Your Online Audience: web visitors and the right way to reach them

In some of our previous convos, we’ve touched on the importance of knowing your online audience when trying to make viral videos, as well as how to shape your online presence in being a part of that greater audience. There are many kinds of people online and trying to understand their activity can be a challenge. However, this blogger almost always seems to be stressing the importance of knowing that audience; so how do we kick-start the complex task of understanding the web? Well, here we’re going to take a look at the anatomy of a website visitor, focusing on how to get the attention of web visitors.


As we’ll see, there’s no algorithm to understanding your online audience. Though Google’s algorithms and other online aggregate websites provide great tools that can help you attract web visitors and appropriately target your content to them.

Brandt Dainow, an independent web analytics consultant and the CEO of ThinkMetric, has provided a framework for understanding how web visitors shop online. He defines three specific kinds of web visitors, and how conversion mechanics work to influence each visitor in making an online purchase.

Basically, every visitor has a baseline purchase probability that determines their initial chance of purchasing something online. There is a visit effect (the effect of visiting a website on the visitor’s purchase probability) and a purchase effect (the effect of past purchases on the visitor’s purchase probability) that combine to either positively or negatively impact the chances of a website visitor purchasing something. In this, website interaction and past experiences determine the actions of website visitors, allowing us to apply Dainow’s work outside the scope of e-commerce.

His anatomy of a website visitor can illustrate the ways online audiences use the Internet to find whatever it is they’re looking for, whether that be in e-commerce or any other aspect of the attention economy. According to Dainow, any website visitor is navigating the web as one of the following:

  1. The Browsing Visitor.
  2. The Research Visitor.
  3. The Focused Visitor.


images-1These are the window shoppers of the Internet. Browsing visitors are surfing the web for pure infotainment, traveling around social media to see what’s happening or searching the web in random areas of interest. Dainow describes the browsing visitor as being the most likely to be your “impulse purchaser.”

What this means for any other website is that browsing visitors will comprise that part of your audience that stumbles onto your website through a social media link or targeted ad. It’s not easy to find these specific visitors because of their broad web activity, but you can take steps to prepare for their random visits. Browsing visitors are highly influenced by design, so keep your web content minimal and your design simple to explore.


imagesResearch visitors are using the web for one thing; research. They have an idea of what they want to purchase, but want to make a more informed decision. There are two types of research visitor: Focused and Background. The focused research visitor knows what product or service they need and want to compare options, while background research visitors are trying to learn more about a general industry; not a specific product or service.

This means that a research visitor can be more easily identified, because of their confined activity online. A research visitor is most likely beginning their web experience on a search engine, so search engine marketing (SEM) is your best tactic in gaining their attention.


images-3Search engine marketing is a great tactic for attracting focused visitors as well. The focused visitor has graduated from being a research visitor and knows exactly what they are looking to buy. They’re visit is most likely with the intention of purchasing something, so they will value the navigability of your website.

More importantly, the focused visitor is easiest to find online. They’re the online browsers that are using specific keywords to search for their content and navigating the more popular websites because they know what they’re looking for. This means that these audiences are going to be the easiest to target online. We’ll discuss how to do this in a later post.


Dainow’s conversion mechanics in his anatomy of a website visitor describes the purchasing behaviour of online shoppers. His categorization of website visitors (into the browsing visitor, the research visitor, and the focused visitor) can be applied outside of e-commerce. It helps us define the kinds of audiences that are visiting our websites and allows us to target our desired audience, depending on how confined their online activity is.

A research or focused visitor will be easier to find through search engine marketing techniques than the more erratic browsing visitor. SEM is extremely valuable to every website, because it connects demand to supply.

site visitorsOur next post will revolve around Search Engine Marketing (SEM) and other online tools that help us understand the activity of our three website visitors. By first understanding the kinds of visitors that are navigating the web, we can begin to understand the different techniques that will best influence each in gaining their attention.


Going Viral! How to make your ideas spread online with Seth Gobin

It’s important to every netizen trying to establish themselves online: going viral!

Viral videos are hard to initiate, and even harder to predict. This is because there’s no cookie-cutter formula to producing a viral video. Do you really think the first person to Harlem Shake in front of a video camera expected half the world to film themselves doing it, too? Probably not, but it had what any YouTube sensation needs to go viral: a remarkable experience.

It was new, unique, and spreadable; but most importantly, it was “worth making a remark about.” These are the words of Seth Gobin, a well-established entrepreneur and blogger on the marketing of ideas in the digital age. A decade after his TEDTalk on spreading ideas online, we revisit his speech and apply it to the trend of going viral.

Gobin establishes 3 rules for spreading ideas online, that are worth noting before we visit the practice of going viral:

  1. DESIGN IS NOW: people who find a way to be remarkable make design work for them.
  2. SAFE IS RISKY: the safe thing to do now is to be risky; appeal to the fringes and be remarkable.
  3. GOOD IS BAD: very good is boring, because no one is going to listen. Stand out!

[SETH GOBIN]: “In a world where we have to many choices and too little time, the obvious choice is to ignore stuff.”

In a time of information-overload, audiences are way too quick to practice their ignorance. They aren’t going to give their attention to the vast majority of images and texts that cross their screen, because they simply don’t care! So, like Seth Gobin explicitly acknowledges, we have to find the people that do care; we have to find our target audience. Gobin’s solution is to appeal to the innovators and early adopters of the “Adoption Innovation Curve” because they care; they’ll spread your unique ideas.


The Curve is meant to illustrate the ways that consumers adopt new innovations; or, in our case, ideas. Twenty years ago, it made sense to market to the early and late majority, appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Now, online marketing makes your audience directly accessible. Businesses and organizations alike can easily reach their audiences online through tools like social media target-marketing and Google Ad Words. However, (1) we need to know our audience and (2) our messages simply have to be “remarkable”.

Seth Gobin uses the work remarkable specifically, because online ideas need to be worth making a remark about. A viral video cannot simply be a repeat of another, unless you hop on the Harlem Shake bandwagon early enough. Instead, think of something new; something your audience is going to want to spread because it’s unique. It’s up to you to be remarkable!

Remember this?

It was truly remarkable! Honda’s “When Things Just Work” commercial was rumored to need over 600 takes before finally getting the shot to work. It was interesting and innovative, and it spread across the Internet like wildfire as a result. Preceding social media websites like Facebook and YouTube, having been released in 2003, the video spread mostly through email. Quite simply, it was remarkable; people wanted to share it because it sparked their interest, and they knew it would spark the interest of their friends.

[SETH GOBIN]: “figure out who does care, who is going to raise their hands and say they want what you have; sell your stuff to them and they’ll share it.”

THAT’S the secret to going viral! Don’t invest in sterling production value, don’t pay to have your content promoted across the web, don’t even bother getting superstar-power behind your promotions (although it’s definitely been proven to help). Just put time into knowing your audience and provide them with an experience; an experience that’s worth making a remark about.

Social media will adopt your content, if it’s worth adopting. Use the target-marketing tools that social media has to offer; use it to know your audience and understand where they are going online. After you know that, provide them with an experience; something they are going to want to share. Once you’ve posted your interesting, unique, and spreadable content somewhere where your audience is prominently established online, just sit back and watch the hit-counters rise!