Driving content relevance with Test&Targettelleston | October 21, 2009
In many cases homepages are either relatively static, or promotional driven. The problem is that homepages are often still the starting point of a users journey on the site and not every user should see the same content.
In our case, at Murdoch University, despite the fact that we use SEO and SEM tactics to drive clicks to deeper content, we know from our metrics that many users either bookmark our homepage, or search for “Murdoch University” or a derivative thereof, which means that they click through to our homepage.
The role of the homepage is to channel users into areas of the site as quickly as possible. With many different audience groups, numerous campaigns, and many stakeholders, real estate is highly sought after. So it’s crucial that we are able to address content relevance – make the content on the homepage as relevant to what the user is looking for when they visit, because relevance yields greater conversion.
Enter Omniture Test and Target.
Using Test and Target, we’re able to easily modify the content displayed on the homepage (and many other areas of the site), by using their sophisticated behavioral targeting technology, thereby making our content far more relevant to users when they visit, with the goal of optimizing their experience, and ultimately leading to more sales.
For example, if a user has previously been to our site, started an application but not yet completed it, why point them to the content that talks about how to apply, when you can prompt them to complete their application.
Likewise, if they have expressed an interest in a certain category of information, get them back into that stream with as few clicks as possible.
As Test and Target stores a profile of an individuals browsing activity on our site, coupled with SiteCatalyst data, and various parameters that we set on specific events throughout our site, we can use that as a kind of category or activity affinity, and alter content display based on those parameters, on a user by user basis.
For example, our homepage has 4 key modules on it. Currently the two left modules are T&T driven. The left hand module is promotional based. So we’re currently running a Postgraduate promotion. If the user has been to a PostGraduate course previously, they will see the PostGraduate promotion. If they have been to an Undergraduate course, they’ll see our Course Search module.
For the next module, it shows either a Future Students module (default), a Domestic Students module, or an International Students module. If the user has been into the Domestic Students section, then in the future, when they see the homepage, they’ll see the Domestic module. Likewise, if they are an International visitor, or they visit the International section, when they see the homepage, they’ll see the International module. If we know nothing about them, i.e. they are within Australia but haven’t been to the site before, they’ll see the Future Students module.
Implementing Test and Target in this manner is very easy. There are a number of key parts:
- Put some default content inside the <div> tag. This is displayed is nothing else can be displayed. For us, the Course Search and the Future Students content is default.
- Put mbox code onto other key pages and set specific parameters within those mboxes. I call these “listeners” – they don’t actually display any content, they just pass critical information into the user profile when they are activated, such as on key pages, or key events like starting or completing an application (see below).
- Put some alternative content into Test and Target (called offers).
- Create targeted campaigns in Test and Target with rules about what content should be displayed (either default or the content created in step 4).
- Activate the campaign and hey presto – behavioural targeting now works for you.
Ok, well, there might be a bit missing, like your content and targeting strategy, but you get the drift.
Category and Activity Affinity
Throughout our site, we pass a number of parameters through the “listener” mboxes, which are placed on strategic pages. For example, in the above Domestic and International sections of the site, we have created a parameter called profile.sitesection and we pass in a value of either Domestic or International. We can also pass in other values, such as “Research”, “Library”, “Student” or “Staff” on other pages, so that we can expand on the targeted content. The strategy largely depends upon who
Our T&T campaign that we created in step 5 then looks for either of those values and depending on the value, displays the relevant content. If it doesn’t find a value, it serves the default content – the Future Students content.
Another area that we utilize this is within our online application system. We pass in a value when they start an application and another when they complete an application. This allows us to look for those values, and depending upon a combination of them, we know the status of an application (not started, started not completed, started and completed) and can then display relevant content to either engage them to start an app, prompt them to complete an app, or other default content.
Within T&T we can also set conversion events. These events are mostly used when you are testing different variations of promotions (I’ll post an entry about testing content in the near future) to see which one drives the best result. For behavioral targeting we’ve found that we use these more for general reporting, rather than actual optimization.
Practical usage ideas
Content relevance is effective for every industry vertical. For example:
- ISP’s could use it to target content to customers with accounts, versus potential new customers.
- Banks could use it to target product category affinity – those that might have expressed an interest in mortgages versus credit cards.
- Retailers could use it to target product category affinity too – if a user expresses an interest in TV, show them TV products on the homepage over other products.
- Tourism operators could target by region of interest or by activity, such as kayaking, or fishing.
- Media companies could use it to display news from a certain category, for example, finance news over fashion news.
One of the most successful strategies is re-engagement; get an abandoned user back into a process quickly. You know they’ve abandoned; they’re back on your site; re-engage them and try to convert them.
Like everything though, it’s important that the content strategy is thought through first and the objectives and success measures are clearly defined, before trying to implement.