Okay, first of all let’s cut to the chase. We marketers can get ourselves in a big frothy tizzy over new terms. And, Web Engagement Management is no exception. On the marketing hype cycle, WEM is the Ducati Multistrada 1200 (look it up, kids).

We’ve also convinced ourselves (and our management teams) that Web Engagement Management is about being more relevant, providing better customer experiences and generally being a more enchanting conversationalist. But let’s be honest. The real reason we want to manage the Web Experience is so our consumers will do more stuff. It might be click more, respond more, download more, register more or buy more. But in the end, more is what makes the graph go up and to the right, and justifies spending our time and dollars on it. And, don’t kid yourself -- “more” is the reason that software vendors want us to think their tool can provide it.

But we’re still just beginning to think about it. About half of the users polled in the CMSWire Web Engagement questionnaire said that they were “basic” or “beginner” level in terms of Web Engagement Management. Further, try a Google search for “content optimization” or “optimize content” and you’ll be inundated with hundreds of thousands of results that discuss how to better manage content to achieve higher organic search results.

This is the irony. Marketers have, for years, spent more time working on ways to optimize their content to appear higher in search rankings than on figuring out ways to engage that traffic once it finally arrives. In short, we’re wearing our plaid jackets and walking up to customers and saying, "What do I have to do to get you into my content today?"

But those who actually put the time into optimizing content for engagement see tremendous benefits. Some studies have shown that marketers can experience up to a 40% lift in conversion rates just by beginning to take steps in optimizing content to be targeted to relevant personas.

So, What’s the Challenge?

Much to the dismay of the case study writers for software vendors, the sheer act of deploying a fancy new Web Engagement Management System (the artist formerly known as WCMS) and installing their tags into our pages doesn’t immediately provide any benefit. In fact, you have to wonder whether “engagement” can ever be “managed." As a marketer, can I ever manage your happiness or satisfaction? Maybe the best we can ever hope for is that we manage FOR a better experience. In other words, the tools we acquire should be used to continually facilitate our limited and distorted view, and help us to continually optimize the always-imperfect Web engagement experience.

Three Keys to Manage FOR an Optimal Experience

The overall key to a successful program of content optimization to manage FOR Web Engagement is integrating optimization practices into our already-successful Web content management process. And, of course, good tools help to facilitate this more effectively. This is why, in 2011, we find CMS vendors incorporating these features into their tools.

So let’s look at three important keys to integrating content optimization into our Web Content Management process, and how today’s WCMS tools can help to facilitate that integration.

  1. Make Sure the WCMS Isn’t in Our Way. Most businesses still look at WCM as a more efficient way to facilitate the process of moving content from the desktop to the Web site. I can’t tell you how many WCMS strategy meetings I’ve been in where the marketers say “oh, targeting our content to users? That’s Phase II.” The thing is, many times “Phase 2” is impeded by the initial CMS choice -- and becomes “Phase Never." So, to start this process, marketers should consider a WCMS that not only makes it easy to MANAGE content -- but also, at least, doesn’t impede the ability to later add tools to manage how content is PRESENTED in a targeted way to consumers.
  2. Establish Processes to Manage the Content Beyond Our Web Site. Microsites controlled by divisions, third-party Web sites, mobile apps, social media tools, email campaign management systems, directories and banner ads are all part of the Web experience and are all being driven by the online marketer. The content that resides beyond the bounds of the Web site is often outdated, inaccurate -- or, at worst, being changed outside our content management process. To establish a baseline for us to optimize our engagement, Marketers should consider Web content management solutions that make it easier for them to manage this external content.
  3. Establish Processes to Capture and Measure Data from Our Web Content. A Genius.com study conducted in 2010 indicated that 66% of buyers indicated that “consistent and relevant communication provided by both sales and marketing organizations” is a key influence in their purchase decision.

Following the first key above, establishing a process within your WCM tool that facilitates the ability to increase relevance to your target personas over time is key. And, the only way to determine relevance is to have the ability to both collect data about the content usage AND the people using it.

In other words, marketers should consider tools that can both capture and use both explicit data generated from users (Registration Forms, Email Subscription Forms, etc.) as well as implicit ambient data (Organic vs. Paid Search referral). This will be the data that drives our process to optimize the content against those attributes.

Putting These Keys Together: the New Content Optimization of the Digital Marketer

The ultimate irony of Web content management technology is that the same tools that have made it easier for us as marketers to publish anything and everything have made it more difficult for the consumer to find what’s most relevant to their needs.

We watch as Google changes its search algorithm to meet the frustration of “relevance” demand. We adapt as consumers increasingly use their social graph to filter content. And, ultimately, we look to learn to identify which calls to action -- which content -- will compel a prospect, customer or partner to act.

At their core, Web content management tools are just a simpler and more efficient way of managing content. Analytics tools are just an efficient way of aggregating traffic data and seeing how many people have viewed that content. And optimization tools just enable more efficient methods to display the content based on rules we devise.

The fact that some WCMS vendors are bringing this together like chocolate and peanut butter doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily the only way to do it. Like all processes, yours may be better served with different kinds of tools.

Whether you use one tool to accomplish all of this -- or many tools to accomplish some of this -- the most important function of any WEM process should be to fuel insight and creativity. Insight is more than just data. It’s the interpretation and application of analytics into a process that continually feeds upon itself -- transforming the online marketer over time into a finely sharpened success-generating machine.

Historically, this insight has come from a number of sources – whether it is the internal marketing team, an outsourced agency or even a team providing the technology platform. But as Web Content Management tools are now changing to centrally deliver on this promise -- the ability to create, manage AND optimize your content using both automatic and manual processes -- the time is now to start integrating this into your content management process.

But let’s be clear: Tools don’t make content more engaging -- YOU do. The key is YOU in the process. It doesn’t matter what any vendor says --if YOU don’t create a process that integrates optimization that enables you to creatively re-write the content based on the insight, then it’s not Web Engagement Management. It’s just a WCM system with a lot of fancy features that never get used.