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From SEO to DCO: Looking beyond the tip of the digital marketing iceberg


September 2, 2013

Savvy marketers have long been using SEO, SEM and analytics data to optimize their content and drive search results. Search for a camping tent and you’re likely to notice that ads for all manners of outdoor products and marketers seem to “follow” you around the internet for days. A/B testing is also commonplace as we test and refine the ads we serve. The combined impact of these efforts drives higher conversion rates. However, this is only the tip of the iceberg.

The lesson we’ve learned from all this only reinforces what we, as marketers, already knew – serve the right message to the right audience to improve results. But the application of that lesson is staggering – The massive bottom of the iceberg lurking just below the surface is the potential dynamic optimization of all website content, or rather what I’ll call “DCO” (Dynamic Content Optimization).

Imagine if you could understand a visitor to your site down to a narrowly defined segment (gender, approximate age and current interests for starters) or, in some cases, identify the individual specifically. Instead of presenting that individual with content designed to appeal to a broad expression of your target market, you could present them with content designed to appeal specifically to that person. That’s the potential of DCO. I’m not suggesting that all site content across the Internet be dynamically optimized – only that the potential exists for any site. What would such a change do for your conversion rate? I think you already know.

Understanding how it works & getting started

It seems daunting to consider. Even if you could identify site visitors by segment, how do you serve them all with customized content in an efficient manner?

The process looks something like this:

  • Gather User Data
  • Analyze Data
  • Create Segmentations
  • Identify Site Traffic
  • Test Content Scenarios for Each Segment
  • Analyze Results
  • Implement Learning
  • Repeat the Process

To be successful, you’ll need to get the tools in place to automate this process. That means building sites in new, more dynamic ways, integrating the tools that drive it, and being committed to a process of continual improvement. What makes this possible are the tools and a system that is developed to effectively manage the process.

For most of us getting started starts with embracing a new philosophy:
Trust the data. The highest paid person’s opinion (often our client) should only ever be considered with respect. Even when that opinion is highly educated and experienced, one must take it with a grain of salt. To consistently drive the dramatically higher conversion rates we all desire, we need to trust the data and convince our clients to do the same.  This process doesn’t remove the human factor, but it does rely on automation to serve the content set that will statistically perform best with the identified visitor.

Unlike content scenarios we may assume to be true, these are formed based on the historical and real-time data, and are thus more personalized and reactive to a customer’s changing interest. The process is supported by systematic A/B testing of the optimized content sets for various segments. By studying the test results, one can better understand the segment and continue to optimize the content. The end result is a conversion rate unattainable with generic content, no matter how well conceived.

The impact of DCO

Like an iceberg in the night, the age of dynamic content optimization is quietly coming our way. Just as strong expertise in analytics, SEO and SEM are today, I have no doubt that DCO expertise will become the benchmark of any legitimate digital agency in the near future.  Sure, it requires the tools to make it work and will create positions for people who specialize in their use.  While these are always inhibitors to adoption, the greater risk for marketers may be letting it go unnoticed. As marketing efforts increasingly focus on digital media and conversions relate directly to market share, those who choose to ignore it risk loosing their ship to those who would choose to steer the iceberg.