You may know that search engines are getting smarter every day, with updated algorithms and crafty website designers working away to get a user to the right site more efficiently. However, if there is still the trend of 55% of visitors spending fewer than 15 seconds on a site (according to Hubspot), these users aren't spending the time necessary to convert into followers/clients of your organization. If you want the right person to land on your homepage and stay there, you first need to understand who they are and how to reach them.
When starting a website redesign, we tend to focus on what we want - perhaps a more modern look and intriguing new content. However, as we point out in step 6 of our eBook, "The Redesign Blueprint: 10 Steps Toward a Better Website," we should instead focus on discovering the company's target audience and then base each subsequent decision on what these audience personas want. If we neglect these nuances, we are wasting the web's ability to connect the right people to the right places and achieve their needs.
This can be broken down even further into 5 ways to get to know your business' or organization's audience personas and cater to their unique digital habits and preferences.
1. Focus on and clarify your goals
What are your goals as an organization? Start by establishing a clear vision of what your services are and why they are provided in the first place. Make this evident on your website in each part of the redesign; your home page and the following landing pages should emphasize these goals (read more in our blog about creating great landing pages). You should include a strong "unique value proposition" (defined on pg. 8 of our eBook) so that the visitor quickly understands what you do and why it matters.
2. Build actual buyer personas
Identify the types of people your business would best serve. Build a list of 3-6 personas based on questions such as the ones below (provided by a partner company of ours, Hubspot)that will help you understand the different preferences and needs of your most common customers. Keep refining these personas so that when you make choices for your site you have clear motivations for your answers. We also provide a tool called ArcStone's Audience Persona Builder that constructs each persona through answers you provide.
3. Learn from what you already know - look at your previous site's metrics
You can analyze your audience through information you already have! Get to know your typical clients' preferences by taking an inventory of your former website's content. Measure the aspects such as what landing pages people spent the most time on, which content was most viewed or shared on social media, and what keywords were ranked highest. For the new site, repeat what worked and redesign what did not.
4. Engage with your competition
As we discuss further in our eBook, you don't have to obsess over what your competitiors are doing, but you can definitely question if they are using specific buyer personas and how. Don’t assume that what they are doing is working, but ask yourself "what do they do well?" or "what’s their messaging for their audience?" Studying what content competitors publish that receives the most shares on social media or what the aesthetics and language is on their sites could help you know what content and design features to add to your own website's pages.
5. Ask them!
This may seem obvious, but it is a tool we sometimes forget. You can interview your current customers to see what they do and don't like about your current website, where they spend most of their time online and what would make them spend more time on your website. This is possible through conducting surveys online or even holding an old-fashioned interview. We have a blog post entitled Audience Interviews Help Dictate User Paths and Homepage Design which can help you form interview questions and show you an example of a nonprofit site for which this worked.
And one last note:To truly take advantage of all the information you've gathered - and to discover even more - you may want to work with a designer and digital media strategist (like those who work at ArcStone!) who have mastered how to redesign a site with personas in mind. If you're a nonprofit interested in receiving monthly updates on the latest marketing news, sign up for our newsletter, The Nerdy Nonprofit.
Plus this is just one piece of the puzzle - download the eBook to see 9 more steps that will lead to a better, beautiful website.