Even though a company website isn’t typically a daily destination for most people, Alan Clark has a four-step process for getting a website’s content engagement strategy right and keeping customers interested for the long term.
Let’s start with the bad news: no matter how compelling you believe your website to be, it won’t, on its own, be a repeat destination. There are currently so many other default destinations for people to check up on that, unless you’re a major media outlet, or providing another aggregated messaging feed, you’re unlikely to maintain unsolicited repeat traffic. An effective ongoing engagement strategy needs to push content teasers out to users to keep them coming back. Email is the obvious channel of choice. But what content do you send? We’ve all received email (and ignored) ‘newsletter updates’ in the past with introductions to just about every piece of new content on a site [Ed’s note: subscribe to The Daily Brief here!]. We’ve also stopped engaging with social media posts that clearly just broadcast everything to everyone. So what are the keys to getting it right and keeping your customers engaged long term?
1. Define customer segments
The first and most important thing to do, is to identify the different types of people you’re wanting to engage with and how to identify them. If we want to develop a truly user/customer centric approach to our content it’s always best to start by defining audience groups first. Groups should be as distinct as possible. You don’t want to start lots of groups that are very similar – better to have fewer well differentiated ones. Four to six is a good start point. Groups should be able to be defined from data you have on users – location, age, gender, purchase history etc. Groups may or may not align with current product categories you already have – what we’re looking for are clusters of peoples’ interests and behaviours.
2. Establish content categories
Once you’ve defined the groups you want to engage with, you’ll need to establish a flexible way of aligning types of content with those groups. Ideally these categories of content need to be independent of the site structure that the articles sit in. This is because the interests of the audience segments you’ve defined are unlikely to match existing site sections. The best way to match content types to segments is through content tags. Tags are words or short phrases describing an article, they aren’t part of the article content itself. The beauty of tags is that they are completely independent of site structure, they simply exist as addition metadata that your site CMS uses to categorise similar content. Individual articles can also have multiple tags associated with them. This is really useful in that it allows articles to be marked as having multiple interests for different kinds of readers. The trick when setting up tags is to define a finite number to refer back to. A lot of people make the mistake of not defining a formal tagging taxonomy (classification system). Formalising your tags stops editorial staff making up tags on the fly as new content is added – ultimately we want our tags to define content categories that align with user segments so setting up a formal and finite list of tags makes the job managing associations much easier. Pretty much all the newer CMS platforms support content tagging – so if you currently don’t use them, retro fitting shouldn’t be an issue. If you do currently use them but haven’t matched tags back to user segments then it might be time to audit the tags you currently have and match/rationalise them back to your user segments (and of course setup a taxonomy moving forward).
3. Tying content to segments
Establishing relationships between user segments and content types is simply a matter of aggregating relevant tag categories to each identified user segment. Because we’ve defined our segments based on users actual data attributes, sending targeted content via email becomes a straight forward task of sorting data based on relevant values. The same level of targeting can also be implemented on the website itself. Once a user has been identified on your site, either by logging in or possibly from the email link they entered by, you can further target them with content relevant to their segment. Once again most up to date CMS platforms have either in-build functionality to provide this kind of dynamic targeted or readily available plugins that can be quickly and easily bolted on.
4. Fine tuning
Don’t plan on getting it right first time. Typically what are initially little more than assumptions on content preferences are often wrong. You may even find that the segments you’ve selected aren’t delivering as you’d expected. The key to getting it right and continually improving comes back to how you measure success. You need a tracking methodology that doesn’t just measure overall content consumption (ie. page visits) – you need to measure views by audience segment – or even better, by the actual users data that defines which segment they’re in. This will enable you to see exactly what kinds of people are engaging with which types of content. This level of detail isn’t as difficult to get as many would have us believe. From email it can be as simple as measuring click throughs from each segments blasts. For a more granular view of performance by users’ data values, click-through data can either be matched up to the main users database records – or the data values themselves could be appended to the email links the users are clicking on. Appending users’ attributes to email links is a good way to further measure the relationships between content and user segments within the site itself (once the user has clicked through from the email). If you’re not clear on this process speak with your content or email marketing expert and they will be able to advise or implement on your behalf.
To segment or not to segment
Some of you have probably twigged to the fact that organisations that provide the highest level of targeting typically don’t use defined segments in this way. The likes of Amazon and EBay do their best to treat every customer as an individual – providing them with content unique to their own data records. This Nirvana has come at the cost of years of on-going development and data analysis of millions of content interactions across multiple channels. For all practical purposes, when starting the process of targeting content, the establishment of segment groups is an important part of the process of defining what kinds of content different types of users want. It enables you to start targeting and collection insights without the need to invest in expensive bespoke targeting technologies that, without the actual insights, may be completely the wrong strategy.