There are lots of ways of getting to the bottom of who visits your website and why they convert… or why they don't. Much of this can be done by crunching the data that many websites gather through free software, if you know where to look.
Why would you want to know this? Your users are not you, and if you can see how individuals arrive on your website, where they land, how they’re navigating it and where they leave, you can make changes to your website to encourage conversions and make more informed decisions about the content you create.
It’s obviously a good idea to keep your ideal customer happy, but audience research is different to buyer persona research, which we often carry out for our clients. A buyer persona defines the characteristics of your ideal customer and determines how you can best target them. Audience research is about the people who are actually using your site – which might not be the same people – and their actions.
Google Analytics is where we go as a starting point. You’ll hopefully have conversion tracking on your website, which allows you to follow a user’s journey from their point of entry on the website (and how they arrived there), right through to when they complete a goal, such as submitting a form, clicking on a phone number or email address, downloading some content or making a purchase. As well as looking at this, it’s interesting to see the points at which users drop off - where you lose them and why you think that is.
There are different things you can glean from the various sections within Analytics. As a quick overview…
Audience – this tells you how long users stay on your site, how many pages they view, how many come on to immediately come back off. It also gives you demographic data, including geography, and, less reliably, age, gender and interests. It also tells you what device your users prefer to use.
Acquisition – this tells you where your users have come from, which is really useful to know where to put your resources.
Behaviour – the behaviour flow shows you how users move through your site and how many drop-offs you have with interaction. You can examine individual pages or sections to see what kind of content is attracting and engaging users, and if you assign a monetary value to your conversions, which pages contribute the most income for you.
Conversions – this section shows you how many goals your users have completed, where on the site they happen, and the source of those users. You can also look at the reverse goal path, which shows the previous steps taken to reach the goal. One nice little tool we like to look at is Assisted Conversions, which is within Multi-channel Funnels. This shows how different traffic sources contribute to a conversion even when it’s not the source of the visit the time that they convert.
Other software is also available
We’ve said before that we use HubSpot here at Splitpixel. HubSpot is marketing software that gives a really rounded view of each person using our site, even if they’ve not self-identified yet. Once they’ve converted, it ties in their previous activity so you can see the touchpoints they already had. Sound creepy? Kinda. However, this data is gold dust. It gives you a really good understanding of buyer behaviour, what they want to know before contacting you and how long it takes from their first visit to conversion - which makes it easier to see where they are in their customer journey. There’s quite a few offerings in this category at varying prices – HubSpot, Marketo and Pardot usually come out as the top three.
Don’t forget to keep those cookies policies up to date to let users know you’re using tracking software.
Google Search Console
As well as usability errors that may affect rankings or user experience (UX), this free software tells you the search terms that users have keyed in that have led them to your site organically through a Google search – sometimes not what you’d think. It also shows your average position – where you rank for those queries, and what pages they clicked through to.
You can put a cookie on your website for software that allows you to see how users interact with your pages. Usually free for small projects, software like Crazy Egg and Hotjar give you a visual way to understand where users click and scroll.
Crazy Egg is one of the top heatmap tracking software providers
User research platforms like Userzoom allow you to gain or confirm insights from real people, taking you beyond the “what” users do, to the “why”. For this, you need to provide a brief which will determine the kind of user you’d like to test your system, and a task list for them to follow. Their interaction with your website is then recorded, and they record their thoughts about your site and the ease of use as they navigate the task list. This can add up though, as these real people testing your site aren’t doing it out of the kindness of their hearts.
Userzoom acquired similar company WhatUsersDo in 2018
You can, of course, carry out user testing in a real-life situation, which gives you great results. However, this is usually more costly and can sometimes be harder to manage. Surveys are another way of getting real feedback, but you won’t get as focused results.
If you want to look at your wider digital presence, your social media platforms have user data available. Whatever channel you’re on, you can find analytics or insights – your follower demographics and their engagement, displayed in formats of varying degrees of usefulness.
What do you do with this information?
So now you know what your users are looking at – and where they’re spending time – and this will hopefully let you determine the why. Make sure to write down any ideas generated as you process the data, as this research can result in big ideas. From this, you can start making changes that will have big results.
If you understand how users are behaving on your site and it’s not how you want or expect them to behave, you’ve got a golden opportunity to make improvements to the UX, backed up by data. Try not to make assumptions – try to get to the bottom of why users behave in a certain way. If resources are a problem, make small changes, one at a time, and monitor the impact.
Just looking at the basics of Google’s free tools can help you develop an improved user experience. If one of your pages – other than your contact page – has a high exit rate, could you put more calls to action on there? If most of your users are on mobile, ensure that your development is mobile first to make that experience as good as it can be. Wide geographic spread? Maybe you need to start looking at language options.
Carrying out user analysis allows you to make UX improvements backed up by data
Platforms like Google Optimise allow you to split test incremental changes to help determine the best way forward. This can also be a good time to go back to user testing platforms to get fresh feedback from real people on the improvements you’ve made.
By understanding the types of content that are engaging your audience – the ones that are drawing them to the site, making them spend time reading or watching, getting them to exchange their details for gated content – you’ll improve both your ROI and retention by knowing what you need to produce more of, their preferred medium, who you’re aiming it at, and why you’re doing it.
Calls to Action
Among the site changes you can make, carrying out audience research will really make you think about the messaging, image, colour, shape, size, font and position of your CTAs. Optimising your CTAs, resulting in an improved conversion rate, is one of the outcomes you’d expect from this kind of research. Just don't forget to test, test, test.
If you know you’ve got the right people on your website, it means you’re not throwing money away by investing in remarketing. Platforms like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn Ads allow you to target users who have already been on your site to encourage them to return. Audience research will allow you to do this better, like serving different ads for visitors of different pages, as you understand where they are in their customer journey. By refining this, you can cut your costs and boost your conversions.
Need some support?
We’re old hands at making changes to websites that improve conversions. Whether your site needs incremental improvements or you’re ready for a fresh look, our experience has taught us to start with the data and work from there. If you’d like us to do that for you, just let us know.