The content marketing industry has grown into a seismic $4billion industry: powered by millions in investment from online publishers and marketers. Yet despite this, many are still struggling to get visitors to stop and engage with content.

In our attention-deficit era, brands need to be quicker, smarter, and more flexible in how they present content and connect with both faithful and first-time visitors.


Content recommendation is an effective way to monetize a digital property and keep visitors on-site. We’ve seen this with our clients and know this from experience: interesting, relevant content keeps us reading on.

So why is some recommended content done so well whilst others are an unmitigated failure?

The fault often lies with the strategy and not the technology. There are many types of technologies out there but, if you don’t choose the right content recommendation technology to complement your strategy, the result will be disappointing at best.

Unfortunately, most brand owners have not taken the time to think through their content strategies to make sure these solutions are applied in ways that will help them reach their goals. Too often, publishers and brands simply throw up engagement tools, resulting in irrelevant and often irritating content suggestions.


The first step in executing a successful recommended content strategy is to clearly define objectives. Are you trying to make money quickly or, over time, increase page views, recirculation and time-on-site? That’s a very important distinction and the answer is key to selecting the right solution.

If you’re a web publisher trying to make money, recommending content found on other sites can be very effective. These sponsored content solutions (think: Taboola, Outbrain or ContentAmp) typically take traffic away from your site but pay out on a cost-per-click basis. The more clicks driven to the sponsored content the more money publishers can make.

If you want to increase page-views and recirculation (ultimately leading to a conversion or retention decision), a content recommendation solution that keeps traffic on-site would be more appropriate. These tools allow website owners to surface the best content or recommend content from within a site that’s most relevant to visitors. Recommending popular and relevant content will boost page views and time spent on-site; and if you can get a user to view more than one page, that individual is more likely to follow your site and share your content.

Another thing to consider is the underlying algorithm in the technology making the recommendation. There’s so much behavioral data out there being tracked about online users that it seems like it would be a no-brainer to recommend the right content for every visitor, but not all solutions use this type of information. Each solution has its own secret formula when it comes to algorithms.

There are algorithms that recommend ‘trending’ content, algorithms that recommend contextually-relevant content, algorithms that recommend content based on the browser’s past behavior, even algorithms that take a combined approach. At idio, we favour using first-party “interest data” derived from individuals’ content consumption to inform content recommendations.


Brands should also consider where to place recommended content features.

The most common placement tends to be at the end of articles as they offer related content to engaged users as soon as they’re ready for more. However, not every reader will get to the end of an article; you might wish to place a recommended content widget above the fold using behavioral recommendations to attract users who didn’t engage with the content.

Recommendations can also be effective on a homepage to help users find something quickly. However, this is invariably mitigated by the fact that many of the the people landing on your homepage may be new visitors and, consequently, have not divulged personally-identifiable data or done enough onsite for their behavioral data to be collected.

However you go about implementing content recommendation: a viewer’s experience with recommended content is a reflection of how well or poorly an organization has used the right technology to execute against its content strategy. To be successful, online publishers and marketers must clearly define their goals and select the technologies to help them achieve better engagement with their audience.

Interested in learning how Content Intelligence can deliver more business value from content recommendations? Book a demo today!