Segmentation V's Personalisation.


Despite first impressions, segmentation and personalisation are not the same things when it comes to digital marketing.

Having progressed from a traditional marketing background to specialise in digital, I am often struck by the overlaps between the old and new world’s of marketing.

On the face of it there are strong links between the topics of segmentation, the preserve of marketing strategic planning for decades, and personalisation which is one the key emerging trends prevalent in the latest generation of web platforms such as Sitecore. The latter can personalise a users experience and content on a website based on whether they meet a number of pre-set criteria.

Both techniques involve dividing up an audience into different groupings to help improve the effectiveness of marketing activities.

However there are in fact key differences between both techniques. These are best summarised as follows:

  • Segmentation is based on what we know, or can assume about individuals
  • Personalisation is based on what individuals tell us through their online behaviour

To illustrate this, consider a travel website which might attract users from different segments; in this case a user with a young family looking for family friendly holidays and another user from a retired couple.

On the face of it, it would be justifiable to assume that website content should be personalised based on these two different segments – show family holidays to one and holidays for couples to the other.

However true personalisation is dictated by the behaviour of users across both segments. For example despite their obvious differences both users could be impulsive or last minute bookers as evidenced by the

proximity of travel dates to the date on which they are searching. This could lead to the website experience to be personalised with more aggressive last minute offers.

On the other hand, users from both segments could also share the same behaviour or performing multiple searches over a series of visits to the site, which may imply they are more considered decision makers. In this case their website experience could be personalised to highlight customer reviews to provide reassurance, or encourage them to follow the brand on social media.

In either case the segment that the user comes from is less relevant – its how they behave on the website that matters, as it is adjusting to this behaviour which is most likely to result in an online conversion.

Whatever your business, be it a regional or global brand, the content you produce plays a vital role in your success. You know that… hence you’re reading this.

A well formulated and executed content strategy not only drives more traffic, at the core, it defines what your business is and helps build a strong connection between you and your audiences.

So let's quickly look at why developing a coherent content strategy is important and how setting clear goals and understanding your audience will elevate your online performance. 

What is a Content Strategy?

It's basic right? Content is at the core of how you define the way your business presents itself and an effective strategy should look to ensure that tone of voice, messaging and the core values are surfaced across all channels, from service or product pages on your website, to blog posts, through social media updates blah blah blah.

But let's keep it simple - your content strategy should be a clear roadmap that connects your marketing activities to your business goals. Align to your customer’s wants and needs and engage them at every interaction point and boom, you're in business. 

Who are my Audience?

You likely start all your projects with this chalked on the wall because your business knows “exactly” who its customers are right? Sounds obvious but we often find its not been done forensically enough (not based on data), is too old (more than 12 months ago - forget it) or its a spin off from some brand work that was legitimately aspirational but doesn’t face the reality of who you your business is actually engaging today.

So start (or circle back) with audience research, building out those personas to understand their ambitions, their lifestyle, their pain points or concerns, and crucially their wants and needs - in your context. 

Do I need to tailor content?

As part of your research find out where your audiences spend their time online and how they interact with content: Some may spend time thoroughly researching a product or service, whereas other audiences may want their content to be quick, snappy or easily digestible in the form of a video, infographic or short blog posts.


Ultimately, the key is to produce a strategy that creates the type of content your customers want to see:

  • What are the problems that your product or service will help them solve?

  • Who are they most influenced by?

  • What voices influence their behaviour?

  • What type of content do they consume?

  • Where do they consume content and engage with brands?

Different Content, Different Objectives

 All content is not born equal: When producing your strategy, it is important that the objectives for each individual piece are defined, that these fulfil your marketing objectives and tie to the overarching goals for your business.

There are various content frameworks that exist to aid content development in this way, but one that is popular and effective is Google’s hero, hub and hygiene method: It provides a framework on developing content to achieve different goals and gives guidance on the effort needed to create each type of content.

Hero Content

Hero content is essentially campaign content, it is big splash ideas designed to appeal to a large audience with the aim of telling your brand’s story at scale. 

Ways of measuring hero include the amount of PR mentions or links from authoritative domains plus social interactions and mentions of your brand across all channels. 

Considering the scale of hero campaigns, this content is not regularly produced and is reserved for peak promotional times where it’s important for a business to stand out from their competitors.

Hub Content

Hub content is the stuff that keeps your audience engaged, it expands on the themes of product or service level content, educates users and helps create a connection between themselves and your brand.

Hygiene Content

Hygiene content is the bread and butter of any website, it is the BAU content for products and services, it is SEO focused and targets important keywords at a product, service or guide level.

How do I manage all this?

Content development is only one part of the ongoing work needed when working with an effective content strategy. We call it “feeding the beast” because it really is the fuel in your brand vehicle and once you start you really can’t stop (if it’s delivering results) but that’s where performance measurement comes in.

Your greatest gift in managing the outputs from your hero/hub/hygiene style efforts is to understand If your content is working. To truly deliver results your business must first understand the objectives and goals of each piece of content to effectively measure its success. That as a guiding light from day 1 will let you slow down, speed up, stop or start new content briefs and projects.

Remember - content strategies are not set in stone. They are living breathing things and should adapt and pivot as insights become available and your brand naturally evolves.

If ever you want to chat content and explore new initiatives we’re always here to help.

want to speak to one of our experts?



18 Dec 2015 - 5 minute read
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