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Personalization: Matching Off-Domain Interests with On-Domain Content

We’ve all heard the line “past performance is not indicative of future results.” But I’m here to tell you history can help shape how we look at preparing for the future. This is especially true for publishers (site owners) who are always focusing and optimizing their content strategies.

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Now, before you think this is some grand editorial on the vision of the future or maybe a story on how to play the stock market or timing the next housing boom, let’s box this in a little. I want to put this in the context of the ever present dilemma that many publishers struggle with: offering the most engaging content to their visitors, with the goal of turning that engagement into some direct or indirect conversions, leading to revenue.

Your Site Created for Me

Consider this scenario: I’m an alumni of the University of Michigan, therefore a big Wolverines fan. (I can’t hear your jeers.) I search for the 2014 football schedule. The site I land on could show me content directly relevant to the search (i.e. the schedule) and other things maybe about Michigan, including all kinds of random Michigan football products. And that’s ok.

But what if the site I was on knew that I had been searching for diapers to buy, that I share a lot of content with my Facebook friends, and had recently been reading more about healthy living. If they knew these things about me, they’d have a better idea of what content to show me while I’m browsing the 2014 football schedule. They’d show me discounted Michigan football gear for kids, the latest study from the University on the benefits of antioxidants, and give me an opportunity to be part of their Facebook community.

Arguably a more personalized experience would lead to a higher probability of deeper engagement between the visitors and the site. However the site would only learn this about me if they could get a glimpse of my web activity over the course of a longer period of time––not just what I engage with on their site, or what terms I searched for which led me to their site.

Understand Your Visitors

Acquiring the visitor is hard enough, and sometimes costly. This is why a site owner should apply widgets and tools that can automatically help get the best possible understanding of the visitor’s interests even before they arrive on the publisher’s site. The more insight you can glean about off-domain behavior (i.e. across a network of sites), the more you can help drive a stronger content strategy, focused on increasing user engagement once the user lands on the website (i.e. on-domain). Understanding your visitors’ off-domain behaviors and web habits––without broaching on their personal data––can help your site present content that drive maximum engagement.

These kernels of information would give your site a more complete picture of what my interests are, and help you utilize more of your archived content, better map your archived content to my interests, and create an experience that is more personalized to my likes.

At AddThis, we’ve got big data that we are putting to work for you––the website owner––to help you have better insight through automatic personalization to improve the experience your visitors have with your content. Right now, Smart Layers delivers personalized social sharing to each of your visitors, and soon, we’ll announce a new solution that’ll keep your visitors clicking, reading, and on your site longer. (Da-dum-duuum! Cliffhanger!)

Whether you’re a large news site staffed with hundreds of editors constantly pushing the most current news-worthy content, or a major commerce site hoping to entice your visitors to buy/click on items, or a small retail site that needs to build a base of loyal visitors, automatically having better insight to visitor behavior before they land on your site can help you create a richer engagement experience for them. That’ll keep them engaged on your site longer. And that’s leveraging the network effect.