Don’t Think Traffic – Think Demographics


Are you wasting hours of your life trying to connect with the wrong people on the wrong sites? You need to know who your audience are in order to understand what they want. Stop thinking only of traffic quantity, and start thinking of the traffic quality. We show you how you can limit gambling with your time and energy.

There are 2 questions we get asked by email more than any others:

How do I get more traffic?

What sites should I spend my time on?

Remember, the “traffic” that you’re looking for are real people with different needs and wants. Understanding the profile of your target audience is crucial if you want to have real success.

Understanding the profile of your target audience means:

  • You can manage your time more effectively
  • You can spend time on creating content that will interest your target audience
  • You can reduce the workload by optimising your return of investment
  • You can work on developing relationships with people who actually care about what you do.

Building a profile of your potential visitors

Knowing your target demographic is one of the most important steps in limiting guesswork in creating and seeding your content and products. You can’t know what your users want if you do not know who your users are. Once you understand your users, you can then begin to set goals. Setting your goals without this knowledge will make them much harder to achieve.

We’ll use an example of a jewelry site to determine the target audience and where to find them. By using this example you can begin to put the use of demographics into practice on your own site.

This is your chance to put everything you’ve seen in CSI to action. Building up a profile of your users will help you know:

  • Which sites to spend your time on
  • The actions these people are likely to take
  • The type of content people will respond to
  • Attitudes of your typical audience
  • The desires and personal beliefs of your audience

A good example of profiling can be seen on The Telegraph newspaper. They have identified their typical print and web audience. This helps advertisers know where to place their ads. It also means that editors know which type of content is most suitable for different media. The Telegraph can give more prominence to stories on the web to cater for that audience than they would in their newspaper. Obviously, there will be some overlap between the groups, but it’s always helpful to know your audience as much as possible.

Basic Demographics

demographics 2


There could already be vast amounts of market research to use depending on the topic of your site. Don’t rely on just one or two studies for your research and try to find studies conducted by more than one company.

You won’t be able to find a massive amount of quality information using search engines and web tools alone, but you can at least narrow down who might be interested in our site. Most market research reports start in the thousands, so if you really want detailed information it’s probably better to pay for these reports, but if we are a small site just starting out, then we have to work with whatever data we can find.

Lets say we want to start a site about jewelry (we’ll use the American spelling, even though it makes me feel violated…). It’s possible to find market research data over a specific period using Google’s advanced search options.

Try to find as much information as you can from using search engines. Now find a couple of large sites that are about the same topic. A quick search brings up, and

Now we can use Quantcast and Microsoft AdLabs to find some more information about the type of people who usually visit these sites.

Type in the name of the site you want to search in Quantcast. Then navigate to the “demographics” tab.

Now use the AdLabs tool to compare the data. Type in the URL you want to check and use click on the “URL” radio button.

Quantcast and AdLabs don’t use the same age ranges, but you can use them both build an approximate idea of the age ranges and gender of potential visitors.

18-24 18-28% 14-19% 18-26%
25-34 20-29% 13-19% 30-35%
35-44 19-22% 15-20% 18-28%
45-54 17% 20-28% 8-14%
55-64 23-26% 25% 8%
65+ 5% 4% 4%
- - - -
Male/Female Split 29-58% / 42-71% 39-43% / 57-61% 30-37% / 63-70%

The accuracy of these tools is debatable, but they give a general indication that jewellery is generally more popular with women. So we now know that if we want to spend time building up relationships through social media sites, then it’s a more effective use of our time to concentrate on sites with more women than men.

There are discrepancies in the age ranges of visitors to the three sites. You might need to look for more data to clarify what age ranges are interested in reading about jewellery.

Profiling your visitors doesn’t mean that you have to pander to your audience, but it’s good to know how you can solve the problems of the people visiting your site.

Along with looking at basic demographics, you might also want to try and find out information on psychographics and their understanding and relationship with technology. We’ll give you a brief explanation of each below, but you might want to do your own further research.



Psychographics examines people’s lifestyles and behaviours, for example, what values and ideals they have, where they holiday, what they are likely to spend their money on and their interests.

Once you have a rough understanding of your current audience and your target audience you can then look at understanding why certain lifestyle and behaviours are important to them. So, let’s go back to our site about jewellery.

Jewellery isn’t a necessity (although I’m sure my girlfriend would disagree), so if we do a quick search for some market research on jewellery, we find that they are primarily an aspirational item. So your audience regards certain jewellery as a status symbol. There may also be cultural reasons behind their interest in jewellery, like marriage.

When we take that into consideration, is the goal of “getting traffic” from Digg, Reddit and StumbleUpon even worthwhile? Will the majority of these users see jewellery as a status symbol or as being important to their identity?

From our own statistics on popular topics on social news and bookmark sites, lifestyle items, such as, jewellery, don’t figure too highly on their list of priorities. They’re far more likely to regard technology gadgets or political viewpoints as being an important part of their identity. Instead of spending hundreds of hours building up relationships on those sites, a few hours of research will eventually save a considerable amount of time, and you can instead focus on trying to build relationships with a smaller number of people who are interested in jewellery.

Technological Ability

Technical ability

What is the technical ability of the people you are looking to develop a relationship with? How much do they know about working a computer? If the age group you’re targeting is particularly old or hardly ever use a computer then you might be better off trying to get them to sign-up for an email newsletter rather than developing a relationship with them via social network sites and blogs.

The research by Forrester into technographics can help shed some light on people’s relationship with technology and social media. You can use this tool to further your understanding of how your audience is likely to use social media.

The technical ability of your audience has a bearing on how you try to connect with people. If your goal is to increase RSS subscriptions and your main audience is older women living in the suburbs, then is this a realistic or even worthwhile goal? Would it be better to ask these people to sign up for an email newsletter instead? You might not even need to use social media sites if you want to reach older women. Think about the goals you want to achieve and your target audience and you’ll save yourself lots of time.

Also, have a think about how your audience likes to consume media. Do they prefer to watch, read or listen? Is there anyway you can use video, audio and articles to connect with your audience?

How can you profile your current visitors?

profile demographics 2

Now you have a rough idea of the type of people who are interested in the topic on your site, you can start to look at the type of people who currently visit your site.

Most analytics packages can tell you something about your visitors. Google Analytics is free so lets use that as an example:

What browser do they use?

If your site has a high percentage of Firefox users it indicates some level of technical experience. They have to download and install Firefox and use a browser that doesn’t come automatically installed with their computer.

On this site, most of our visitors use Firefox, while on another site we work on that is aimed at older women, the majority of visitors use Internet Explorer with 33% of those using Internet Explorer 6. The users on that site could be intimidated with having to download and install a new browser. So for that site, it might be a good idea to assume a large percentage of visitors don’t have much technical knowledge on the web. We would leave clear and detailed instructions for even relatively simple tasks. The type of browser somebody uses might also be an indication of age and economic status, as this report suggests.

What search engine do they use?

Search engines are usually split pretty evenly between sexes, but what about economic and technical factors? This Hitwise report indicates that people who use Google are more likely to spend more money online when compared to Yahoo users.

For technical factors, I know that in the UK, British Telecom has approximately 40% of the broadband market and that the browser that comes with their package has the default set to Yahoo. A person who isn’t very technical will likely stick with using Yahoo because they don’t know how to change it from the default setting.

Searching for more data on Internet access, I find, Ofcom (a telecoms regulatory body) and they release reports frequently. I can see from their report that people from low-income families are likely to use broadband, especially if they have children of school age.

We now know that BT has 40% of the broadband market and that elderly people with low-incomes are unlikely to use the web, so if I planned on selling or writing about safety products for the elderly and planned to sell them online, then I would now re-think my strategy and find another way to try and reach them.

What content is most popular on your site?

Is there any indication as to the type of people who would be interested in popular pages on your site?

What page do they leave on?

What pages do your visitors leave on and why?

Which country do visitors come from?

If you provide services or products to one specific country then these people should make up the bulk of your visitors.

Which cities/towns are they from?

Be careful here, obviously these stats will show that people from larger cities have visited your site the most, but what is the overall percentage of those visitors? Do you have a metropolitan audience or are they likely to come from smaller towns and cities? Where they live is likely to influence their lifestyle choices and purchasing options. In big cities there are more options, while in smaller cities and towns, people might need your site (or a site like it) in order to get what they want.

Once you’ve built up some knowledge of who you want to aim for then you can spend time on the sites where those people are likely to be. In the next article, we’ll help you identify the sites where spending your time will be most productive.

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26 Readers have left their thoughts

  1. I can’t stumble this as there are special characters in the URL that break it.

  2. Those pesky wordpress slugs. Fixed. Thanks Tad.

  3. Daniel F.

    Very good.article. In order to communicate effectively you need to know your audience. Everyone with a blog can benefit from reading this article. Dugg!

  4. Hi there!

    I really liked this article!

    Because of the way how the blogsphere and the .com world in general exists, knowing who you are talking to is a KEY aspect to communicate in a effective way.

    In a time when everybody seems to want traffic your article seems to be a breath of fresh air.

    Thank you!

  5. Zenith

    What a fantastic post. I never used google analytics for anything more than checking my traffic numbers. I can see how important it is. Why not just start a survey to find out who your readers are and what they want?

  6. @Daniel F. Thanks for the comment. Hopefully, doing a little a few hours of research will eventually save you time. It’s pointless trying to make friends on Digg, Reddit etc..if you’re write about a topic that won’t interest those communities. By concentrating on smaller communities that are actually interested in what you have to say, you can be more useful to them and try to build up the right relationships by giving something back.

    @Bruno Coelho. I totally agree. We get emails every few days and every forum we look on in people are only concerned with “traffic”. If you’re only goal is to increase page views then that’s fine. I think that most bloggers will want more than just page views though. It’s pointless attracting 100,000 visitors if nobody sticks around.

    Being active in smaller communities allows you to build up a relationship with those members and they might stick around to hear what you have to say. Depending on who you want to reach, a forum might be better than a social network or social news/bookmark site. Thanks for your comment.

    @Zenith – You can use Google Analytics to drill down to find out more about the people who visit your site than just the overall number. You could definitely use a survey to find out more about your visitors. Keep it short though, or they probably won’t answer. Thanks for your comments.

  7. Excellent overview on a topic most people who produce content don’t spend much time on, if at all.

    I’d add Bounce Rate as a measure to watch in Google Analytics when you are trying to profile what your readership is interested. You may get a lot of visits on a particular post, but if your bounce rate is high, you know that they didn’t find what they were looking for and left immediately.

  8. That’s a really good call with the Bounce Rate. You could definitely check the Bounce Rates stats and see where you could improve the post if your readers are leaving quickly. Thanks for commenting, Paul.

  9. The information you have posted is great regarding the traffic. The main aim of any business man is to concentrate on the content of website, the content of the website must be appropriate and it must speak what our business is all about. By means of effective marketing research we will get to know how to organize the content in order to compete against its competitors in market place.

  10. Going through your analytics and finding the exit pages (Where people drop off at the most) can help you improve the site overall. This can really help you better your site from the inside out BEFORE adding additional tags or calls to action to bookmark something.

  11. Good post, but I actually disagree. Building huge traffic through distribution channels such as digg, reddit and su also brings link equity because of the amount of eyeballs as well as media-types/bloggers that read and interact with social sites. It’s much easier to get 1k links by getting a fp on digg, reddit and SU – than asking for the links. Obviously if you’re an ecommerce site you don’t stand a chance!

    Chris from Environmental Graffiti

  12. I have been looking into Google Analytics and have noticed that websites with a high bounce rate are lower in the search engine rankings than websites with a low bounce rate. So it looks like it pays off to have something interesting on your website. Mike.

  13. Very informative post.Yes we do need to know our target audience.But I think the most important point is that we’re on the internet.The non target audience can be refer to our target audience in some way we never know.

  14. Excellent post, I have never really knew how to properly analyse my analyitics figures, I have always just used it to monitor traffic numbers.

  15. Alex

    Great article. Is there an equivilant to Quantcast that can provide information about users in the UK as I can only seem to get information about US users?


  16. It is interesting that you mention ‘Technical ability’ as surely in terms of web design means that you have to cater for all demographics. We try and cater not only for the computer illiterate but also users with disabilities.

  17. Good roundup. You should also look at the keyword length for those who have come through search engines. Keyword lentth of 4 or above indicates a great deal of interest in the subject. This sort of a searcher can be individually marked.

  18. Great article. Is there an equivilant to Quantcast that can provide information about users in the UK as I can only seem to get information about US users?