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Maximizing ROI: content as commerce

iStock_000009060484XSmall.jpgIn my career working in the digital marketing space, I have worked on hundreds of projects for clients in practically any industry you can think of. In that time, I have had the pleasure of working on a number of e-commerce sites that provided me a fantastic perspective on designing with conversion in mind.

One of my key takeaways in doing business online is that no matter how you execute (basic website, social media engagement, search engine marketing, etc.) and no matter what industry you are in, you MUST treat your content as commerce.

I cannot tell you how many meetings I had been in where people say, "We are not an e-commerce site, how can we measure ROI?". That's a bad point of view to have and this post will hopefully work to change your mind.

So, what do I mean by content as commerce? There are a couple of steps in this process. First, you have to do the little things right from the start. Usability is, as in e-commerce, a key to making sure that users can find what they are looking for quickly.

Second, map out your site and weight content that is a priority, then compare it to your actual traffic. See a difference? Here is a good model that I have used before to help with this mapping. This is from a guest post that I did for Drew McLellan back in 2007.

step1.png Draw a map of your current site. You can use Visio, Word, pen and paper or anything else you have at your disposal. Just treat each page/object/action as a block and show them in their hierarchy.
step2.png Now, create a copy of the map and color code each page so that is aligns with your business goals. For this example we'll say red is a top tier page that generates revenue, orange is a second tier support page, yellow is a third tier information page and blue is non-essential.
step3.png Now, create a copy of the color-coded map and roughly scale each section as it relates to your page view metrics so that pages with more views are larger and less views are smaller. Try to keep them in proportion. This is where people go on your site compared with your business goals. In our example, we need to create tactics that shift more views to the red blocks and less to the blue. (Note: you could also scale based on time spent on each page or other key metric)

Third, we need to assign values to content in order to get some more concrete numbers. For example, you could assign a value of $5/5 points when a consumer downloads a PDF or $25 when they sign up for your email newsletter or $30 when they become a fan on Facebook. The more you roll these numbers up across all of the channels you participate in the better. This is obviously behind the scenes, so you can try it in your own time.

Action NameValue#Total
Download White Paper$15.00750$11,250.00
Became a Fan on Facebook$25.002,500$62,500.00

How do you get those numbers? You can obviously make them up, but this has more impact when the numbers are real and when they have executive buy-in. Another way is to use some old school comparisons like impressions or cost-per-acquisition. Ideally you can get to a place where you start to see the metrics take shape and the more that shape is printed in dollars, the more successful you will be. (You wouldn't spend time and money promoting something useless would you?)

Keys to succeeding with content-driven sites:

  • Create a clear interface for your users
  • Rank content in the order it is valuable to the business, weigh that with the value to the consumer (these should ideally be aligned)
  • Visualize your traffic to see where it is going and shift it to the content you value
  • Adapt over time. You can A/B test content, tease it with advertising or promote it in email to see what works. This makes the rest of your marketing better as well.
  • Assign values for specific actions and track it over time.

What are your thoughts? What would you add to this list?

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