What is symmetric messaging, and why you should care

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  • What is symmetric messaging, and why you should care

If you know how to align your messaging with a visitor’s intent, they are much more likely to convert.

TL;DR: Understanding your audience and meeting your visitors’ needs is a highly underrated yet crucial factor of the conversion process. If you know how to align your messaging with a visitor’s intent, they are much more likely to convert. This practice is called symmetric messaging. It’s a personalization technique that can increase conversions by 3–10%.* In this article, we’ll explain how symmetric messaging works. Further, we’ll provide you with tips & tricks to translate this knowledge into action.

symmetric

What’s symmetric messaging?

Your website’s visitors are a diverse group of people. So, if you really want to reach your audience, you can’t serve the same static content to everyone. People might have different reasons for considering your product and you need to address these reasons individually. Thus, a one-size-fits-all approach just isn’t sufficient.

This is where symmetric messaging comes into play. It’s a personalization technique that helps you create better-converting marketing campaigns. It’s all about how well your landing page copy mirrors the phrasing of your campaign or ad. Strong message match reassures people they’ve come to the right place.

Why is symmetric messaging relevant?

We are far beyond the point where a customer’s first contact with your company is through a sales person. People do their research online and their first opinion is formed within 200 milliseconds.

If their first impression of your landing page sucks (e.g. your layout is unappealing, your copy is confusing, or the visitor experience bugs straight away), they will bounce without even considering your product or service. Make sure to get the basics right. Create a generic version of your landing page that will keep your visitors engaged, at least for the first few seconds.

Now, a few years ago, creating a nice landing page would have been enough to reach solid conversion rates. Unfortunately, online marketing has gotten much more competitive since. Nowadays, it’s all about relevance. So, if you really want to step up your conversion game, personalize.

For your marketing campaigns this means creating symmetry between your landing page copy and the ad or campaign that initially attracted a user.

Benefits of symmetric messaging

  • Higher conversion rate for your marketing campaigns → duh…
  • Positive impact on customer satisfaction → Since your visitors feel like they’ve come to the right place, they are also more likely to turn into happy customers.
  • Improved Return-on-Investment for paid advertising → Matching your landing pages to your ads leads to higher ad relevance and lower Cost-per-Click.
  • Increase in earned media traffic → Users who find your content relevant are more likely to share it via social media.
  • SEO boost and improved search ranking → Interested users stay longer on your website — to search engines that’s a sign of a good website.

How to get started? User segmentation is key.

To be able to match your visitors’ expectations, you first need to know who your visitors are. People might have different reasons for considering your product and you need to understand and address these reasons individually.

  • Start by creating user personas and make them as specific as possible. To name just a few, you can segment your users by age, gender, location, product interest, or lead source.
  • Gather information about your personas and their behaviour. Why do they show interest in your product? Which ‘pain’ does it solve for them? How do they use it?
  • Figure out how to best approach your audience. Through which marketing channels should you reach out? What are early signals of buying intent?

Main takeaway: In order to get your visitors to convert, you need to make sure they feel like they’ve come to the right place. It’s all about finding the right tone of voice, sentiment, vocabulary, style, and imagery for each audience segment.

Levels of symmetric messaging

Depending on your goal, time, and target audience, the effort you put into symmetric messaging can vary. Symmetric messaging can be manifold and nuanced. It ranges from dynamically enriching your landing page with certain “trigger words” to creating entirely different page experiences for each audience segment. Let’s take an in-depth look at both ends of the spectrum.

Page Variations - High impact, high effort

Starting out with one landing page, you create variations of it that are tailored to your personas. All variations are stored under the same URL and they are loaded dynamically based on who’s viewing (e.g. “If user is from Spain, show variation A”).

Page variations are basically modified copies of the original page. With this technique you’re very flexible regarding your level of personalization. You can modify the headline, swap out images, or even change the entire copy to adjust your tone of voice.

Example

Let’s take a look at this through an example. To keep it hands-on, we created a fictional website called “Travel Guide through Rome”, which offers tailor-made trips to Rome. Let’s argue it caters to three personas — honeymooners, families, and foodies. This is our original landing page:

symmetric messaging 1

Although this generic landing page looks nice, as we said earlier “nice” is no longer good enough for conversion. This is because the landing page doesn’t cater specifically to each of the targeted personas. To improve on that, we created a variation specifically targeted at foodies. We can now use this variation for our ‘foodie’ campaign in AdWords.

symmetric messaging 2

Tips

It is a good idea to keep things simple. Creating a separate landing page for each ad would be a herculean task. Therefore, we recommend using page variations for creating symmetry on a campaign level. Focus on the most eye-catching parts of your page — headline, sub-headline, value proposition, imagery and first paragraph. To get started, pick a campaign where you can take “symmetry” literally and mirror the copy of said campaign on your landing page.

Dynamic Keyword Insertion - low(er) impact, low effort

Dynamic keywords are a more scalable approach to symmetric messaging. While page variations can change the entire sentiment of a page, dynamic keywords are more about adding nuggets of information. The targeted use of keywords can tremendously improve your page’s relevance and make your users feel like they’ve come to the right place. Sometimes, a single, well-placed keyword can determine the conversion rate of an entire campaign, but this is a process of trial and error.

Example

Back to “The Travel Guide through Rome”: Let’s argue our “foodie” campaign on AdWords consists of over 100 keywords. As you can imagine, users have different expectations based on their search term. So, we take our “foodie” landing page and further optimize by dynamically inserting their AdWords search term. Here’s an example of how the page looks like for the keyword “Wine”:

symmetric messaging 3

As you can see, we dynamically replaced generic keywords like “Foodie Trip” with “Wine Trip”. Making it easy to create an individual experience for each of our visitors.

Tips

To apply this technique yourself, start by replacing generic keywords with dynamic placeholders. Next, connect your list of possible keywords to the dynamic placeholders and watch the magic happen. You can set up dynamic placeholders either with some help from your developers or you can opt for a solution like Unless.

Which form of symmetric messaging is right for me?

Although a very good question, the answer strongly depends on your product, business model, marketing channel, budget, and campaign goal. To keep it practical, we picked two popular marketing channels — paid advertising and email — and briefly outlined some possible symmetric messaging campaigns:

Use case 1: AdWords campaign

  • Page Variations → Used to mirror the ad copy.
  • Example: Use case Travel Guide Through Rome → matched the landing page’s headline, image and sub-title with the ad.
  • Dynamic Keywords → Used to match user’s search intent.
  • Example: User clicks on an ad about “Wine Trip to Rome” → the keyword “Wine” is dynamically inserted into a landing page about foodie trips.

Use case 2: Newsletter campaign

  • Page Variations → Used to personalize content.
  • Example: Send subscribers of a travel newsletter to landing pages with different offers based on their interests. As you can imagine honeymooners, families, and foodies have different interests.
  • Dynamic Keywords → Used to insert subscriber field data.
  • Example: Dynamic injection of an email subscriber’s name into a newsletter’s landing page.

Tips and Recommendations

In general, symmetric messaging can be beneficial for all of your marketing activities. However, you should keep in mind that it involves a learning process. Finding the right tone of voice to effectively communicate with your personas takes time and practice. Follow these recommendations to come up with ideas for your first own symmetric messaging campaign:

Keep it basic

For your first attempt at symmetric messaging, whether you decide to go for page variations or dynamic keywords, it is best to start with only 2–3 variations. Take your time carefully crafting your variations and choosing the best fitting keywords, images and texts.

Keep it relevant

Symmetric messaging takes time to understand and navigate, just like discovering the personas and crafting each content variation. This will be a process of learning through trial and error so you should keep track of how your variations are doing, and look for what things to keep or change.

Keep it simple

Pick a campaign where you can take “symmetry” literally and mirror the copy of said campaign on your landing page. To keep your first campaign simple, go for the big effect! Change and adjust the headline, the value proposition and the images or add dynamic keywords to your headline. And lastly, an ad campaign could be a great starting point to test your campaign’s effectiveness.

Final Note: When it comes to creating a personalized experience, the golden rule is: Find out what first attracted your visitor. Stay focused on that.

*Numbers are based on data from the Market Guide for Digital Personalization Engines research conducted by Gartner.

Special thanks to Ecesu Erol and our Growth Hackers: Tara Velis, Tomas Capponi, and Alessio Carrà.