Focus Groups and Knowing Your Audience
Conversion Optimisation

Focus Groups and Knowing Your Audience

31st October 2013

Trying to make your website the best it can be is hard work, the first port of call is traffic generation but this is only half the story, once your site(s) are receiving sufficient volumes of traffic your strategy is split into not only traffic generation, but also conversion and user experience. When we look at user experience there are many tools and methods to gain data  and insights which can help you to make decisions on how to change your website but be careful! Although I’m a firm believer in data driven marketing this only works if the data is valid, interpreted well and comes from trusted sources.

Getting Trusted Sources

Know Your Audience


This one of the most important factors; there are tools available where you can get users to test to your website i.e.

These tools can give great insight and they do factor in some audience personalization such as gender, location and age, that’s great if you run a website which can fall into segments like that, however there is always a draw back that they may not be your specific audience and so your testing then becomes nominal. For example if you offer niche products or products related to a financial status then you may be testing your site with users who may never actual use it, “that’s not a valid source.”

Audience Research

I would hope that you have already defined your audience either from a start up perspective or from sales you have made, however that is not to say that you haven’t been missing sales due to miss targeting or simply you don’t appeal to a segment of your audience.  For example “Wonga” have done this well as they are in essence a pay day loans company, Pay day loans companies are usually associated with pawn brokers, log book loans or even loan sharks. ‘Wonga’ positioned themselves differently (ok a huge marketing budget and TV ad spend helped with this) but by changing their position they have become disassociated with “pay day loans” towards a company that can simply help, thus expanding the audience of people that would use them.

You can do this in many sectors, many sites offer free memberships with exclusive information, guides and downloads, this is to position there company differently, loan and bankruptcy companies often position themselves closer towards charities (There are some official charities), this positioning helps  people feel confident.

Tools to get to know your audience:

  • – It gives some insight into age, gender, education.
  • Monitor Social Media – Monitor the questions asked.
  • Hitwise (If you have deep pockets) – Works of ISP data.
  • Forums (Just read posts before interacting.) – Monitor questions being asked.

Creating a focus Group

Being part of a group

The competitor research is complete so you are happy that an audience is defined, now its time to think about focus groups, you can do this online or in person depending on your audience. If your going to do it in person I would suggest a minimum of 12 people split into three groups to avoid Strong Personalities and gain mixed opinions.

Session Structure

  1. Define you goals to the group
  2. Have at least two people running the group.
  3. Two hours is a good time after this your participates will need a break or become ‘blinded’.
  4. Don’t over complicate the questions
  5. Give clear tasks
  6. Restrict answers but also allow comments
  7. Break your questions into sections
  8. Discuss each section after that section is completed

Its important to make the session interactive, leaving the group with a survey will not add any value, however if you give clear tasks and questions for opinion that’s the first step, the next is to keep the sessions broken up. After each section discuss with the group their answers and different opinions this will give you added insight into their answers.

Tools to help your session:

In order to gather the data simply and efficiently I would advise using the following from your sessions:

  • Survey Monkey – This will help you to formulate the session and make reading the data easy.
    – Avoid questions which ask a value of 1 worst and 5 best as in most cases the results are always similar.
  • Voice Recording – You may have a great memory, but recording the discussion time will help with that.

Interpreting the Data

I think its important that two people run the group as this allows interpretation of the data with separate view points. When you interpret the information that the focus groups has given, make sure you are aware that they may not be right. For example if the group advise that there is point of a confusion on the website, dig into the point in more detail you may find that all though there is perceived confusion non of the respondents would make the wrong decision.

Create a list of recommendations

Once you have collated all the data, reviewed the recordings its time to make a clear set of recommendations, when reporting show clearly:

  • General changes
  • Per Page  changes

Next Implementation

Once you have your list of recommendations don’t jump in feet first! Set up a testing plan and implementation plan. A big mistake companies have is once a focus group is carried out they will change the whole of their website based on a handful of individuals, you should take each recommendation and create a split test to show your websites current audience, you should then be able to derive how successful each piece of advice has been.

Written By
Neil Walker started working as an SEO in 2002 and rose to become Group CTO for Swedish Marketing Agency “Online Group” in 2010 he moved to consulting with agencies, in-house teams and PR companies. In 2014 he formalised this work and founded Made Notable Ltd a boutique digital consultancy based...
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