Advanced Content Marketing Strategy – Personalization of Content

content marketing strategy

The goal of understanding your customers precedes any successful content marketing strategy. What to communicate and to whom, these are the key questions, everything else follows.

For years marketing experts have raved about personalization being key to improving sales and conversion and yet the industry has been slow to adapt.

One key reason why the uptake of personalization strategy has been so slow is that most of the effort is dependent upon in-house marketing teams, who are used to doing things in a specific way. In other words, there is a skills deficit, in terms of tool usage and strategy implementation.

Consequently, in many cases marketers are spending too much time doing the same old thing as in previous years, failing to change with the times (and tools).  

The good news is that the personalization of content is no longer difficult or complicated as tools are getting easier to use. Towards the end, we provide examples of use cases. 

Of course, adopting a tool for implementing personalization is only half the battle, the rest of the challenge relates to convincing stakeholders, that identifying the wants and needs of different customer groups will lead to great benefits, but before looking at these in detail, let’s look at group commonalities and content creation process first.

First and foremost, all content should be customer-centric, but what do we mean by customer-centric? In short, it’s all about the drive to understand and detect customer intent.

Why is personalization of content so important?

The content interacted with (engaged with) indicates interest or disinterest. The problem is that disinterest is bad for your website content rankings. You need to be interesting to everyone, for whoever visits your website from Google Search.

In terms of results, Google rewards the best content. In a study by Chitika back in 2013, they found that 51% of all organic Google search traffic went to either the no.1 or no.2 search result. That was 7 years ago and not much has changed since in this regards, but now most of the space on page 1 is taken up by Google Ads.

Google wants you to pay for advertising and so it does not make it easy to get to the top 10. Most of the cost of marketing is driving traffic to your website one way or another but the true value organic content is that after the cost of creation, successful ranking pays for itself, long term.

When you consider than 87.35% of people use Google to search, the question becomes what does Google require of content to get your organic content to the top of Google search?

How to get to the top of Google Search Results?

There are many different factors that determine how well a piece of contents does overall in terms of Google search rank. By analyzing highly competitive search terms in your area of business you can determine what you need to do to get to the top vs your competition. If any one of the items listed below is not done, then you risk that someone else will be able to displace you by doing it.

1. Write content based on what your customers are looking for, and not how you think your product should be described. Your content should be a data driven decision.

2. Make sure all content is comprehensive, covering all related questions (use related words, terms, phrases)

3. Content should be around 2300 words (or 130 sentences) as a minimum

4. All types of structured content are included

    • Bullet point list
    • Numbered list
    • H1 (just one), H2, H3, H4 tags
    • Includes a table
    • Includes a video
    • Lots of images (one for each paragraph)

5. Content must be easy to read (relative to your competitors)

6. Ensure that content meets meta length requirements

    • Title is less than 70 characters
    • Meta description 158 characters (920 pixels).
    • Keep your sentences to around 20 words.
    • Meets SEO best practices (keyord terminology in opening paragraph, meta description, title and url.
    • Consider the number of keyword mentions vs length of content. Based on our 2020 analysis keyword should be mentioned once per average length paragraph.

7. Content Formatting best practices.

      • Keep paragraphs under 300 words, preferably around 200 words.
      • Add an image for every paragraph (and add alt and title tag for the image).
      • Mention keyword once in every paragraph

8. Links – aim for one link per paragraph in the body of the article but make sure they are highly relevant and useful. Use free link building tools for better results.

One measure of quality that Google Search relies on is the number of quality backlinks from other websites to your content. Social media links are also a consideration. The more social exposure your content gets the better!

The goal of your content should be to engage the user for as long as possible because if the reader initially comes from a Google search and then returns to a Google search too quickly (less than a minute) then it will be taken as an indicator that the visitor did not find what they were looking for and then Google will downgrade your page for the search term they used.

Exactly how Google search works is not divulged by Google, it’s a black box and therefore it cannot be an exact science.

How to give customers what they are looking for

Let’s begin with a product, it could be any product. The people who might buy this product can usually be grouped according to their needs or product use case.

A group is usually described as a buyer persona, customer persona, audience persona or a marketing persona, and is a personality construct of your ideal customer, pieced together by your marketing team to better define who to target with marketing campaigns and advertisements.

The purpose, – to improve conversion and more generally just make it easier to target groups with content marketing strategy, as well as referring to groups inhouse. It is an important step that is commonly misunderstood and misused. 

From the perspective of CRO, there are several big holes with this definition, we disagree with the use of “ideal customer”.

The problem with the ideal customer is that it focuses on what the business wants rather than what the customer wants/needs

What a buyer persona should really be used for is as a starting point on a journey to product or service improvement, a reflection point to adapt to consumer needs, wants and desires

The goal is simple, – to give them what they want

No.1 Tip – Take your existing buyer personas and redefine them according to the consumers wants and needs in relation to your product.

This might sound obvious, but it is often done as an after thought rather than with intent from the beginning. You will save a whole lot of time and effort!

How to create a better buyer persona?

Rather than basing your targeting on an ideal customer (wishful thinking), base it on hard facts. To do this you must rely on your analytics data and not just your Google Analytics but also your social media analytics and AB testing results, all supply great insights into your existing customers. There are some great data interpretation tools out there that can assist.

For most retailers, it’s a painful learning experience and consequently, a longer journey than it needs to be. Typically, most retailers fail to collect sufficient data to go beyond just a few buyer personas for a variety of reasons.

In an age of GDPR and heightened sensitivity to privacy and security-related concerns, the collection of data is no small task, requiring an in-depth understanding of the differing legal requirements internationally.

Alternatively, you can choose to rely on a third party GDPR notification and data collection service/tools and the expertise they typically supply in this regard, but don’t be fooled, even if you do outsource to some SaaS solution, your business will still be legally liable for the use or loss of data stored by them. Do your due diligence!

How to find new audiences

If you do not already do so, then you need to do regular competitor research on your competitors, those with similar services or products. One of the best ways to do this is to analyze your competitor’s organic traffic and paid advertising with an SEO/SEM tool such as Ahrefs or MOZ the leading tools in this area. 

With these you can establish the search terms your competitor’s customers are using to find their website, including the approximate visitor volumes. Beware that this data is far from accurate, and usually out of date, but useful non-the-less. It is not an exact science.

By searching for these those same terms yourself, along with the brand name of your competitor you are researching, you can find what content marketing is working for your competitors, – the exact page and meta description that is persuading visitors visitor to click on their link on Google search.

You can learn so much from this, but most importantly the principle motivation of each of your competitors’ customers groups. This is the starting point, from here you can break down purpose, reason and even emotion to create highly precise buyer personas (many different types).

You will usually find that each one of your successful competitors excels at targeting one or more specific groups, in many cases things that the others have missed entirely. Find (using the method mentioned above) and Leverage these insights to create highly precise personas and target them accordingly with highly relevant content marketing (create content to fit your newly defined conversion funnel) to maximize your business potential.

This task typically falls to those managing data, “data analysts”, “data scientists” or your CRO expert. These days CRO and SEO are pretty much inseparable, neither field of expertise can provide optimal results without the other individually, but together provide the means to grow your business by identifying untapped, under optimized content for specific audiences.

Social media analytics + ads

Facebook ads provide a wealth of information about your target demographics, which in turn, allows you to learn about your audience, specifically test your audience to determine which converts best.

  • Location
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Interests

These KPIs are just the start, the narrower (focused) the targeting the more expensive the ads tend to be, the logic is that if you have your targeting right the conversion will be higher, this is a great way to learn about your customers. 

Social media is a double-edged sword, on one hand, it allows you to see who your competitor’s audience is, but on the other hand, it also allows them to see yours. Therefore, success is increasingly about who can leverage data the most effectively once it’s been collected.

It’s not just about having the data, but rather what you do with it.

eCommerce has aways been competitive, a race to learn about the customer and then offer them what you think they would need in addition to their first website visit or purchase. The first to the finish line, on the first page of Google where most of the of clicks occur is entirely about how you use the data.

The more you learn the greater your insight, which is why custom data collection is the ultimate goal of CRO using custom fields on your own website to collect psychographics in the form of surveys and at micro-conversion points, – (willing participants and brand advocates) to learn what your customers want and need, that you may not already know, so that you can then give it to them. OptiMonk provides all you need in this regards.

How to convert new audiences

Trust is earned.

In order to convert new audiences you need to first build trust, both in your brand and your products and services. Therefore you need to engage the customer, teach them why they should trust you and your product or service.

Simple things you can do build trust

Here, you need to leverage what you have learned from your personalization efforts. What we mean by personalization is your interaction with your client at every touch point.  

This includes:-

  • Conversational Marketing – Ask customers for feedback (live chat, feedback popup, social media. Reward the time and effort they take to respond.
  • A clear, simple, fair returns policy which should be highlighted often.
  • Highlight your data use policy, address the concerns of your users to make them feel you are transparent in your data use.
  • Ask for and use testimonials frequently but keep them relevant, and only where you are asking something from them.
In addition use 
  • Use trust seals (payment services)
  • Include an about us page, ie let them get to know you.
  • Put a face behind the business. People trust in people not businesses.

An important step here is carry out a gap analysis on your website content to see what you are missing in relation to newly identified audiences and then create content that speaks to them personally addressing their needs and in terms of their level of awareness about your product or service.

Use limited time offers, herd mentality and promotional discounts while upselling, and cross selling items relevant to their main objective.

If the new audience source is from competitor research, do a gap analysis on their content to see if there are any missed opportunities (usually there is) of how better to target their successful audience (your new audience).

Once you know the needs, wants, desires and pain points of this new audience, define a unique selling point specific to their needs. Only then can you create an effective customer journey map defining steps or stages that map content to a conversion funnel that gradually nudges the customer towards toward the point of trust and then purchase. This is central to your content marketing strategy.

Central to the conversion funnel is nudge marketing, utilize micro-conversion points as weigh points along the conversion funnel to gradually warm the customer up to trusting and then buying what you offer.

Communicate regularly with your audience via your various channels, the idea of being omnipresent, cross channel integrated content marketing campaigns is very effective.

  • Email campaigns
  • Social Media campaigns
  • Onsite triggered campaigns
  • Mobile based campaigns

Targeting Your Audience

Your unique selling point (USP) is the linchpin upon which your brand marketing efforts are based. A single sentence that distills your greatest selling point, it must be a benefit that your product or service has which differentiates your offering vs the competitors and it should be framed in a context relevant to the persona you are targeting.

When I talk about context, I mean in reference to the typical persona pain point, the pain of the before and the relief/joy of after the resolution achieved through the use of your product or service.

The before

Key to success is how well you communicate the emotions experienced, in the case of before, it is empathizing with your customer’s pain. The before emotions are based on the motivations of your customers. It provides the answer to the question of why they need your product or service. This painful reality must be communicated in a matter of seconds, reflecting their pain point, therefore it must be instantly recognized because how they feel about it is the root of their motivation.

The after

Immediately after delivering your golden USP, you must communicate the emotional satisfaction and freedom that comes with resolving the problem, being free from the previous pain point. Ultimately it is this that you are selling, not the product or service, but rather the end destination and a problem solved and the emotional mix of success and joy.

This is not a trick but rather a truth, something you can deliver. 

If they feel they have been conned as in falling for bait, the annolgy “Hook-Line and Sinker” springs to mind, then it will be entirely negative for your brand. There is no faking it.

The key to success is support + customer service

The after is a promise, your goal is to deliver what you promise. The support and customer service you provide must help your customer to achieve the “after effect”, removing or bypassing any obstacles along the way. Your support should be part of the promise and not an additional extra. Some customers will need more support than others, but charging more for the less able, will only be negative for your brand, whereas if you go above and beyond to resolve your customers roadblocks you will earn loyalty and recommendations, – referrals.

Therefore, while the “after effect” is what people want and this is what you are selling, you should also be selling the support you offer in the context of achieving the after effect.

While the value of support varies from business to business, it can be as much as 50% of the final buying decision. Why is it so valuable? – Because it feels like a guarantee, and consequently customers are willing to pay more for it. Your competitors may be offering more in terms of better features, but without the fantastic support and product onboarding your product will be seen as greater value.

How to deliver your USP?

Your USP should be the first thing visitors read, placed in context and positioned in the background image or video. Therefore, the USP must be either above the fold as part of a Hero section or supplied by a popup overlay. The problem with the first option is that it does not take into consideration alternative motivations / multiple consumer groups (personas). Therefore it’s better to reserve your hero image/home page message for the most generalized benefit, one that is true for all your potential customers and use targeted popup overlays to deliver more personalized messages to target your customers once you have identified what their motivation is.  

Determining visitor motivation is achieved by collecting psychographic data, over time as each visitor travels down the conversion funnel, you can create and target different groups with increasingly personalized messages.

Then choose a method of targeting your new audience. This can be via one or more presell or/and landing pages an old school approach that works well. Alternatively, use more advanced methods that are now available through SaaS tools like OptiMonk, through real-time messages or popups based on their interaction with content and their place in the customer journey, – detect user-intent.

  • On-Scroll
  • Previously engaged content
  • On Exit Intent
  • On click
  • Time delay on content
  • Frequency of interaction

Any of these can be combined to create a complex trigger, ensuring only those who are interested see the messages.

In addition for those on the PRO plan additional triggers are available

  • Cart rules (cart value, items in the cart etc)
  • Connected campaigns (one message triggers another in the future)
  • Custom variables
  • Cookie based segmentation
  • AdBlock detection (trigger message based upon adblock detection)

Most importantly, leverage consumer psychology and emotion to communicate with your readers in order to trigger that all-so-important buying urge in your visitors, – which is effectively the art of persuasion through conversion rate optimization.

Leverage limited time offers, herd mentality and promotional discounts while upselling, and cross selling items relevant to their main objective.

Always carry out the process above on your website and your competitors using the tools of the trade, already mentioned above BEFORE before resorting to offsite advertising methods in order to optimize conversion first (ie, not PPC, Facebook Ads, Google Ads etc).

That being said, if you need traffic to test your optimization efforts then this is acceptable, – an exception to the rule with a specific purpose.

The Time Factor

Every year that goes by the human attention span seems to get shorter and shorter. In addition, the preferred method of search is now Google on Mobile devices. Therefore, the length of each website visit is constantly reducing year on year. Time on page and bounce rates are key benchmarks for a successful website. Therefore engagement is one of the biggest challenges for marketing teams, – the creation of content that keeps customers onsite. It is something that requires constant improvement. 

It is not only tiring but extremely frustrating when improvements made only reduce the hemorrhage and not stop it. At the heart of this battle is conversion rate optimization and the key medium of improvement is the Hero section and the visitor’s experience above the fold.

The above the fold section is the first thing customers see, based upon this they will decide whether what you offer is what they are looking for or not.

Every second counts.

Google Search is watching. Poor dwell times (less than 60 seconds is poor according to Bing) provide Google a negative signal, a poor signal implies that the visitors did not find what they were looking for despite the title and the meta description suggesting the customer did not find the answer to their question. Therefore the shorter the time on a page the lower you will rank. It makes perfect sense, after all, why would google search reward content that does not answer the visitor’s initial reason for visiting? 

Equally, great content is rewarded with a higher ranking. While there is plenty of anecdotal evidence that Google is using dwell times as a signal, they have never officially confirmed that this is so. As to the extent to which it is likely affect ranking is by only a small amount, thus only affecting the top 10, specifically where the ranking is most competitive. Here, while the ranking influence is small, it has a huge impact on traffic.

Why your above the fold, hero message is your default message

When a new visitor arrives at your website, typically you don’t know much about them. Use your Google search console data in GA or export it to excel to find the page that bring the traffic from each and every search term, in could be a blog on a specific topic perhaps, you need to map their journey through your website after that point, but initially you just don’t know in many cases. If they came from social media, what was it that brought them? An advertisement, or a referral perhaps. Nothing concrete at this stage.  

Therefore a broad shotgun approach is warranted because it is the most likely approach to appeal to as many visitors as possible. Pick a message and context to that message that appeals to all of your customer groups. This is what OptiMonk has done in the image below for their above the fold experience on their home page.

stop losing customers

Why the Above the Fold Section is so important?

The above the fold, sometimes referred to as the Hero section is the first thing visitors see when your website loads. In all likelihood they have already waited approximately 3 seconds (any longer and you have a problem) for your page to load. Therefore, it needs to be convincing, and including your USP, a background picture that provides context and a narrative as to why they should remain onsite and learn more about your business and product, this is essential. Use video to supply the narrative where possible. Just remember it’s NOT just about you, it’s about them too.

Ultimately, your website above the fold section can make or break your business no matter the device in question (mobile, tablet etc).

Why Personalization of the Above the fold Space is Key to Success

As you learn more about your potential customers you need to change your message to address their needs and concerns.

From the very first moment they visit your goal should be to learn about the customer.

Potentially every new piece of information can modify your message to be more personalized. Alongside CRO, the topics of

  • Psychographics,
  • customer journey maps
  • choice architecture
  • Persona
  • A/B testing
  • The art of persuasion online
  • microconversions

Are all highly relevant and we recommend you return to read about these after reading the remainder of this article.

(Note: Did you know that 80% of customers prefer a personalized customer journey? If you’d like to know how to create delightful shopping experiences for each customer, download this eBook for free.)

How to Personalize your Above the Fold space

These days most websites are created using a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal and for ecommerce, Woocommerce or Shopify. The problem with these platforms is that they are not designed for the content personalization that is required for 2020.  

Therefore, in order to create content that changes depending upon the visitors’ persona and needs requires a 3rd Party tool designed for conversion rate optimization such as OptiMonk.  

CRO tools enable the targeting of highly refined personas based on targeting criteria that you define. In the case of OptiMonk, it also enables the capture of additional data (psychographic data) via custom fields, and then the target the visitor based upon that data, thus enabling you to create ever more targeted messages.  

Here popup messages are useful because they are always above the fold and appear in a timely fashion just when your message is relevant. At the same time, it enables you to A/B test your messages, because you can duplicate and AB test one message vs variations of that same message to determine what works best for each persona. OptiMonk’s intelligent A/B testing auto-detects the winning testing variant and retires the others.

The goal is to A/B testing your personalized messages to determine what works best for each persona. In the case of OptiMonk it will automatically choose the most effective variation for each persona you AB test content for.

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