No longer is the web about sites. It has become a database platform with lots of structured information. This change is profound. The strategic and creative use of this structured data (from REST APIs) is changing the way we interact with the web… and for the better. Deeper and more engaged user interactions are taking place and breeding higher levels of emotional connection to digital (hello brand marketers) because as the web becomes more intelligent it becomes more relevant.
These experiences, call them applications or mashups (and their little sister, the widget) are unfolding around us. The higher degree of relevance is helping businesses succeed in the space where your competition is only a click away. How can your marketing begin to benefit? It begins with the understanding that with the rise in APIs and data streams no longer are we optimizing each page to accomplish a single user goal. Mashups provide the ability for primary, secondary and latent user goals to be achieved simultaneously. This is what fuels deeper engagement and raises performance metrics.
The most prominent and clearest example of this change is the one two judo chop of Google’s Personalization and Universal Search. No longer is the success metric for Google getting users off the page as soon as possible. Now Google would like to keep them on the page engaging them in a number of different content sources and dynamic experiences. The ultimate goal, delivery of relevance to user intent has not changed. However, Google has learned that the ability to deliver relevance in a more holistic dynamic experience rather than a multi-page flow improves the user experience and thus their business results. When a company like Google that was built on user experience and testing makes this type of change it marks a titanic shift.
So Why Do You Need to Do a Mashup?
1) Mashups are intrinsically strategic. We first need to know what structured data is at our disposal and then we can strategize about the best ways to design and deliver it around the user goals to create a seamless delivery of relevance.
2) Mashups are inherently social. They take pieces of data from disparate sources and put them together in useful, problem solving ways. This socialization of content works on two distinct levels with mashups. First it allows an organic and viral growth to occur for the application (the idea behind widgets). Second, it allows these applications to benefit from the collected wisdom of the community, the individual contributions of members or both (the idea behind Universal Search).
3) Mashups are deeply engaging. They provide a richer more dynamic experience. Mashups keep users engaged or “in the flow” of whatever goal they are trying to achieve by providing a greater ability to deliver contextual relevance. Mashups also drive relevance through user controlled intention refinement that allows the targeted delivery of content.
4) Mashups are personal and targeted. The ability to provide multiple dynamic refinement of content and optimize based on real-time self-segmentation delivers experiences that are more closely aligned with delivering targeted content in real-time based on what we are learning about user source and behavior.
5) Mashups perform better. Our initial work on application and widgets this past year has yielded huge lifts in conversion and engagement metrics. These include a widget to optimize content distribution from Social Media, a search interface mashup for one of the major engines and a driving directions mashup for a leading digital mapping provider. Increases of 150-400% in key metrics are what we’ve experienced which is probably why we’re working on more of these for clients with no end in sight.
6) Mashups are quant. The amount of data collected, testing and optimization that can be done on mashups is astounding and the changes to implement ideas are much easier and can potentially have a greater overall impact. The dynamic nature actually lends itself to testing better than static environments.
7) Mashups are the future of SEO. So says Sep Kamvar head of Google’s personalization team on the panel I shared with him at SES San Jose and personalization is where Google is going with search. The mashup delivers greater relevance to users and an improved user experience. Both key factors for Google. Also mashups and applications can be easily widgetized and ported. As web authoring tools allow more client side customization the value of applications and widgets will rise and they will weigh more heavily into Google’s personalization algo.
8) Mashups are the future of SEM. The landing page as we know it is dead. The amount of relevant source data from paid search that can be used to deliver relevance dynamically through APIs is astounding. We most also take into account that personalization algos will soon creep into the serving of search ads and display and univeral search will soon allow rich ads – more of a reason to create mashup landings.
So to paraphrase George Clinton, “Free your data and your results will follow.” Once an API frees the content it becomes infinitely more powerful because it can be used much more strategically. Your client doesn’t have an API yet? Make one!
Digital marketing is about the marriage of content and technology. The cornerstone of this is taking data and delivering it in new and interesting ways to deliver relevance. If you’re not using the platform to do this you’ll soon be under it.
***More Thoughts: I will be speaking at two upcoming conferences on Applications, Mashups and Widgets. On September 25th in NYC at MIXX where I will be moderating the panel The Next Generation of Applications for Targeting, Personalization, and Advertising.
On October 6th I’m excited to be in Silicon Valley at the CommunityNext Platform Conference where I will be speaking at the session Metrics and Targeting.
***Must Read: Andrew Chen of MDV who was nice enough to invite me to speak at the upcoming CommunityNext conference has a brilliant post on viral marketing strategy.