How to optimize your website UX with smart content
What is smart content and how can it help improve the user experience of your digital offerings?
Written by Vegard Ottervig on
In the everlasting race to stay ahead of your competition and offer the best digital experiences, you may have stumbled upon the term “smart content” as one of the next big things in content marketing.
But what exactly is smart content? And how can you use smart content to optimize your digital experiences and your user experience?
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According to HubSpot, smart content is “website content that changes based on the interests or past behavior of the viewer.” It is also referred to as dynamic content, and offers a more personalized and relevant experience to the visitors of your digital experiences.
Let’s say you work for a business that offers services to different industries, like retail, energy, and healthcare. Smart content allows prospects from the retail industry to see articles about shopping trends when they visit your front page, while prospects from the energy and healthcare industries sees content about their respective interests.
Thus, smart content is tightly knit with personalization and user experience, allowing for content that is:
Targeted: What (potential) customers want and need when they need it
Optimized: Tailored in every way, making it more visible and discoverable
Always on: Ready for visitors any time and technically up-to-date
Integrated: Cross-channel, being present in all your digital experiences
Profitable: The right content at the right time to the right person drives conversions
By now you might be convinced that smart content sounds, well, smart. But how do you achieve this highly specialized and targeted strategy? Below we’ll go through some building blocks you should know about and have in place to get started.
Without a plan, you won’t get anywhere. First off, decide what you’re trying to achieve with your marketing and your digital experiences. What content makes sense to personalize and target to your preferred groups, what content should be present for everyone?
Also, you must go through the hard and tedious work of defining buyer personas, map and tag your current and future content, and set up logic to determine what will be shown to whom, and where.
You should be aware that the users of your digital experiences vary widely, from completely anonymous visitors to logged-in customers, and that the different levels present different challenges and advantages. This is independent of industry and work function.
Anonymous users: It is obviously difficult to present smart content to completely anonymous users. A user is anonymous if it’s the first time he or she visits your digital experiences, if it’s a new computer or if cookies have been erased, or if he or she uses anti-tracking software.
It’s not completely impossible to do something reasonable with this kind of user level. Most anonymous users—except the ones who really want to hide their every digital footprint—leave their IP address. Mind you, IP could be troublesome, so use this with caution.
One example of smart content use in regard to IP is to present content with different languages to different locations, based on the visitor’s IP. This is relatively safe and harmless.
Cookie users: When users visit your digital experiences over time and leave their traces, either by navigating or filling out simple forms, they can be identified by cookies. A cookie is a tiny text file that is downloaded and stored on the local drive of the users in question. When you’re visiting a website you have been to before and see a form already filled out with your credentials, that’s cookies at work.
With cookie users you can see their interests over time and tailor content based on what they appreciate. If a user is constantly visiting the kitchen section of an online interior store, it makes sense to show articles, boxes, or ads with kitchen appliances across your site to this group.
However, be wary when using smart content. If Charlie the Chef finds the front page of the interior store interesting and shares it to some chef buddies of his, they might see a completely different site, as they probably don’t have any previous experience with it.
Logged-in user: This final echelon of users present more possibilities than the previous two. These kinds of people have decided to set up a user account at your website or app—the most common examples being online banks or online stores, like Amazon.
When users are logged in, you get a full utilization of CRM information, as well as access to core systems. Now you can personalize even more, based on a detailed and specific navigation history for eCommerce, prompting relevant recommendations. Or if you’re fitting a specific demographics, you can get personalized advices or offers in banking and insurance while navigating your online banking site.
For the fullest use of smart content, the systems of your organization need to speak together, they need to have some type of integration. To present the right content to the right user at the right time, your digital offering must present a tagged piece of content, corresponding with a similar tag from your customer database, and so on.
In other words, make sure that your CRM, core systems (like ERP), marketing automation system, CMS, and other eventual third-party systems speak and work together, and not in silos.
A user segmentation is not the same as user levels. User levels describe what level of knowledge you have about the users, and limits the methods you can use to reach out to them. A user segmentation, however, takes for granted that you know something about your users, thereby enabling segmentation by factors like:
Device (mobile, desktop, tablets)
Score (based on activities like opening emails, clicking on links, downloading content, etc.)
This is the juicy part of smart content planning. In this step you can “make or break” your future endeavors. If you want to reach out to executives of large businesses in the manufacturing industry, you can do this with the right inputs from all your systems.
On the other hand, it makes little sense to target 18 year olds with the title “student” from a small business if you want to reach out to the aforementioned group. Use segmentation wisely.
When you have gone through all the work with planning and segmenting users, it’s time to segment your content—i.e. matching content with users. Whether it’s an article, topic page, image, service description, video, ads, or something else, it needs to find an audience, the right audience.
This could be done by simply tagging your content in your digital experience platform in a rather straightforward process: if it fits tea lovers, tag it with “tea”, if it fits coffee lovers, tag it with “coffee.” Also remember to have regular quality checks, to ensure that your content is correctly tagged and up-to-date.
Without going into detail, machine learning, i.e. artificial intelligence (AI), could be used in personalization and smart content, too. In this approach, a piece of software recognizes patterns across content and users over time, and then tries to automatically predict what content might be the perfect match for your visitors.
Don’t over-use smart content. Heavy personalization can confuse users, rather than help them. A matching might be totally wrong, or you have the issue of users sharing what they think is a static piece of content (which in reality is dynamic), as mentioned earlier. If you are going to use it widely, reserve it for your logged-in users, if possible.
Find out more: Reasons to choose Enonic as your CMS »
An exciting new innovation on the smart content front is a so-called “customer data platform.” This is a central hub gathering and using data from the various systems of your organization, like CRM, CMS, DAM, and ERP.
This kind of platform assists you in building profiles, handling privacy, as well as battling silos. An example is Apache Unomi, an open-source customer data platform. With this powerful tool you can e.g. request information on all segmented profiles, like those interested in insurance.
If you don’t have the option of pursuing a dedicated customer data platform, you can research whether or not your current CMS or eCommerce system features the functionality natively.
Be aware that this might be a proprietary solution and can keep your digital experiences in silos. However, many platforms support custom development and tailored solutions, but they are in danger of being more hard-coded—meaning more manual maintenance.
A third alternative is to look for a digital experience platform able to integrate with third party marketing tools and solutions needed to deliver smart content. In this way, you can get exactly the services you need.
Smart content can be a great asset to your digital experiences and organization, if used properly. Before starting out, consider what really drives value for your business through personalization. Then plan and apply actions as necessary!
First published 30 January 2019, updated 30 June 2022.
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