Ultra Spectra

Archive for July 16th, 2009

The internet is a fast-paced environment. People can come to your website at any hour from a wide range of locations, each of them with different intentions or needs. Unlike physical retail stores, you can’t see who is coming in and browsing around. You don’t know much about the people reading you. How can we develop a rough profile of all these individuals?

You already get a glimpse of them everyday when they interact with your website. Some may register for an account, leave a comment or send you an email. But many are ‘invisible’. They get to your site, see what you put out, click on a outbound link and disappear.

What you currently know about these individuals comes from a combination of visible user actions (e.g comments/emails) and statistics (e.g visit frequency/visit length). Is this knowledge sufficient for most businesses or bloggers? Yes. But I think it would be tremendously helpful to learn even more about your audience.

In marketing and advertising, we proactively define our target audience. We start with our end goals and then structure our website/ads with the right buzz phrases, pitch, style, keywords and angle to appeal to people we want to attract as a consumer/user/reader. Gathering information on visitors to our website makes us more effective marketers.

It is helpful to analyze and construct a general profile of your audience, however shifting it may be, because it provides you with information that will allow you to better improve your content scope, site usability, conversation rate or marketing campaign. Let’s split this process up into two sections: statistical analysis and data collection.

Statistical Analysis: Start Working With What You Already Have


Depending on the stats tool you’re currently using, you can get a lot of information on how visitors are using your website, where they come from and what they are looking at. There are obviously a lot of different metrics to look at but I’m listing what I think is more relevant to understanding visitors in general:

  1. Visitor loyalty, bounce rate, recency, time on site. These sites measure one critical thing: the level of engagement. They reveal how often people visit your site, the last time they used it and the depth of their visit. While these numbers aren’t a definitive interpretation of on-site user actions, they are a gauge of their enthusiasm.
  2. Visitor Location. This allows you to make cultural and linguistic assumptions of your visitors. If you know you receive the most visitors from a few specific countries, you might want to create landing pages/offers or content with a geographic focus.
  3. Visitor search terms/keywords. This includes both search engines and on-site search boxes. The clearest indicator of visitor interest, search terms tell you what they want to get from your site and it reveals information gaps you can fill up. This is where data collection gets specific. If you consistently get a lot of queries for a specific phrase, you can safely assume that there will be visitor interest in content or offers related to it.
  4. Traffic source. This includes search engines, referrer sites, type-in/bookmark traffic and ad campaigns. Pay attention to referrer sites: it reveals what visitors are reading or using. Traffic sources also tell you where to improve for greater visibility.

Take some time to look at these statistics. Instead of only looking at them at each single point in time, it makes more sense to regularly study them to see how they trend over the lifespan of your site or the course of a marketing/ad campaign. On the whole, they will give you a good idea of what users want and what draws their attention.

How to Get More Audience Data: Using Polls, Surveys and Features


Now for the fun part: the active solicitation of user information. Instead of simply monitoring web statistics, you create opportunities for visitors to voluntarily reveal personal data and opinions. These can be achieved in several ways:

  1. Polls. An excellent and informal way to get information on user preferences, they are very easy to set up and maintain on any website. The questions asked can be diverse and they are a good way to gradually accumulate a lot of information without being too invasive. Run a poll for two weeks and change the questions to pull in more information. They can be integrated on a regular basis alongside articles or they can be left alone on a visible corner of the website.
  2. Surveys. Depending on their length and how they are created, surveys may be more labor intensive. Some visitors will avoid them if they are too long. They are ideal when bundled with competitions or special offers which provide incentives for completion. Short surveys can be used for exiting visitors or as a follow-up after a user completes a specific purchase or opts-out of your payment plan/subscription.
  3. On-Site User Features. If you’re running a community, social media service or even a blog, you can get more information by simply offering more user features (ways users can interact with each other and your site). For example, allow users to input more biographical info in profiles or give them the option to favorite/rate your blog posts and the contributions of other users. Features also add value to users and increase their engagement with your site. Think strategically about what data you want and create a feature that allows users to indirectly reveal it. Facebook is a good example of a site with features that generate a lot of mineable data. Of course, it is always good to have an appropriate privacy policy and allow users to opt out easily from their side.
  4. Audience Feedback. To understand your visitors, its useful to ensure that you monitor your feedback channels. Comments, emails, incoming blog links, mentions on online communities and even tweets allow you to get an intuitive feel of what people think about your website. Subscribe to the right feedback channels (Google alerts, blogsearch etc.) and track them daily. Either do it yourself or get someone to be the official feedback/community coordinator. Audience feedback is often unsolicited, although you can easily get more comments/emails by specifically asking for them. This provides you with clues on how to better cater to your target market.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, some of these methods can be applied online and offline simultaneously. For polls and surveys, you should be able to find some plugins or software available for your site platform. Alternatively, you can always use external online services like SurveyMonkeyPollDaddy4Q and Wufoo.

After obtaining this data, setup a system which allows you to segment and compare your findings over a period of time. This can be a simple spreadsheet or something more sophisticated. When combined with the visitor statistics you already have, it’s easy to understand your audience, allowing you to to better accommodate their needs or interest.

Can you think of any other ways to get more audience data?

SEO Consultant

SEO Consultant

I’m not old enough to remember what the internet was like without search engines. Apparently, there were lists of web-servers: they were manually updated and publicized in news updates like this. And then the search engines came crawling, indexing and sorting out pages. As the web expanded with more users and businesses putting up websites, search engines became an essential way to immediately find information.

There’s a common saying: build your site for visitors, not for search engines. A famous Google webmaster guideline asks the question: “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?” It’s actually quite a challenge: Pretend search engines don’t exist. How can you grow your website, get visitors and make lots of money?

I recently built a couple of sites without any focus on search engine rankings and getting organic search traffic. I didn’t block the search bots from indexing the site but I optimized nothing. Didn’t focus on site link architecture, title tags, meta-descriptions, meta-keywords, link building, competitor analysis. Forget about search engine algorithms.

I also wasn’t interested in methods of search-based marketing like finding long tail phrases and placing them on article directories or social media properties in order for these pages to rank and send traffic to my site. That would have involved researching search keywords and competition, so I did nothing of that sort too.

Ultimately, you’re dealing with a situation where the convenience offered by search engines is non-existent. No quick answers to quick questions for everyone. So how are people going to find what they need? How are they going to find my site?


Without search engines, people will do what they’ve been doing for thousands of years. They rely on each other. They rely on the community, on the collection of publications known within their geographic location or industry. They rely on word of mouth. And they also rely on getting information from common resources like a public square, library, forum or marketplace.

Go where people gather. There you will be heard. It sounds like rudimentary marketing but quite honestly, until I’ve tried ignoring search engines and focusing exclusively on gathering points, I didn’t realize how much actual marketing I was NOT doing.

There were far more forums, social networking sites, blogs than I ever imagined even for small niches. And then there are mega-sites like Youtube and Facebook. If I were to put a number to it, I would say I’m missing out on at least a few thousand visitors every day by NOT being active in these online communities. And that doesn’t include offline marketing.

This is a good amount of visitors who are likely to become supporters of your content, clients or buyers. And the truth is I’ve always made money much faster by going to them instead of waiting for them to come to me. It sure beats the usual plan of waiting for my site to get indexed, rank for longtail phrases and THEN hopefully convert into an ad click or sale.

Traffic from these sites can be as targeted as search engine visitors: many are looking for recommendations from peers or actively engaged in a specific activity that is relevant to my site. But unlike search visitors, they aren’t coming in blind into your website from a query.

They know more than your page name, url and meta-description. They know your avatar, they know your history of contributions. They have a rough idea of who you are. Your words are in their face before they even click over. You’ve already presold them by making yourself familiar.


The most common problem we face is the lack of time. Can we outsource something like forum, blog or social site marketing? Yes, of course. But use people who know what they’re doing or else you’ll be wasting your time. If you’re a one-person operation, it might not be good for your brand to have someone that’s not you out there, even if you have an excellent ghost.

But small businesses, big businesses and multi-author content sites? No problem.

In any case, the whole experience of marketing without search engines is educational. It forced me to go out and represent my brand. This is me, I own this website. Hello, here’s what I do. Take a look. Here’s why this will be interesting.. and so on.

Once again, nothing revolutionary but when you’re not depending on search engines, its a make-or-break situation. How can I not just get clicks but the most value out of each click? What web page should I link to, who should I target, what content angle to use etc.

It forced me to work and persuade on a social level you don’t really think about because you’re always focused on existing traffic/users or things that will improve a machine’s reading of your site’s worth. Then you realize the value in having a strong brand and reputation.

I would recommend that you try pretending that search engines don’t exist, even just for a week or so. Especially if you’ve got a new website. Search engine traffic is invaluable but there’s a lot of visitors out there just waiting for you to show them your site.

If you’ve already reached a plateau in organic search traffic and its not making you as much money as you like, why not focus on promoting your site outside of search engines?

So, how would you market your website if search engines didn’t exist?

Related Topics:

1. Me!
Atif Aslam

Atif Aslam

No one could’ve foreseen Michael Jackson’s death. As the new Coke Studio episode hit airwaves last Sunday, one heard Atif belt ‘Billie Jean’ while performing his own composition of ‘Wasta Pyar Da’. When Atif was recording this song, it was in March earlier this year and Michael Jackson was still alive. Three months later as the song went on air, Michael Jackson is no longer with us. “I was humming ‘Billie Jean’ at Coke Studio and it went from there”, says Atif of fusing ‘Billie Jean’ into Coke Studio. “I’ve been a huge fan of Michael Jackson. His demise is an irreplaceable loss and this is my tribute to him,” Atif added. Even though Atif Aslam is no Michael Jackson, the track ‘Wasta Pyar Da’ was smooth, haunting and interesting. The jump in between from ‘Wasta’ to the words from ‘Billie Jean’ – “People Always Told Me Be Careful Of What You Do/And Don’t Go Around Breaking Young Girls’ Hearts/And Mother Always Told Me Be Careful Of Who You Love/And Be Careful Of What You Do ‘Cause The Lie Becomes The Truth/Billie Jean Is Not My Lover/She’s Just A Girl Who Says That I Am The One” – and back and forth throughout the song gave it an edge. Some might not even approve of Atif’s ‘Billie Jean’, especially as Michael continues to dominate headlines even in his death, but as a singer, what is commendable is that Atif never imitated Michael. It was experimental, daring and challenging. MJ, we think, would approve.

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