Digital Marketing companies tend to have beautifully designed websites with bold claims, enticing promises, and a showcase of their best work. While that’s a great first step, it falls short the moment a customer begins browsing your competitors. After all, they’re making the same claims, the same promises, and also have compelling case studies demonstrating their prowess. Within a few searches, your potential client becomes lost in the white noise of generalized content. The process is then repeated with your own clients:
- Generalized (albeit fabulous) content
- Engaging visuals
- Nail-biting hope that it’s enough to improve conversions…
I found that the root of the problem stems from a fundamental misperception of what a website is, and what it’s capable of. We tend to view them as brochures, or complex pieces of collateral at best, rather than a compelling sales person that works 24/7 and can talk to thousands of people at once. Unlike a brochure, a sales person adapts their pitch to fit the audience they are addressing. They don’t approach the CEO of a startup software company the same way they approach the marketing director of a television network because they have different needs and concerns.
Sounds great, but how the hell do you make your website a salesperson without artificial intelligence? Enter Targeted Content Gateways.
Targeted Content Gateways
A Targeted Content Gateway (gateway) is a cluster of pieces of content pulled from across the website (and beyond) into an alternate homepage that delivers a more catered experience. The cluster targets sets of keywords (semantically related) as a single unit rather than as isolated pieces of content, similar in form to a small website. When done well, a gateway is able to attract a specific audience and deliver a personalized experience while yet contributing to the overall authority of the site.
To illustrate the model more clearly let’s take a look at one of the first gateways we experimented with at a previous agency. Our goal was to gain more clients in the medical industry where we recently had a few wins that could showcase our value. As we’d hoped, within a few months after launching the gateway we arrived at the top spot for “medical web design” searches in Google. However, it wasn’t our homepage that ranked, but rather the URL of the gateway landing page itself: /medical-web-design/.
Following that link, a user would find a homepage-like experience with personalized content. We featured rotating case studies of our work in the medical industry, recent blog articles related (even if tangentially) to the medical field, and links to static pages of evergreen content addressing specific concerns such as HIPAA compliance. The result was a compelling experience that both outranked and outsold our competition, often before the lead arrived in our inbox.
At both my previous agency and now at Amethyst where I consult with other agencies, I’ve seen gateways achieve impressive results. They drive stronger and higher quality conversions, while notably increasing a site’s overall authority. Further, we saw that repetitive use of gateways not only increased search authority overall, but it increased the momentum (or rate) at which the authority grew. Likely thanks to Google’s hummingbird update, for those who remember it.
Now let’s get into the meat of how to build one.
How to build a Targeted Content Gateway
For our purposes, I’m defining “Targeted Content” as content that addresses a specific audience, and “Generalized Content” as content that addresses a topic. For example, generalized-content typically makes up the bulk of your primary web pages (home, services, products, etc.) while targeted content is often a blog post written about a specific issue or a landing page for a PPC campaign.
Let’s walk through an example based loosely on a real client story. Introducing: DataCan, a startup tech company that offers the best data storage solution in the world. They also recently received a new round of funding and are ready to crank up their marketing.
After reviewing several agencies, Marcom Monkeys, in particular, stood out. The content on their website seemed to speak directly to DataCan’s needs, even showing specific examples of work related to the data industry. They didn’t know it, but they just got captured by a gateway.
In order to reach a larger audience, Marcom Monkeys determined that DataCan should use the same gateway model targeting multiple verticals. Each gateway will educate its own audience on how DataCan will solve all their problems, just like a good salesperson.
As you’d expect, the first step when creating a gateway is research. The Monkeys looked at specific industries and audiences first (location didn’t matter this time), and determined that the media industry showed the highest potential. The CTO/CIO is the main buyer for the DataCan product and is motivated by cost and security concerns. However, the person most likely to discover and advocate for DataCan is a director of IT, most likely in their mid-thirties, and motivated by modern apps that provide both better analytics and more automation systems that simplify their job.
Once the audience was identified and understood, Marcom Monkeys went through their standard digital marketing research, focusing largely on keyword topics, but also information useful to develop an effective user experience, for example, device and conversion data which informs user-flow.
By the end of the research phase, DataCan should have a clear understanding of the audience, and Marcom Monkeys should know how to focus the strategy moving forward.
DataCan wants to be sure the gateway is SEO-friendly, which includes planning content for both long-tail search terms, and shorter, more commonly used search terms along with frequent updates and internal links to promote each page. Creating a variety of SEO-friendly content helps build authority with Google, showing that this domain has knowledge/expertise on the topic.
Marcom Monkeys then created a basic content architecture diagram for the gateway:
In this model, the gateway landing page will serve as an overview of their product and how it can solve data problems common to the media industry. This is also where the primary (schedule a demo) and secondary (newsletter subscription) conversion points will live.
Each supporting page will focus on topics specific to the media industry, such as common challenges, big-data trends, live streaming solutions, and security. This is considered the “evergreen” portion of the gateway, evergreen meaning it will be relevant for a long period of time and is not dated, in the way a blog post is.
Following that is another form of static content, Case Studies. However, unlike the supporting pages above, this content will be refreshed more often, showing relevant work while remaining evergreen.
However, static content doesn’t commonly generate large influxes of traffic immediately. This aspect of the gateway should be looked at as more of a freight train: it takes longer to build momentum than PPC, but once it’s going it’s hard to stop.
Blog articles will then be added on a continual basis, typically once per month or at the least every quarter, providing a continuous stream of fresh, relevant content, often focused on long-tail searches such as “What is the best data storage solution for rich media streaming services?”. Unlike the freight train, blog articles are more like bursts of nitro to the gateway providing short bursts of activity. This is done through internal links from the blog article to the media gateway static pages, and the gateway landing page back to the blog posts.
Once the gateway has been launched and is climbing towards its full momentum, it must be maintained.
Maintain the Gateway
Like all marketing efforts, if the gateway isn’t maintained, the content’s efficacy will eventually plateau and even begin to fizzle out, especially in highly competitive spaces. However, maintaining is easy and cost effective.
In this example, DataCan only needs to produce one blog post per month, and one case study per quarter. Occasionally, when appropriate they may refresh or expand their static content as well. That’s it.
One of the more significant advantages of the gateway model and campaign-driven marketing, in general, is its ability to accurately determine the return on investment. DataCan wants to know if the content they are producing is measurable and generating the results necessary to justify the cost, by compartmentalizing their efforts and tracking each gateway individually, they can determine what’s working and what’s not, then make adjustments as necessary.
DataCan invested $20,000 into content production for the year, and know the value for each lead generated by the website is $1,000. This means that in order to have a 100% ROI, the gateway(s) only need to generate 40 leads over the course of 12 months. Obviously, the goal is to get a lot more than that.
What we’ve seen across several agencies practicing the Targeted Content Gateway model, is that it typically takes 6-8 months to generate a 100% ROI, relying on organic search traffic alone. This can obviously vary a great deal from company to company. After that period, the momentum of the content and it’s ROI continues to grow over time, making gateways one of the most cost efficient tactics I’ve seen.
A Targeted Content Gateway is a cluster of curated content that attracts a specific audience or industry. Gateways help companies stand out against their competition and are a cost-effective way to generate more qualified traffic, better conversions, and measurable ROI.