One of the interesting things about working on our lab site is having access to the affiliate’s forum of a major affiliate marketer. One of the cyclical queries there goes like this: “I’ve been an affiliate for X months or years and I’m not earning any money. Please look at my site and see what’s wrong.”
The predictable answer is always given immediately: “You have no original content. Write some stuff.”
This is generally a very good answer and I don’t dispute it. But I really want to ask these people, “Why do people go to your site?” Or, since I’m pretty sure that no one does go to their sites, “Why would anyone go to your site?”
The problem is that most of these folks seem, from the data available to a casual observer like me, to be thinking something like, “I want people to come to my site and buy expensive electronic stuff and make me rich,” rather than, “People need a site that meets this long-felt need, so I’ll make one.” Indeed, the motivation of the visitor seems never to have entered their minds.
I’m planning a purchase of expensive electronic stuff right now. I’m planning to buy online, and I’m looking for useful information so I can make a good decision, but at no point in my shopping process have I thought, “I guess I’ll look for an ugly, obscure site thrown together in a few minutes by someone with no expertise in electronics, selling items I can easily find at major sites which I trust. There must be one lurking back there on the 147th page of the search results. I’ll go find it and brighten the owner’s day.”
If you already have a site and you have analytics installed, you can make a good guess about why people come to your site. Look at your keywords, for example, and you’ll see what people have been looking for when they arrived at your site. You can, if you collect that data, see what people search for and click on once they arrive, and what they buy.
If you don’t have a site yet, you can still get hold of some data. You can canvass people in your target market. “If you wanted some goat gamma globulin,” I asked animal scientists when working on that kind of site, “how would you go about getting it?” You can check on what people are searching for by using Google Insights or the Google Adwords Suggestion Tool, or use Wordstream’s keyword research tools, free or premium. You can even perform thought experiments with yourself as your example user, as long as you don’t get to thinking that you represent EveryUser perfectly.
Armed with this data, you can make your site meet the needs of your audience more precisely, if you’re reaching the right people already. If, on the other hand, you’re completely surprised by the reasons people come to your site (if, for example, you thought they’d come to shop but really they’re just coming to check your address and then driving to your brick and mortar shop), then you can adjust your site’s message to fit that reality.
Without the information about why visitors visit you, you can’t make those decisions in a useful, strategic way.