who wants to appeal primarily to lawyers, but they’re thinking of using Facebook as a major source of traffic. If there’s a mismatch between your expected guest and what they find when they reach your page, you need to fix that.
3. Where will they go next?
Your visitors’ path or paths through the site has to be planned. You don’t want to drop them onto a page and see what happens. You want to have a clear path that lets your visitors meet your goals and theirs easily.
4. At what point will they leave?
Your visitors won’t stay forever. You want them to be able to experience a successful completion of the transaction you’ve planned for them: they should read your blog post, buy your product, call you to enquire about your services, subscribe to your newsletter, or download your white paper. Go through the entire path yourself, from start to finish, and see how well it works, how satisfying an experience it is. Will your visitors want to come back and have the experience again? Do you have some next step for them to take at the end of the experience?
As you take this walkthrough, whether it’s a walk through your website or through the notes you have for your planned website, note the areas where things aren’t yet the way you want them to be. Identify the places where people might experience frustration, the places where they might leave — or the places where they might want to take action, so you can make it very easy for them to do so.
Next — and this is very important — collect the data and compare what you expected with what really happens. Are you wrong about your typical visitor? Are people following the paths you created or blazing their own? Are they leaving at the points you expected, or are they straying off the path early because it doesn’t fit their needs?
That’s the end of the thought experiment. Now it’s time to get in their with the real data and work with it:
- Change your strategy to suit the data.
- Continue capturing the data and responding to it.
- Reap the rewards.