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Making the Right Connections:
Audience Intelligence and WCM in the Semantic Era

This article is part of the Best Practices White Paper Web Content Management [November/December 2009]


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Everyone is a publisher.

Let’s begin with the notion that everyone is a publisher. Everyone with a public-facing website, regardless of industry, is a publisher, and their core goals are the same:

  • Strengthening brand;
  • Increasing findability/visibility; and
  • Improving the customer experience.

Ultimately, one needs to connect audiences with the content they’re looking for. This is easier said than done, as Web audiences have a near infinitude of content options to choose from, and endless routes to get there. The key is offering visitors a highly targeted, unique and relevant experience.

To do this, publishers need to combine traditional Web metrics and demographics with a deep, contextual understanding of the content visitors are looking at; from there, one can develop rich user profiles.

This is known as audience intelligence, and it’s a crucial concern for content-providers.

You already know where they’re going. Traditional Web metrics capture important user behavior. At its most fundamental level, Web metrics allow content-providers to note unique visitors, return visitors, points of entry and page traffic.

Thus, one can easily identify where their users are going to and coming from. In cases where registration is required for users to view content, even more demographic data can be collected.

This is all powerful data, but without an understanding of what topics visitors are interested in (at an individual and group level), content providers are missing an opportunity to truly leverage their material to create the optimal user experiences that will drive return visits, foster customer loyalty and create new monetization opportunities.

Do you know what they’re interested in? Understanding the content your audience is viewing goes beyond identifying page titles. A detailed, finely tuned semantic analysis of one’s content combined with metric/demographic data about who is viewing it can expose powerful, nuanced interrelationships. Knowing what time of day, month and season certain types of content are consumed is also a valuable and often ignored metric.

By combining knowledge of where audiences are on one’s site and what exactly they are digesting, one can begin to truly understand who they are. Modern text analytics can extract extremely valuable data from content including: proper names, places, organizations, specific topics, brands, products and even sentiment; coupling this information with standard user metrics/demographics results in accurate, insightful, rich user profiles.

Essentially, one can use their own content as a means to achieve a deep understanding of their audiences.

For advertising-driven sites, audience intelligence allows highly targeted contextual advertising (which results in increased revenues). Suppose a publisher could identify a cluster of return visitors who frequently consume content about green technology. Wouldn’t it be natural to offer those visitors targeted advertising for hybrid cars? Further, by being able to identify the sentiment of certain content pieces, one can avoid coupling advertising with highly negative articles; this is necessary to keep advertisers satisfied.

Every visitor is unique. This rich understanding of visitors can be deployed to offer highly targeted, unique user experiences. This audience intelligence allows publishers to infer and anticipate customer’s interests and needs, allowing for:

  • Improved, more efficient customer support, by anticipating their needs and connecting them to the right information, product or service;
  • Landing pages or microsites tailored to individual users;
  • Links to other relevant content pieces (bolstering site stickiness); and
  • Connections between like-minded users (creating communities).

By offering visitors targeted experiences, one can foster deeper customer trust/loyalty and nourish longer-term engagement.

Everyone is a publisher, including your audience. Another important consideration is content that is created by audiences. Increasingly, audiences are interacting with the websites they visit, posting comments and writing reviews etc.... More and more marketers and customer support staff are encouraging audiences to converse and to build communities around brands. This content is inherently unstructured.

But this content contains valuable information. Some text analytics software can extract the sentiment of content created by users. This has powerful “voice of the customer/brand image monitoring” implications. One can better address customer needs and be more aware of how they are perceived by the market. Increasingly, people rely on peer testimonials when making brand choices; it is critical that one knows what is being said in the market.

Is your Web content management solution ready for the semantic Web? It is imperative that organizations integrate semantic intelligence into their WCM solutions; this ensures that all content will conform to a particular standard and that it will effectively be “normalized.” Normalizing one’s content has the side effect of making it semantic-Web ready. Why does that matter? Because the semantic Web is here, and it is absolutely critical that content producers get in the game now if they intend to succeed in the future.

Big players like Microsoft Bing and Google are now offering their users the Web 3.0 experience, answering questions and “mashing-up” information from various sources, provided those sources comply with certain standards (RDF, OWL). This is an important channel that shouldn’t be missed.

The future of Web CMSs lies in integrated semantic intelligence. Both enterprise solution vendors and open source communities are finally warming up to this notion, because they realize the time is now.


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