Do You Know Your Website Visitor?
There are so many web design blogs with content geared towards designers. They contain website design tutorials about CSS, Photoshop, PHP, and the like. (I have tutorials on my own website, too.) But if web designers are using their website to look for new work, shouldn't their site content - blog included - be focused on their prospective clients? Shouldn't their articles be about topics businesses would want to read?
Determining who your visitor should be on your website is a business question. It requires that you first define your business goals for your website. It's true that many designers use their website to vent, keep track of their own solutions to technical issues, share information, or even as an outlet to talk about their political opinions. Those are all great, and may even garner lots of site traffic by fellow web and graphic designers; but that traffic will not result in new business.
Targeting the correct user is a problem faced by many business owners. Your company may be about a lot of things, and you may have a lot of things to say on your site, but you need to evaluate the purpose of your website to decide what should be included. Your website should be focused and goal-driven in every way.
Let's say you've done your research and you know your business. Now that you've figured out who your website is targeting, how do you determine if your strategy is effective?
The best way to make sure your website strategy is working is to check your website's statistics. I'm a big fan of Google Analytics for the scope and breadth of its data, and its ability to tie into your site's search engine marketing campaign. Signing up is free, and I strongly recommend it! Check it out: Google Analytics
Other than storing site traffic statistics, Google Analytics has some really great tools. Probably the most powerful tool Google Analytics has is a "Goals" section. You can set up specific goals your users need to accomplish to determine a "Conversion." Example goals are filling out a contact form, or clicking to a specific page on your site, or making a purchase. You can even set up a service to track phone calls! Obviously, contacts can be verified as coming from your target user or not. Going to a specific page on your site can also tell you if you're attracting the right visitor. (For example, if the link is labeled, "Learn more about purchasing bulk Widgets.")
Promote user interaction
If your website promotes user interaction, say by having blog articles that encourage commenting, you can see by the activity if your users are the kind you're attempting to target. Make interacting easy by making it clearly visible and avoiding site registration. (Note: set up some type of policing to block spam submissions! CAPTCHA or Mollom are very effective. You can also require administrative approval, but that takes more man-power.)
This can be done offline as well as online and is a common marketing gimmick that's been around since Jello. For your website, make sure you send the promotion or incentive to the correct user group and then see if they bite.
User testing is exactly what it sounds like - test your website to see if your users like it. User testing can be done on the cheap, or it can cost tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the complexity of the test and the requirements for the test subjects. In short, you gather a group of people that fit the demographic and description of your target user and employ a series of tests to see how they use the website.
There are a lot of tools at your disposal for determining if your website is effective at targeting your desired user. Keep in mind, though, that the first hurdle to be jumped is figuring out who your user should be. Having a targeted website strategy will greatly improve your website's value, and if done correctly, your company's bottom line.