Audience analysis: What it means, why it matters, and how to do it

Understanding what audience analysis is and how to put it into action are necessary stepping-stones to a successful website. Photo: Focus group/Flickr

HARRISBURG, Pa., October 24, 2013 - In order to produce online content that gets results, understanding the audience is essential. After all, the audience is whom the content is directed towards, so it would only make sense that understanding them is important. But just what is audience analysis? Read on for an explanation and more.

What it means

Audience analysis is the process of figuring out who currently uses, or should use, a website, the information they require, and the tasks the users need to complete. To further understand audience analysis, keep in mind the components of this acronym and the questions associated with each:

  • Analysis- Who is the audience?
  • Understanding- What does the audience know about the subject?
  • Demographics- What is their age, sex, level of education, etc.?
  • Interest- What attracted them to the website?
  • Environment- Where will the pages on the site appear, and where will users view them?
  • Needs- What needs does the audience have with regard to the content?
  • Customization- What specific details/ interests/ considerations pertaining to the audience need to be addressed?
  • Expectations- What does the audience come to the content expecting to learn?

(http://www.wikihow.com/Conduct-Audience-Analysis)

Why it matters 


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In creating a website, the audience should be the number one priority. Learning about customers in terms of who they are, what they do, and what brings them to the site is crucial to providing excellent web service.  More information on this can be found here: (http://www.howto.gov/web-content/usability/audience-analysis).

How to utilize audience analysis

Various strategies can be used to analyze an audience, including:

  • Web analytics

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Taking appropriate measures to protect privacy, Google Analytics and similarly designed tools can provide a vast amount of information about the people who use a website and the tasks they attempt to complete on the site. It answers questions such as: How did the users arrive there? What page did they visit first? After leaving that page, where did they go? If they used a search feature on the website, what page were they on at the time that they did so? What terms did they use when they were conducting their search? 

  • Usability testing

Usability tests start with a brief series of questions regarding the user’s background, needs, and familiarity with the website. Learning from a real site visitor through usability testing presents an extremely valuable opportunity. A variety of open and close-ended questions should be used for the best results.  Check out the Usability Testing section of Usability.gov to learn more (http://www.usability.gov/how-to-and-tools/methods/usability-testing.html).

  • Focus groups

Even without a large number of participants, focus groups provide insight into what the average visitor thinks about the site. Focus groups serve many purposes. They can be used to collect information regarding overall impressions, and they can also provide inspiration for useful new features. 

  • Customer satisfaction surveys

These surveys should include questions about visitors’ professions, what brings them to the site, and what they hope to accomplish using it.

  • Market research

There are all kinds of media research companies, polling firms, nonprofit and academic research centers that collect and analyze data about web users and their online interaction.

  • Web server logs

The user’s country of origin and other helpful bits of information can be gathered through web server logs.

  • Public content

Look into the most frequent complaints and requests the agency receives through email, phone, and in-person service centers. If possible, it would be wise to get reports from the operators on a routine basis to find out what the audience is wanting.

  • Search data

Learn what terms visitors are keying into the search engine. Check to be sure that the terms they are using are identical to the terms that appear on the website.

  • Talk to other web content managers

Get in touch with colleagues at other agencies. If they target the same audience, collaborate with them to ensure that the websites complement rather than replicate each other.

  • Use commercial products for demographic data

A wide selection of products are available for the collection and analysis of demographic data about website visitors. Google Analytics also just came out with a new feature that allows users to see the demographics and ages of those who view that site. 

  • Create a persona

Personas are very helpful with designing websites that cater to an audience’s needs and expectations. They have also been referred to as audience profiles or customer profiles. Personas function as hypothetical versions of actual customers, and they are useful with anticipating the goals and expectations of real-life customers. 

Understanding what audience analysis is, why it matters, and how to put it into action are all necessary stepping-stones to experiencing success with websites and other forms of online content. It might take a little time and effort to sufficiently analyze an audience, but the payoff in terms of the thumbs up ratings and stellar reviews the site will receive makes it all worth it in the end. 


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Katie Elizabeth

Katie Elizabeth is a freelance blogger, content coordinator and communications grad student. She’s always on the lookout for the latest and greatest social media and tech tactics and thinking about the creative ways in which professionals can actually USE them. 

She’s worked in several different industries, including real estate, sustainability and career development. When she’s not writing or studying, she’s probably on her way to a concert or exploring flea markets and antique stores.

 

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