Your organization can have a sleek, modern website with all the bells and whistles, but if you don’t understand your audience, it won’t perform well. You have to know WHAT makes them tick and WHY, and HOW they respond to different situations to create a more engaging and impactful website.
Here are six tactics to better define and target your audience for improved website engagement:
- Start with your current users.
- Look at the competition.
- Consider the psychographics of your target.
- Refine your personas.
- Improve the digital journey for each persona group.
1. Start with your current users.
Send out “web engagement surveys” to better understand your current user and member base, what they think about your website, and their perceived engagement on your site.
Surveys include a series of multiple-choice or open-ended questions that collect specific information based on your website engagement goals. Today, you can easily develop a range of surveys using online tools such as Survey Monkey and Google Forms. These surveys can then be sent via email or traditional post, or conducted virtually, in-person, or over the phone.
The feedback you gain from web engagement surveys or questionnaires can provide valuable insights from your most engaged users. Their participation in your survey is proof of their level of engagement in your organization. Use these insights to make your website more engaging for your entire membership base and new web visitors.
Beyond key demographic data and how they may describe themselves, you can also find out how helpful your content is to your members’ careers, opinions and ratings of your website on specific factors, what prompts or motivates users to visit your website, and much more.
2. Check out the competition.
Who is your competition? What is their website strategy? And how does your website compare? By checking out the competition, you can figure out how to provide more value to your niche audience base.
Some basic competitive analysis (also called comparative analysis) is one of the first things you should do when optimizing your website for increased engagement. It’s also something you should do on an ongoing basis to help you better target and engage your web visitors.
A good place to start is with a Website SWOT Analysis. A website SWOT analysis helps you develop a winning website engagement strategy by uncovering all of your internal website strengths and weaknesses, as well as external Threats and Opportunities based on your competition and user base. Go into as much detail as possible.
Another visual you should create when researching your competition is a competitive diagram (comparative diagram). These diagrams can help you develop high-level strategies to provide more value to your web visitors.
Here’s how to accomplish this:
- Specify your goals. Why are you doing this comparative diagram and what do you hope to achieve?
- Specify the purpose of your website.
- Make a list of your direct and indirect competition.
- Create a competitive diagram of your competition’s website features and user experience (UX) strong points.
Depending on the goal of your competitive diagram, you could look at things like content types, blog elements, navigation, site categorization, images, or filters. Here’s a short competitive diagram on website usability.
5. Use your competitive diagram to identify differences between your site and your competitors.
6. Identify specific recommendations to gain a competition advantage and increase usability scores.
3. Consider the psychographics of your target.
Focus groups and user interviews are two powerful ways to discover what your members want on your site and what would keep them interested.
If done right, they can allow you to dig into the minds of your audience and form conclusions about their psychographics (e.g. attitudes and aspirations). Use these insights to speak to their needs and pain points on your website to improve user engagement.
Focus groups are somewhat informal approaches to assess user needs and feelings. They work by bringing together a small group of six to eight of your web users to discuss the content and structural and design features of your site that they like and don’t like. Focus groups are moderated and typically last about two hours.
The focus-group session should ideally feel open and free-flowing for participants, but the moderator should maintain the focus. It’s best if he or she follows a pre-planned structure and script of specific issues and sets goals for the type of information you want to collect.
User interviews require the interviewer to be a skilled active listener, which takes quite a bit of experience. When done right, interviews can supply a goldmine of insight into the thoughts, motivations, and pain points that guide user decision-making and behavior.
To get the most out of your user interviews, the interviewer must:
- Listen with the intent to understand rather than reply.
- Be willing to consider other viewpoints and let go of biases and deep-rooted mindsets.
- Fully understand the research goal and questions beforehand.
- Pay attention to non-verbal communication (the reactions, facial expressions, and postures of your interviewees) by immersing yourself in the conversation to gain insight into their behavior. Body language accounts for 55% of communication.
- Put the interviewee in a “thinking aloud” mindset and “storytelling” mode by strategically asking warm-up questions, open-ended questions, and follow-up questions.
- Debrief immediately after the interview when everything is fresh in your mind.
- Create or update your different user personas.
4. Refine the personas of your audience segments.
Personas are semi-fictional characters that represent the different segments of your target users and their different archetypes such as their patterns of thought, behavior, and language.
Personas allow you to identify and harness your audience’s passion to create meaningful engagements on your website and across their digital experiences with your organization.
Here’s a persona template that you could customize for each of your audience groups.
Personas are created and refined based on what you "know" about your audience, user interviews, surveys, focus groups, web/behavioral analytics, and journey maps.
5. Improve the digital journey for each persona group.
Journey maps show you how current and potential users move through your website(s) and marketing channels or “funnels,” from point A to point B.
With journey maps, you can see how people engage with your digital interfaces at every touchpoint, allowing you to visualize their mindset, behavior, and frustrations so you can tweak your website to keep your audience happy and engaged.
Here are tips and best practices for creating a user journey map:
- Consider your different user personas.
- Create and validate hypotheses about your user personas through a mix of other user and market research methods and behavioral analytics.
- Start building out your journey maps for each of your personas to understand how each interacts with your site and what they need to do to accomplish their goals.
- Refine each of your hypotheses by doing further user research, behavioral analysis, and by talking to your actual users.
- Make a single map of the general user journey.
- Map out the journey for every persona including the channels that bring them to your website, every touchpoint, and their emotional state at each step of their journey.
- Optimize the digital journey, including the flow and content, for each persona.
Use these journey maps as well as your web engagement surveys, competitive analysis, site surveys, and personas to better address your audience and web visitors challenges, goals, and expectations.
Incorporate the language that they use and make it easier for your users to get the information they’re looking for or complete what they’re trying to do. Better targeting your website users in these ways will lead to better experiences and more engagement.
At Brightfind, we help our clients conduct meaningful user research and use those insights to improve engagement with their website and ultimately, user satisfaction.
Check out our Ultimate Guide to Websites for Associations to learn more about how we can help you engage and convert users to members using your website.