Keep Your Content from Disappearing into the Blogroll

Your content marketing is too valuable to waste

How findable is the content on your site? If the answer is that you aren’t sure — you may have a problem. And you aren’t alone. Many marketers spend great lengths of time on content marketing. But a lot of that content goes unread. The main problem is that the people you want to read it can’t find it.

B2B content is just as vital

When we talk to B2B content creators they often lament the fact that their content — especially blog posts on corporate websites — seems to be a lone voice in the wilderness. Their point of view is expressed and then lost for all of time. The metrics make depressingly clear the irrelevance of the effort.

In B2B where a purchase is a group decision, this is an even greater concern. There are multiple decision makers that need to weigh in. It’s all the more important to have a wide variety of relevant content available that is accessible to the right people, at the right time in their journey.

Buyers crave personalization

The more you can direct individuals to content that addresses their business or functional concerns the more likely they are to buy. Infosys research suggests 31% of customers say they wish their shopping experience was far more personalized than it currently is, and 74% of customers feel frustrated when website content is not personalized.

Personalization becomes key.

A recent report from Seismic shows that personalized content helps achieve B2B objectives. 80% of respondents claimed all of their top objectives were better met when content is personalized. But many marketers avoid engaging in it because it is such a manual process.

The step ahead: automation

Automation is one way to abandon the tedious and sometimes futile work of hand-crafting content experiences and customer journeys. Behavior-based content recommendation suggests the next content piece to a viewer based on where they are at in their journey. Content can not only be found and used to answer questions, but is also offered at the moment it’s most needed.

Content marketing isn’t enough. You need content findability. You need a well cultivated content experience. Is your content well segmented for each user’s needs? Does your blog have sections so the content can be navigated? And with many different products, decision-makers and questions, you may need to bring automation to content. Otherwise, you risk your valuable content vanishing into the blogroll.

Madeline Moran

About Madeline Moran

Madeline is the Marketing Assistant for SoloSegment, an AI fueled software company that makes website conversions easier through personalized content recommendation.

5 Keys to Data-Driven Content Marketing

Content marketing is informative, entertaining, and helpful. But great ideas for content aren’t enough. Who decides they are “great”? The customer decides. How do we know the decision of the customer? Data–the more the better.

Content Marketing Starts with Creating Great Content

Your content must consist of compelling, audience-centric, findable, shareable stories. If you build it, they might not come. Content must be built with audience interests in mind so that they will find it and come share it with their peers. Once built, it must be published and promoted. Content does not market itself.

You measure the effectiveness of content marketing according to how often it is used and shared.

Content is Useful Only in Context

You can’t just create content in a vacuum. In digital media, content is only as valuable as the number and quality of references to it (links, social shares, etc.). It is more useful if it builds on existing work than if it duplicates it. It is more useful still if it is built as a part of a system of other content that answers specific questions in a several-step information journey. This is especially difficult for traditional marketers, who want to tell self-contained stories.

You measure how well connected content is, within its context, by performing link analysis.

Content Needs Information Paths

Chances are that your audience will choose a different path through your content than the path that you designed. That’s to be expected. Digital media and books are not the same. In books, it is the author’s story. The reader implicitly concedes this point and passively consumes the story according to the author’s agenda. Digital media need not be consumed in such a linear fashion. The digital reader or viewer is in control. It’s their story, and they’re piecing it together from multiple sources on the fly. This fact vexes some traditional marketers because, like book authors, they are accustomed to crafting media to be consumed serially.

You measure and track users through your content to create experiences that align with their journeys.

Great Content Speaks Your Customer’s Language

Because the audience builds their stories using multiple sources, you must use language that the audience understands. Though you want to tell your story, your story will not make sense ijn the context of the audience’s story if you don’t use common language. Coining your own terms can lead to jargon that’s confusing to your audience. It’s natural for marketers to desire unique trademarked names for their products, but when you need to explain too many words, your message loses its punch.

You learn the common language by conducting keyword research and by listening to social channels.

Content Marketing Requries a Publisher’s Reputation

As in all other forms of publishing, credibility is the currency in the digital world. A sure way to gain credibility is through transparency. Not only must you publish the truth as openly as possible, you need to avoid hyperbole and other forms of exaggeration. This can be especially hard for some public relations professionals who are used to telling only the “good stories.”

You can measure the credibility of your content by performing sentiment analysis and other forms of social listening.

Content marketing is emerging as the primary way many brands engage with audiences, to the degree that resisting content marketing has become a  career-limiting decision. For example, only 12% of UK companies do not focus on content marketing.

Perhaps data-driven content marketing’s most striking aspect is its use of data to understand the audience. Data allows marketers to provide the content they need to solve the audience’s problems and to answer their questions. Are you making the most of it?

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About Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm.

What’s Wrong with Advertising: The Case for Data-Driven Content Marketing

As content marketing has been practiced today, it resembles custom publishing. Companies tell stories that romanticize their brand, distributing those stories through various channels and amplifying them through social media. Content marketing has come to be more akin to advertising.

Let’s go back to the basics for just a minute. Here’s the definition we should all be starting with for content marketing, from the Content Marketing Institute.

Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience–and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer interaction.

So, as to our question — what’s wrong with advertising? Nothing, really. But I focus on the following part of the definition: “to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience–and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”

The kind of content marketing that can punch up through the noise has two distinguishing features. It is data driven and inbound. At SoloSegment, our focus is on mining audience data–big data, if you must–and identifying what content will be useful in a buyer’s journey. We then utilize that data to provide the right content to the right customer at the right time.

You need to build content that will be clearly purposeful and useful in a buyer’s journey. If you do it well, you turn prospects into clients and clients into brand advocates. This method focuses on messages that are valuable to your clients, not about you.

Marketing from the outside-in attracts prospects to your digital experiences and helps them answer their questions about your products or services. If you do this in a way that respects people’s time and gives them value in exchange for their attention, you can guide them through the customer journey toward purchase, adoption and advocacy.

Advertising stops finding customers the moment you close your wallet, but great content can bring in new customers years after your paid for it. Is your content marketing still about get-attention advertising, or are you truly providing value?

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About Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in internet marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, a leading digital media marketing consultancy based in New York City. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm.

Meet Behavior-Based Content Recommendation

The new personalized approach to B2B content recommendation

Understanding customer behavior is one of the most powerful marketing tools available to professionals. The right data that provides you with a glimpse into their intent will allow you to effectively connect potential customers to the content that is going to help them achieve their goal. So where do you find intent data? It exists in the systems you use today. Behavior-based personalization is a strategy to offer intent-based content recommendation. If you know where to look and you have the ability to mobilize that data you can use it to progress journeys, convert more business and win more often.

Intent: Let your customers tell you

We often talk about website search as being the most common personalized experience. Website visitors identify their need, and if the search engine works well it delivers the content that answers their question. It’s the simplest, most direct method of personalizing the customer experience. Personalization isn’t the only thing that search does. It is also the first inklings of the data you need to drive effective content recommendation.

The search box on any website fulfills not only the search term input function, but also gathers meaningful data about customer intent. This is the real source of search’s power. There are lots of topics that a searcher can query. Many of those also give you insight into why they’re asking those questions. Successfully deciphering intent can not only lead to better search results, but more importantly can lead to more conversions.

Simple Intent: The Keywords

Let’s consider two searches.

“Product X Value”

“Product Pricing”

It’s obvious that these searches will yield different results. If you deliver a results page with relevant content it will help the searcher move forward in their journey. But what’s more important than the topic they’re interested in is what the topic tells you about their intent.

That first term probably indicates someone who is in the interest phase of the process. They’ve gotten beyond the top of funnel messages and are going deeper. Not only are they going to need the right content to answer the question, they may be ready for messages that move them into consideration.

Nosing around pricing content is a clear indicator of someone who is considering a purchase. This is where journey progression becomes even more important. Answer the question effectively and they’re doing business with you.

Both these search terms give actional information about the intent of the visitor. They provide signals about what you should be serving them at this stage of the buying process.

Complex Intent: All that other data

Intentions that are apparent in search term data can also be found elsewhere. One of the most effective places to look for how intent manifests itself in your data is in your web analytics system.

The patterns in visitor journey data can illustrate intent very clearly. If someone is spending a lot of time with content that is in the consideration stage of your journey, that’s an obvious signal. But what if the signal is not readily apparent in the data?

This is where advanced data science tools can be brought to the challenge of understanding what the visitor is trying to achieve. For one of our clients, we’re beginning to use unsupervised machine learning techniques to interrogate tens of thousands of visitor journeys each month.

These methods help us construct models that show patterns of visitor behavior that are associated with intent. Once you can identify the snippets of behavior that are more closely associated with goals, you can understand what behavior signals intent for those goals. Knowing this you can recommend content at just the right moment to help drive visitors to those patterns.

The value of behavior-based content recommendation

The value of behavior-based content recommendation can be directly measured. Reduced exits and bounces that increase top of funnel progression are the first signals you’re onto something. You also likely have some conversions associated with specific tasks, such as downloads and contact forms, that can be directly measured.

Of course, what you really want to measure are the purchase conversions. In a B2B world making those connections can be difficult, especially if channel or field sales are a big part of your sales engine. However, you’ve been dealing with this challenge for long time. Instrument the tasks and activities that lead to contacts and monitor the activity. All things being equal, if you can reduce the top of funnel abandons (i.e. exits and bounces) you’re going to see more come out at the other end of the funnel.

Want to get started? We might be able to help. Connect with an expert right now.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

SearchChat Podcast: Budget Season Survival Guide

Not enough marketers take advantage of the other kind of search — the one on your own website. Few companies budget for it, while budgeting for content without a second thought. We’ve talked about the cost of value before. But when they search, can visitors even find the content they need on your site?

Steve and I are excited to introduce a new podcast, exploring the topics we are fascinated by: AI, search, and content. Site search is part of a customer journey. When you optimize your site search with automation, visitors can find your content and continue on their journey.

Today we cover the Budget Season problems: proving why site search matters, what makes for good analytics, and how much budget you need to make your search better. And check out our technology solutions if you want to really generate revenue from your site search.

00m 00s – Intro and overview

01m 17s – Start of discussion with Steve

07m 04s – Do clicks mean success?

11m 44s – What do we mean by upstream/downstream traffic to/from search?

13m 12s – Why it matters that Google exited the site search market

14m 58s – How much budget is enough to make your site search better?

17m 27s – How can you get started on improving site search?

SearchChat is now on

    • Spotify

Search Chat is SoloSegment’s podcast dedicated to all things search AI and content marketing related. Who is SoloSegment? We’re a technology company focused on site search analytics and AI driven content discovery to improve search results, increase customer satisfaction and unlock revenue for your company.

Check us out on Facebook, Twitter, or email info@solosegment.com.

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About Tim Peter

Tim Peter is the President of SoloSegment. An expert in e-commerce and digital marketing strategy, web development, search marketing, and analytics, Tim focuses on the growth of the social, local, mobile web and its impact on both consumer behavior and business results.

SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Tiled Search is the Shiny New Thing! Is it a fad – or here to stay?

If you close your eyes and imagine what a search engine results page looks like you probably see something that looks a lot like Google’s search results. You see a list of titles and text snippets that potentially describe the thing that you’re looking for. That’s what Google and Amazon and practically every other site has trained us to see. What few people see is a grid of tiles. This is probably a good thing as there are few use cases that tiled search results are effective.

Where do tiled search results work?

We don’t see search engine results presented as tiles often but we do see them from time to time. When you see them on a commerce site, tiled results can be quite effective. These results usually include a picture of the thing, a title, pricing, a call to action (usually a cart action), and perhaps a snapshot review or description. The picture is the key to knowing if you’ve found the right thing in a commerce setting and a tile is an effective way to deliver this content. But we also see this on sites that are definitely not B2C related.

So what’s the downside?

A large investment bank has made search it’s primary navigation method. When you load their homepage, smack dab in the middle of the page is a search box. They have a hamburger if you want to try navigation but the user experience clearly has doubled down on the effectiveness of search. It’s a bold move. It says “Our search is that good. Go ahead, we dare you to try and not find what you’re looking for.” So how do they do?

First let’s review the two things that all search results pages have to do really well:

      1. Present high quality search results that answer my question.
      2. Give me some indication of which of the results I should pick as the right answer.

Traditionally, those goals have been achieved in list form. Each entry in the list contains an informative title and a snippet that gives me more information about the content found on each result’s landing page.  So why are search results always presented this way? Well there are a couple of reasons.

      1. It’s what we’ve been trained to expect after two decades of seeing search results. We don’t have to figure out how to use the search results, it’s our cognitive model.
      2. It is an excellent user experience for communicating this information. The title & snippet model contains most of the information you need to evaluate the response.
      3. See 1 above. It’s what we do.

Are tiled results good or bad?

I don’t know. In theory, tiles should be fine if, and that’s a big IF, your search results are awesome and the top three results are the right answer to every question associated with the keyword. The tile also has to tell me which of the three results I see above the fold are the right one. I haven’t seen the data to know whether the tiles are better or not and I suspect many of the tile adopters don’t really know that as well.

The investment bank example above, in my opinion, scores poorly on all accounts. First, I didn’t find many of the results above the fold to have a title that was descriptive enough for me to understand it. Second, there is rarely any additional information presented to help me gain additional insight and what little additional insight there is is behind another click. I might as well click on the result instead of wasting time on the “additional info” click . Third, I know this industry and the titles seem to be more marketing speak than information about the content. It feels like the exact opposite of what a search result should do.

My gut tells me, outside of commerce use cases, tiles search results are less effective than lists because I haven’t seen anyone crack the code on providing enough information on a tile to allow me to know which one I should click on.

So why change?

The list of search engine results is a highly effective method that has few challengers. So why do companies experiment with a change? There are a few good reasons. Most notably, some of our tribe are creative animals and they’re constantly seeking something more innovative, something better. Of course, a new design can’t just be an artistic design exercise, it has to be a usability exercise. Does this change make the experience better and deliver better results for the business?

There is no doubt that the emergence of mobile has changed the way we consume content and voice search will change it even more dramatically. When you think about voice search you can’t scroll through a list of things so perhaps getting our house in order where we can deliver results in terse, well constructed bit makes sense for both tiles and, eventually, voice results. But I think that’s a bit of a stretch. I think most companies do it because they think it looks cool.

I still want tiles.

Fine. But make sure it’s not just something you want, make sure it’s effective for your customers and prospects. If you’re going to give tiled results a try, I’d recommend the following:

    • Make sure you work the design hard. Think about how tiled results fit into the rest of the site’s design and deliver the right information to make the search effective.
      • Test the heck out of the tiled design. A/B test tiled against list. A/B test descriptive tiles against lean tiles.
    • Measure success and whether search success for each of these design changes increases or decreases goal achievement.

The goal of search is to connect, as quickly as possible, your customers and prospects with the answers to their questions. Don’t lose site of that and you’ll be fine.

Want more site search guidance? Try a free consultation with us.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

The Ins and Outs of Instant Search – What is it and do you need it for your site?

Autocomplete is the bane of any message sent from a mobile device. However, one place where autocomplete shines is on search engines. Autocomplete, also called autosuggest or incremental search, improves the user experience by making it easier to execute searches by suggesting words and phrases that a matching algorithm determines are appropriate based upon the characters entered into a search box. Google has had autocomplete in their search box since 2008. Following in their footsteps, any company that values its customer experience has implemented autosuggestion in their site search. But there’s a new trend in the type-ahead game that we’ve begun to see cropping up on more and more company websites: Instant Search.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

Webinar: Five Effective Strategies for A/B Testing Site Search

A/B Testing Site Search

A few weeks ago I participated in a webinar over on Biznology. I shared five strategies for improving site search using A/B testing. Long a part of the digital marketer’s toolkit, A/B testing has relevance for search analysts as well. Using these methods you can test new settings against a portion of your live traffic without risking tanking things altogether. Once the new settings have proven themselves, you can deploy them to the primary search engine.

Most companies don’t measure site search well. They rely upon out of the box measurements that measure activity instead of outcomes. Nowhere is this problem acuter than when you move from one search engine to another.

  • How do you exceed customer expectations if you don’t have an effective baseline?
  • How do you know you’ve done the migration well if you don’t measure the gap before and after?
  • How do you ensure improvements in content and algorithms are effective?

A/B testing of the search engines is the answer. Check out the webinar. You can also read a short version I did in a blog post a few weeks ago.

 

A full transcript of the conversation is below:

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

The ROI of Site Search

The ROI of Site Search

The calculation of ROI (Return on Investment) is a critical step of the business decision making process. It can also be the most intimidating step. Even those who sat through Finance 101 and understand the concepts of ROI calculation may not fully understand how to do it in practice. Fortunately, we’ve had a lot of experience in using this tool, especially in calculating the ROI of site search improvements.

Determining what to do and how to make the most money doing it would seem to be reason enough for calculating ROI. But there’s another, almost equally important reason. Communicating the returns on business decisions is the language of business. You’ll need this information to convince the IT and Finance guys to make the investment. But (ironically) many businesses fail to put the proper time, resources, and methodology to determining ROI, and end up allocating their resources poorly. Site search is a great example of this problem.

Even though up to 50 percent of your customers use your site search, I bet you don’t have technical and human resources dedicated to it. That’s something that needs to be remedied. You’re leaving money on the table. You need to build great partnerships with stakeholders from across business functions to change the status quo and you need to be able to express the need for change in terms of value. Fortunately, you don’t have to have an MBA to figure out the value. Here’s the steps you need to be taking in your ROI process.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.

You’re measuring site search wrong

Many companies have a measurement problem when it comes to understanding the effectiveness of site search. But that measurement problem often stems from the failure to ask the right question. The question shouldn’t be about customer behavior. The question should be about the customer experience. At SoloSegment we believe that the only customer experience that matters when you’re talking about site search is the success rate. Did the customer find the right content to answer their question on the first click? Unless you start with that point of view, you’re doing it wrong.

Steve Zakur

About Steve Zakur

Stephen Zakur is CEO of SoloSegment. SoloSegment provides analytics that improve site search conversion and machine learning technologies that improve content effectiveness.