There seems to be a lack of understanding among the masses about how people actually find themselves on your website, but is it actually that different from brick and mortar shops?
What makes you shop at the local supermarket? Is it convenience? Is it reputation? Is it the brand? In truth, customers are driven to a store on a variety of factors and this rings true on the web as well.
The visitors to your website arrive either through search, sharing or on the strength of your brand. What are you doing to harness these vehicles?
People are trained to use search engines to find content, products and services and search will probably drive more visitors to your website than any other method. Back in 2010, Google processed 34,000 searches per second or about 3 bilion per day, so you need to make sure your site is search engine friendly. If you can't figure out how to do that you need the help of a SEO specialist who will do a variety of things to your site which will make it more appealing to a search engine. However, no SEO expert can turn lead into gold. You absolutely need to have good content.If you don't have good content, it doesn't matter how good your SEO guy is, your visitors won't like your content and eventually it will slip down the search rankings.
What make good content? Any content that visitors find useful, whether it be a product that is in stock or a full explanation of the service that you provide or an up-to-date menu for your take away.
When you understand how people arrive at your site from search, you have a better understanding of what makes your readers tick and you can use this to create better content. You therefore need to also research what words and terms people are using when they come to your site and you can do that with google analytics and looking at your keywords.
Email was the first method people used to share internet links with their friends and family, but it's the rise of the social network that has really driven the growth of sharing. There are lots of tools dedicated to sharing content with other sites and your "followers" including plugins such as the tweet this and the facebook like buttons. Does your site employ these? If not why make it difficult for your users to share your content? If you have an online store and one of your visitor's sees something that they think one of their friends would like, you need to make that process as simple as possible otherwise you could miss out on a potential sale.
To find out how many of your visitors are coming from social networks (or indeed sharing your content) you need to spend some time looking at your website analytics.
Established businesses cannot afford to rely solely on their brand to drive traffic to their website, but it is useful if customers have your brand in mind when they go online to look for something. Therefore, it is essential that if they search for your brand or product that they find you!
If you have an offline presence e.g. a shop, make sure that people know that you also have a website. Print your web address on any signs that you have, include it on till receipts and make sure that it is printed clearly (and accurately) on any promotional material that you produce.
If you provide sponsorship, maybe to a local sports team, make sure that your brand is easily found on the web. If I search for "your brand" what will I find? The last thing you want to find is nothing or worse still your competitor! So before stumping up the cash for a sponsorship deal make sure the branding reflects what you know people will find if they search for you online.
I find it hard to believe that during a recession, so many businesses still don't advertise their website and so many more fail when it comes to having up-to-date content on their site. They are literally turning customers away.
This is just a quick overview of what I think are the essentials of understanding your website vistors, but please leave a comment if you disagree or have any other useful advice.