Yoast Research: get to know your audience!


Analytics »
25 February, 2014 – 9 Comments

In our latest newsletter, we asked our readers to fill out a survey. We have never done such a thing at Yoast.com before. In this post, I will enlighten you with the purpose of our survey.

Yoast Research

Since the beginning of this year, Thijs and myself have been doing research. One day a week we are reading scientific articles in the university library and looking into new and exciting research techniques. We are currently reviewing an eyetracker and looking into possibilities to use this eyetracker in one of our next research projects.

The aim of us doing research is twofold. Our first aim is to contribute knowledge to the scientific community and to the WordPress/Webdevelopment community. We would like to explore issues of usability, conversion and website optimization and write articles aimed to be published in scientific journals. Simultaneously, we will publish our results (in a less boring format) on Yoast.com.

We have recently found out that there are in fact numerous excellent scholars already doing research in our area, but few of them share their knowledge with the online (WordPress) community. Lots of (scientific) knowledge thus does not reach the practitioners. I think that’s a waste of a lot of hard work. Why do difficult and expensive research if your results are never put to practice? Next to doing our own studies, we would therefore like to translate some of the existing research into practical posts on Yoast.com.

The second aim of us doing research is not as altruistic. Doing research is really good for our own business as well! The information we collected with last week’s survey is inspiring. This kind of research gives great insights in who our audience is, where they are from, which products they bought and which products they intend to buy. Such data is a treasure trove!

Knowing your audience!

Our first research project is aimed at getting to know our public better. It is a bit premature to present the results of our first study, so in this post I will limit myself to convince you all the importance of knowing your audience. Next to that, I will enlighten you a bit in the way you could study the audiences of your own website yourselves.

When Joost began Yoast.com it was a blog. He wrote about both WordPress as well as SEO and most of his post were rather technical. Nowadays, Yoast offers plugins, themes and online consultancy, being much more than a blog. Also, posts aren’t only technical now. Our audience has grown rapidly during the last few years. And that made the researcher in me wonder: who is our audience nowadays? Do we still appeal to a technical (nerdy) group of people? Are our customers mainly developers? Or is our audience not that technically skilled? And what consequences would that have for the marketing of our products? I could imagine that a technically skilled developer is more easily convinced of the use of one of our plugins than someone without the ability to read code. These questions were the starting point of our research.

I decided to dive in the scientific literature about usability, online purchasing behavior and (internet) experience. Previous research has irrefutably established the importance of usability and user interface on the chance people buy online (e.g. Page, Robson & Uncles, 2012; Chang & Chen, 2008). However, studies also show that the relation between usability and online purchases is mediated by the level of (internet) experience people have (Gefen, Karahanna & Straub, 2003; Castaneda, Munoz-Leiva an Luque, 2004). This means that experienced internet users thus respond differently to aspects of usability than the inexperienced ones. Different audiences have different usability needs.

Translating this scientific blabla to our own situation: It could well be that our technical experienced (nerdy) audience has other usability needs than our new, less skilled audience. Different groups could well need other things to make them buy our plugins! I would think that an audience with limited technical skills need more explanation, while a technical audience would just need our technical specifications in order to be convinced of our product. My non-nerdy background makes me think that some of our products do not appeal to new (not technically skilled) WordPress users, while they are in fact not that hard to install and use. Perhaps a shift in marketing approach is needed for this specific audience. In our survey, we put questions that will allow us to investigate upon my hypotheses. This week I will start analyzing the data and putting my hypotheses to the test. I can hardly wait!

What should you be doing?

Google Analytics gives you a huge amount of data. But you are close to clueless about most of the demographics, the intentions and desires of your audience. Knowing your audience will allow you to anticipate on their needs and desires. You could adjust your assortment based on their preferences and largely improve your conversion. You thus should do a lot to get to know your audience and increase your sales.

There are lots of packages that allow for online questionnaires. We have used Polldaddy.com for our survey and I am really satisfied with their service. They offer a free account, which will be sufficient for most small companies. What I really like about polldaddy is the way they instantly present their results. They present frequencies and percentages in an easy to grasp format. You can set up a survey that pops up when someone enters your site or you can send a survey invitation to your newsletter subscribers. You can choose open questions if you have few visitors and questions with answer categories if you have many. Just by looking at these descriptive statistics can tell you lots about your audience. Of course, pretty data just begs for advanced and sophisticated analyses. I will save that for a next post ;-)

At Yoast we are already very excited with our results (even before I started the really nice analyses). We have decided to do a survey on a yearly basis to determine the satisfaction of our customers. We would recommend all of you to do the same! Learn and profit by gaining as much information about your audience as possible. Placing a questionnaire on your website is a good first step!

I realize that this post could appear to be a bit scientific and difficult to read, but since our survey has made clear that the education level of our audience is sky-high, I’m not worried about that anymore ;-)


Castañeda, J. A., Muñoz-Leiva, F., & Luque, T. (2007). Web Acceptance Model (WAM): Moderating effects of user experience. Information & Management, 44(4), 384–396. 

Chang, H. H., & Chen, S. W. (2008). The impact of customer interface quality, satisfaction and switching costs on e-loyalty: Internet experience as a moderator. Computers in Human Behavior, 24(6), 2927–2944. 

Gefen, D., Karahanna, E., & Straub, D. W. (2003). Inexperience and experience with online stores: The importance of tam and trust. IEEE Transactions on Engineering Management, 50(3), 307–321. 

Page, K. L., Robson, M. J., & Uncles, M. D. (2012). Perceptions of web knowledge and usability: When sex and experience matter. International Journal of Human-Computer Studies, 70(12), 907–919. 

9 Responses

  1. Mithun
    By Mithun on 25 February, 2014

    Thanks a ton. I am a blogger and I needed this guidance. I decided to use blogger as a platform at the beginning and then switch to WordPress after I have a good idea about how to manage a dedicated server and stuff. Do you think it’s right to do so ??

    Do you think it would be right to move to WordPress after I start to get a regular traffic flow. ???

    • Joost de Valk
      By Joost de Valk on 25 February, 2014

      Hi Mithun,

      if you want a hosted blog, start with a WordPress.com blog, you can then always move to your own WordPress install later on.

      • Thomas
        By Thomas on 7 March, 2014

        Sorry, Joost, but this advise stands against my experience. Since I never found a way to move any kind of hosted blog to its own domain without starting all over again (from SEO perspective), I normally advise people to not start a project that “might hit it” this way. They can have a test environment everywhere to check if WP is cool. They can also try to publish view articles to check response, but as soon as they are sure they want to go on with it they should pay an expert to set up WP on a shared hosting, install any theme and your SEO plugin :). This takes me two hours and noone ever missed the hosted solutions.

  2. Sandra Sleman
    By Sandra Sleman on 26 February, 2014

    Thanks for the guidance and good luck with your survey.

  3. Shane Jennings
    By Shane Jennings on 27 February, 2014

    The eye tracking could be an interesting marketing research business. Offer low cost cameras / software package to test subjects / members that could be purchased for a price that only covers the necessary overhead and to prevent abuse, that gets sent to the home of a new member.

    Website owners could purchase a service where people could submit their website for eye-tracking analysis where eligible test subjects could visit your site with a particular purpose in mind and have their session recorded in exchange for credits / air miles, small amounts of money, plenty of room for creativity here.
    Any VC guys out there reading this, get on it! People would pay for this service.

  4. Afiq
    By Afiq on 1 March, 2014

    Hello Yoast!
    Thank you for the idea. Starting this year, I’ll be more serious developing blog that can have royal audience and potential customer so that I can make money with blog.

    The first step is “know my audience”

  5. Soumya
    By Soumya on 5 March, 2014

    This is very timely and informative post for us. We are about to launch a new web portal on education sector and thinking to start an online survey. We used Google docs and that is really good and helped us a lot to understand our target audience and their requirements.
    Now, Polldaddy.com is new to us and as we are a small and bootstrapped startup company so we are much cautious about our daily project and marketing expenses but if this product is recommended by Yoast and if there is a free account option then we will be eager to use and test their services.
    I would like to thank Yoast for putting this good and informative article that truly helped to refresh and regain some of the points which we have never thought.

  6. MBA Data Guru Blog
    By MBA Data Guru Blog on 6 March, 2014

    It is really cool that you are doing so much research. I am interested to see the outcome of your eye tracking research. While working at my company, I have gotten to see how eye tracking can be used to make advertisements and product details more effective but my site is way too small to do eye tracking. Thanks for making an informative website and pluggin.

  7. Bilal
    By Bilal on 15 March, 2014

    great sir you have explain very beautiful way, Website owners could purchase a service where people could submit their website for eye-tracking analysis where eligible test subjects could visit your site with a particular purpose in mind and have their session recorded in exchange for credits / air miles, small amounts of money, plenty of room for creativity here. you are great thanks