Content Marketing with pURLs
As companies of all sizes look to reinforce, reposition, or expand their brand image, more and more are turning to content marketing as a powerful yet cost-effective tool. Content marketing, a company’s distribution of material that a consumer will find helpful or interesting, has rapidly become a major marketing buzzword as companies scramble to master this form of brand management. In addition to branding, marketers have also discovered content marketing’s usefulness in directing a consumer’s research on a product. In the age of the internet, consumers will almost always research a product before engaging with sales teams, placing orders, or making decisions. Content marketing pieces empower marketers to help consumers with their research, or at the very least point a consumer’s research toward their product. However, the rapid proliferation of content marketing means that a given content piece needs to really stand out from its competitors in order to be noticed by a consumer. Marketers have recently realized that content personalized and customized to the individual consumer based on a known preference history is the most efficient way to initiate the conversation and shape the consumer’s research plan. Personalized URLs (pURLs) and pURL marketing are making a major comeback in this new role, and microsites are rapidly becoming the preferred platform for deploying these personalized content marketing campaigns.
Call to Action: Don’t let Google hide your content!
Creating successful content marketing campaigns is by no means simple. While content pieces are great for sparking consumer interest in a product, in the era of Google, simply producing compelling content rarely results directly in a sale. Rather, consumers will almost always wish to conduct their own research before even considering making a purchase. In fact, according to the Search Engine Journal, 93% of online experiences start with a search engine. Yet producing consumer motivation with content marketing is easier said than done. Content marketing pieces should not, by definition, have a sales oriented call to action. However, some marketers misinterpret this to mean that a content piece should be void of any call to action. This is an enormous missed opportunity: leaving no call to action is only inviting consumers to conduct Google searches and therefore expose themselves to competitors’ products. Instead, providing customers the option of reading more in a company-owned domain will deter many customers from immediately turning to Google. An excellent tool with which to accomplish this relaxed call to action is a pURL linked to a content-oriented microsite. The successful integration of content marketing pieces with pURLs and microsites allows a company to inexpensively lead consumers around the jungle of search engine results
Not Your Grandmother’s pURLs
Among many experienced direct marketers, pURLs have earned an ugly reputation. Once toted as a revolutionary tool that was supposed to save the direct mail industry, they have somewhat fallen out of favor with their early adopters, primarily printers and direct mail marketers. pURLs were never able to fulfill their promise, largely because marketers of the time were sold expensive systems that overestimated the value that consumers would draw from seeing their names in a URL. However, new personalization techniques and technologies are in the process of reviving pURLs. There are now ways to more subtly and effectively tailor content to a consumer’s known preferences, for example using data from past purchases to display only content that he or she will find relevant. This type of personalization has proven to be extremely effective, as, according to DemandMetric, 82% of consumers feel more positively about a company after reading custom content. Thus, the pURL’s primary role does more than simply display the customer’s name: it now provides a powerful tool for a brand to engage in deeply relevant, one to one content experiences with their target consumers. This reinvention of the pURL is not an end-all for content marketing as was once sold to the direct mailers, but its role as an important aspect of the content marketing mix signals its ascent out of its long trough of disillusionment.
Of pURLs and Google
Beyond a pURL’s ability to provide personalized content and an appropriate call to action, it acts as a means to circumvent Google. To better explain this, consider the following example: a retail company sends a direct mail campaign and an email blast to all past customers who purchased a product between six and twelve months ago. The direct mail piece and email will discuss the company’s dedication to sustainably manufacturing a specific product, with a prominently displayed pURL urging the consumer to read more. The consumers, intrigued by the content, will click through the email or enter the pURL in their browsers and come to a microsite dedicated to discussing sustainability. The microsite will have many pages exploring the different facets of both sustainability and the product in addition to a link to the company’s home page. The pages of the microsite were quickly developed by the marketing team with little or no IT support, and include personalized content based on each consumer’s profile. The consumers that explore the microsite will feel as if they are conducting their own research, even though they are being held in the company’s search engine “safe zone.” Had the email or direct mail content piece lacked a pURL, consumers would have had no direct call to action and likely ended up on Google if they desired further research. While Google may or may not display the brand’s content at the top of the search results, they WILL display ads from competitors who have purchased keywords, thus distracting or even redirecting many consumers into the hands of the competition! pURLs are highly versatile in the sense that they may be attached to direct mail, emails, and SMS/text messages. In fact, cross-channel marketing with pURLs is highly effective: 60% of marketers reported increases of more than 10% in revenue that could be directly attributed to cross-channel marketing programs (Forrester, “The Multichannel Maturity Mandate”).
Having already explained microsites’ significance in the context of content marketing, we return to the question: what exactly is a microsite? A microsite is like a landing page in that it has a narrow, specific focus, but it also allows for a number of pages to be linked together, thus presenting more information to the consumer. Microsites usually exist in a vanity or sub domain of a particular brand in order to direct consumers towards specific offers, products, or content. What makes a microsite unique from a traditional website or homepage is its simplicity – in both creation and navigation. Building a microsite is very easy, provided a company has page templates at its disposal. With the right tools, a company can build, run, and even modify an entire microsite with minimal or no involvement of IT. Content published on a microsite is great for SEO too. Since 75% of consumers will never look past the first page of the search results, using microsites will give your company the SEO advantage over competitors that trust Google searches to bring in customers (Search Engine Journal).
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pURLs and Microsites Working Together
The recent union between pURLs and microsites creates a content marketing channel that can help circumvent search engines and the potential consumer distraction they bring. As a pURL gives a consumer a direct call to action, the microsite then provides the platform for the necessary additional content and information. If properly structured with a network of interrelated content pages, a microsite can feasibly provide consumers with nearly all of the information for which they would have otherwise searched on Google. Thus, a company may at the same time satisfy consumers’ appetite for information and keep them in a domain safe from competitors’ temptations. The rebirth of pURLs and microsites is a content marketing dream: inexpensive, easy to build, and, most of all, extremely effective.
And that’s where Boingnet can help. Our platform is perfectly suited to content marketing with pURLs and microsites. The software allows our customers to quickly and easily distribute content marketing campaigns across web, direct mail, email, and mobile channels. We then personalize those cross-channel marketing campaigns with pURLs, custom landing pages and microsites, and our easy to use variable logic. Then with the data we collect from content opens, click-throughs, pURL opens, and microsite forms, we lay the foundations of drip campaigns to continue the conversation with the desired segments of the initial campaign. On top of that, Boingnet provides its clients with mobile-friendly templates, which make site construction painless and IT-free. In short, our product is designed for the marketer: we save you time on building and running campaigns so that you can focus on what matters most. We are confident that our product is the superior lightweight marketing automation software, and we invite you to try our 60 day free trial here.