Who is visiting?
The editors and other members of your print
publication staff need to know what content is most appropriate for the type of
visitors coming to your site. And before advertisers will be willing to pay for
impressions or click-throughs, they will also want to know what types of people
your site is attracting.
There are two methods for determining who is
coming to your site: installing a registration entry process on the front-end
of your site, or conducting a survey.
Why are they visiting?
Although the registration process is often
used by sites where users must pay for access, it can also be used in free
sites. First-time visitors are required to answer a series of identifying
questions to receive a userid and password. During registration, they can also
be asked many other useful questions--such as occupation, organizational
affiliation, interests, and purchasing habits.
The registration method has its shortcomings,
however. Marcia Yudkin, author of Marketing Online, warns, "It is important to
strike a balance between information advertisers want and turning people off by
being intrusive." People may simply leave because they decide it is not worth
the time to register or the risk of revealing personal information about
themselves. One possible compromise is to ask users about their interests and
purchasing habits, but not their name.
Another problem with the registration process
is that the profile of first-time users may not accurately represent the
profile of your typical traffic.
- Web-based survey:
Typically, Web surveys are housed on a
separate site that visitors access via hyperlink. A special pop-up screen can
also be used to prompt all or a random sample of visitors to complete the
survey. The survey can contain both rating scales and open-ended questions. For
example, in a recent online survey for a magazine's site, we asked visitors if
they were subscribers to the parent print publication, how often they visited
the site, what other sites they visit, their interests, affiliations, and
education. Incentives--such as a small gift or entry into a raffle--can be used
to increase the number of respondents.
Your editors and advertisers not only want to know
who is visiting your site, but why--what is attracting them? According to
Gabrielle Boguslawski, recruitment advertising manager for the journal Science,
"The web is a new frontier for advertisers. They are used to buying print
advertising, but many are unfamiliar with the benefits of online advertising.
Therefore, you need to gather lots of intelligence."
A Web-based survey can explore the major reasons
visitors are coming to your site and what would entice them to return. For
example, visitors can be asked to rank order the major reasons they came to
your site that day, as well as what is most important to them. Questions can
also explore the critical issue of what information visitors prefer to receive
in print, versus online. And for advertising purposes, questions can be asked
about buying habits and purchasing plans.
A focus group is another useful strategy for
gathering this kind of qualitative information. Participants can be either
former visitors or the types of people your site is targeting. During the
group, ask open-ended questions about why people visit your site, and what they
like and dislike about it. You can also show selected pages of your site to get
reactions about content, as well.
We recommend that you invite 8 to 10 participants
and conduct the group at a focus group facility--which lets you observe the
session from behind a one-way window. If you decide to conduct the group
yourself, make certain that you carefully prepare questions that will not bias
How do they feel about your site?
For today's Web users, it is no longer enough to
just have an informative site. It must be attractive, easy to use, easy to
read, technically sound, and feel good to visitors. Linda Stone, a Microsoft
researcher and adjunct faculty at New York University in the Interactive
Telecommunications Program, asked a group of Internet-involved graduate
students how many preferred to buy books at barnesandnoble.com rather than
amazon.com. The answer: No one. When Stone probed to determine at what price
they would make a switch, she discovered that books would need to be a whopping
$3 cheaper. They felt that although Barnes and Noble matched Amazon feature for
feature, the Amazon site radiated a friendly, stay-a-while spirit rather than a
cold, get-your-business-done-and-leave impression.
You don't need a focus group to ask "feeling" type
questions. A Web-based survey also works. For example, visitors can be asked to
rate your site on dimensions such as friendly-unfriendly,
attractive-unattractive, organized-disorganized, current-stale,
relevant-irrelevant, and valuable-useless. A survey can also be used to ask
people for their general overall impression of your site as well as the
likelihood that they will return. You can also explore interface issues, such
as how users feel about the location of icons on the screen, readability of the
screens, and the ease or difficulty of navigation.