The First Step in Reaching Content Marketing Nirvana — 8-Point Arc

Reaching the content marketing holy grail is a multi-variant equation, one of which is understanding more about your customer.  Here are some tips on customer identification across devices while you familiarize yourself with all the new ways to data profile your content.

Most marketers we work with want to improve the engagement they are getting from their published content.  This usually leads us into a conversation about “right content piece; right time”, which is a holy grail of sorts.  We can always help improve the engagement and help evolve to nirvana, however, the impact we can have is dependent on the available underlying data.

Digital forms of advertising and marketing have enabled companies to invest in tracking to create a rich body of data from which to create personalized content.  With this new body of data marketing is closer to being achievable than ever before to achieve personalization but is still very difficult.

To achieve the personalization holy grail, you need the right data and the right content and both are more difficult and complex than most people realize. 


No personalization without data


Advertising and marketing on the internet has long had the advantage of tracking activity and usage.  Seeing the hits on a web page, clicks vs. impressions on an ad or opens on an email have been the lifeblood of proving that digital marketing works.

That said, there have been some accepted shortcomings to all this tracking:

·       Web analytics doesn’t actually measure users but rather its web browsers. Use Firefox and Safari? You are two users. Use your phone and a laptop? That’s two users. 

·       Email open rates only count if images are loaded, and not all email programs load images. Some email programs load images on preview, so you count an open even if the user deletes the email instead of opening it. Tracking click through is much more accurate (though click through rates are way lower than open rates), but falls down if the user forwards the email or sends the link to someone.

·       Ads suffer from the web analytics problems plus concerns of click fraud (automated activity to increase the appearance of success/traffic to specific sites).


Cookies are a key web browser technology that has driven much of the tracking, but users can delete tracking, and there are significant threats to the effectiveness of cookies from web standards bodies, web browser developers and even government regulations.

The biggest problem in all of this is identifying the customer. There are now solutions to this, each which have different advantages and costs.


Having a login makes things easier


Use of a login provides a clear way to identify the user across devices. You can do this on your site, but there are also solutions to bring authentication from our favorite large tech/social companies into our sites and apps via a standard called oAuth. There is complexity in setup here, and you need to ensure there is sufficient value for customers for them to bother, but any platform you are running on should be able to do it. Companies like Gigya and Janrain will try to make it easy for you.


Ad networks describe customers


Most of our favorite social/tech companies offer ad units that will provide customer identification and drive targeting based on that customer. They don't typically reveal who the customer is specifically but are very good at identifying the users (as the users log in to their network), and allow you to target by CRM list or through data attribute selections (demographics/lifestyle/behavior).


Cookies are unobtrusive and valuable


Each ad network uses cookies to identify viewers of ads across their network. A cookie exchange network exchanges those identifiers with a central authority to essentially join the networks together, extending the reach and likelihood the customer will self identify on the device. Examples include LiveRamp, Oracle and Datalogix.


Getting smart through heuristics


Instead of relying on a cookie being set, heuristics-based identification companies leverage the existing data attributes that are available from a web browser (such as browser version, time and IP address, languages enabled and fonts available) to correlate activity over time to represent an individual.  Companies in this space include BlueCava and


All of these approaches help marketers to identify individuals. The new FCC Rules may impact this a bit, as they are defining sensitive data to include geo-location of the device, app usage, and web browsing history. Specifically, this may impact the cookie exchange networks, while the walled gardens should have little issue revising user agreements to gain permission.  Login and heuristics should be unaffected.


Customer data is only part of the equation


Navigating all the technical approaches to the data and its challenges is difficult and challenging, and to some extent ever changing – leveraging marketing providers with deep expertise is highly advisable.  But many marketers have taken their eye off the other side of the equation: the content!  There is more data on content than ever before (see a little company called 8-Point Arc)

When you finally have the data in place to recognize the user in a specific moment, and you know their past interactions you need to have content that is relevant for them.  Determining the content you have that suites the user’s needs, and how to balance your content between educating and selling are key considerations – considerations we’ll cover in a future blog post.


Rob Fuller


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