How to Avoid the 4 Pitfalls of Recommended Content

November 14, 2019 Ben MagnusonTanya Lord

One of the cardinal rules of user experience design is to ensure you never leave your visitors at a dead end; instead, you want to encourage them to continue navigating on your site. But earning that behavior requires you to continue providing value with each additional link they click. 

This is especially true for professional services firms who publish and share a lot of content. One way many of our clients entice users to keep exploring is to add recommendations at the end of their articles and thought leadership pieces. These are akin to Amazon’s “you may also be interested in” sections. The idea is, having a good understanding of one piece of content that a user was interested in enough to read, you could suggest something of similar importance/value/theme and get them to read more of your firm’s content.

However, the key to making these recommendations meaningful and tempting enough to click on is to ensure they are highly relevant to the visitor’s interests – which isn’t always the easiest thing to keep consistent. We often see two things happen with our clients: 

  • They take a manual approach. This requires a lot of time and knowledge on the part of a content editor to manage the content library, tag all content appropriately and use their best judgement to match articles to other relevant content.
  • The second approach is more of an automated approach, whereby a feed makes the decisions about what content is served. This can help to eliminate the time burden from your content team, but it still requires a solid taxonomy and effective tagging to be successful.

Regardless of the approach taken, we have seen clients run into a few common pitfalls when serving up recommended content. We outline those below and include some advice for overcoming these hurdles. 

  1. Showcase your expertise, not just your practices and professionals.
    An easy way to tag your content is to connect it to the people or practice that produced it. But is that always the most relevant information to the user? If a visitor is trying to validate one of your practices/services or professionals, then, yes, this would be an effective use of tagging. However, many times, what they’re trying to do is research or educate themselves on a specific topic. In that case, it would be more beneficial for you to serve them other related content, even if it’s not connected to the practice or service area the current article originated from. Establishing an effective taxonomy and appropriately tagging your thought leadership will make this easier to do, from both a manual and/or automated perspective.
  2. Don’t mistake recency for relevance.
    Many of our clients fall into the trap of being partial to recency when selecting content to suggest. However, if you look at their analytics, evergreen content can often prove to be some of their top-performing content. Aim to identify and suggest the pieces that seem to resonate most with your visitors, even if it they were published some time ago. You don’t always have to give recent content more weight than older content.
  3. Maintain a consistent thread when tagging content.
    More often than not, it becomes far too difficult for most of our clients to establish a common thread of tags. Perhaps there are multiple terms associated with one particular topic. Or maybe certain words are abbreviated in some instances, but not in others. Regardless of the scenario, it is extremely challenging and time consuming for content editors to maintain an authoritative and consistent set of tags to use over time. However, the more consistent you can keep it, the better relationships you’ll be able to establish between your content, and the more relevant the links will be between them.
  4. Train your users to trust your recommendations, not ignore them.
    When you continuously recommend content that isn’t relevant or helpful to users, you ultimately teach them to completely ignore that real estate. But the opposite is true if they know they’ll find value in the next click – they’ll seek out your recommendations and continue engaging with the content on your site. Relevancy is key here – you want to ensure you’re recommending content that enhances their information gathering journey. The more solid the connection between what they’ve just read and what you’re recommending they read next, the more likely they’ll be to take that next suggested action. 

There are many benefits that come with avoiding the pitfalls outlined above. One is that you improve the overall user experience on your site. This is going to incite people to explore longer, and more often, and perhaps encourage others to do so as well. You’re also going to see some SEO benefits, as you’ll experience less “bouncing,” which indicates to search engines that your site is indeed delivering relevant content that should be ranked higher in search results. Finally, you’re going to be much more effective at demonstrating the value and expertise that your firm can provide, which keeps clients sticky and drives new business for your firm.

That being said, keeping suggestions relevant is not always an easy task. Again, it takes a lot of people power (time, knowledge, organization) or a finely tuned automation plan. Some PSOs are finding value in leveraging AI to help streamline and optimize the process while freeing up their people to do more strategic work at the same time. Text processing and machine learning are no longer reserved only for big brands with big budgets. There are now more affordable cloud-based options available, which only get smarter the more people take advantage of them. 

One North recently announced an AI solution to help PSOs enhance their content marketing efforts. We call it the Relevance Engine, and it uses AI and custom logic to process, tag, match and recommend content. It’s already helped a few of our clients improve the relevancy factor for suggested content by more than two-fold, and in some cases has resulted in a 1900 percent increase in clicks to related content.  

If you’re interested in learning more about how the Relevance Engine can help you increase engagement on your site, contact us.

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Ben Magnuson Senior Data Strategist

As a Senior Data Strategist at One North, Ben supports clients by applying a strong data focus to marketing initiatives across channels and tools. Digital Marketing tools produce vast quantities of raw data, but often little direction on how to apply it to an effective digital strategy. Ben partners with our clients to streamline and optimize this process. He starts by gaining an understanding of each client’s unique goals and tactics, and guides them toward a strategic analytics program. He focuses on the creation of a meaningful feedback loop to help support and steer decision-making.

  • Favorite vending machine snack: Snickers
  • Most embarrassing moment: Accidentally walking into the same section of the revolving door with the restaurant hostess as she led us to the patio.
Tanya Lord Head of Marketing Communications

As Head of Marketing Communications for One North, Tanya connects professional services organizations with the most innovative digital strategies, industry trends and thought leaders.  Responsible for leading One North’s marketing communications, she ensures the successful delivery of One North’s message by reinforcing the agency’s deep industry knowledge and vertical expertise. She can also keep you current on the latest celebrity gossip.

  • If I were a vegetable: I'd definitely be Zucchini – but only if it were fried.
  • Superpower I wish I had: I've always wanted to be a mind reader. I'm naturally curious ... and an eavesdropper!

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