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Video: What is Contextual Marketing? (5:20)

Learn about the concept of contextual marketing and why it can be a beneficial approach for your business.

Hi there! I’m Angela with HubSpot Academy. I’m sure you’re ready to become an expert contextual marketer and learn some advanced strategies for your business.

It’s recommended for you to have your website hosted on HubSpot in order to implement all of the contextual marketing possibilities, although this is not a requirement.

So, let’s get started. What, exactly, is contextual marketing? When a person visits your website, whether he or she is a first-time visitor or a long time customer of yours, the website experience is the same-- the same message, the same content, page after page.

What if there was a way to provide individualized experiences to different people based on their preferences and needs?

Can you imagine a great website experience for a visitor who is browsing your website on a mobile device? And can you think of content offers that would be especially helpful for a visitor that came to your website through social media?

Contextual marketing takes into account the user’s needs, habits and goals to create a personalized website experience.

Take a look at this word: “bow” and now this one: “seal” and these:  “read” “tear” “change”. It’s hard to understand what these words mean and even how to pronounce some of them without context.

These words take on a specific meaning in relation to the rest of the sentence. Your marketing strategy can operate in the same way. Contextual marketing takes into account the user’s context and allows you to provide content that is tailored to their needs.

There’s a good chance that you’ve already been creating marketing with context by using personalization. You’ve probably personalized an email, call-to-action or other content on your website. By adding this individual touch, you’ve been creating contextual marketing.

Contextual marketing allows you to target and address individuals and groups of people with similarities. Think of contextual marketing as part of a larger strategy for the user experience.

You’ll be able to provide the best experience for each individual user by showing them content that is appealing and applicable to them.

This means that two visitors with different needs are presented different things, even when those visitors are on the same page at the same time!

HubSpot’s smart content tools dynamically display the right content to the right person. Smart content tools are just that --smart. The tools will understand the user’s context and display the content that was crafted for them.

As HubSpot founder Dharmesh Shah said, “We’ve got to stop thinking like marketers and start acting like humans.”

Contextual marketing is going to allow you to take your user’s situation and needs into account to humanize and customize the user experience. It’s personalized marketing, based on the context of who that user is and what they’re likely looking for.

And a study showed that 94% of businesses agree that this kind of personalized experience is critical to the current and future success of their company.  

By creating dynamic content, that is to say, content that changes based on the individual, your website becomes a valuable tool for each stage of the inbound methodology.

Attracting visitors to your website, converting visitors into leads, closing leads as customers and delighting your customers into promoters of your brand.

You’ll stand out from your competitors by being the company that shows something new and relevant to your users each time they arrive on your website.

Seventy-three percent of consumers prefer a personalized online shopping experience. They like to do business with companies that make their experiences and interactions with the company more relevant. (Source: Digital Trends) Through contextual marketing, you’ll avoid user frustration by providing relevant content that aligns with their interests.

HubSpot took a look at just how effective contextual marketing can be and found that conversion rates are, on average, 20% higher than pages that aren’t using contextual marketing. In short, content that’s shown to the right person has a higher chance of converting the lead.

Contextual marketing is also going to help you provide users relevant content based on where they are in their buyer’s journey. You’ll be able to make sure that your website is providing a great experience to each person, every step of the way.

When it comes to conversions, you’ll be able to promote new offers to the right person which will effectively make the conversion process a smoother one.

A user won’t have to search as much and with smart content, you’ll be able to ask better questions for each user on your forms, providing you with more intelligence about your leads.

Lastly, using contextual marketing to provide that personalized experience can impact your bottom line. Companies report seeing, on average, a 19% uplift in sales.

Ultimately, contextual marketing is a great way to create a personalized user experience. It’s going to allow you to get the right content, in front of the right person, at the right time.

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Blog Post: Caring about Context

Why does context matter when content is king? Read about why context can impact a person’s experience and how to emotionally connect with people in meaningful ways


Quiz: What is Contextual Marketing?

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Blog Post: What's the Deal with This Whole Context Marketing Thing?

Learn how contextual marketing applies to your CTAs, email campaigns, forms and workflows.

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Video: What are the Fundamentals of Contextual Marketing? (4:19)

You'll learn about best practices that can ensure successful contextual marketing.

Let’s discuss some fundamental best practices of contextual marketing.

First, you’ll want to start small with your contextual marketing efforts. Use smart content sparingly in one small area, to begin with. Contextual marketing is an advanced marketing tactic. It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the possibilities.

It’s recommended to add context to your content little-by-little, over time, so that you can evaluate its performance and make changes as needed. Like the rest of your content on your website, it’s a continuous process to evaluate and update based on your business goals.

Second, promote a good user experience by being helpful to your users. When you create content that has context, you’ll start by asking yourself if you are truly helping your users.

Fifty-seven percent of people are “okay with providing personal information on a website as long as it’s for their benefit,” according to a study by Janrain/Harris. "Benefit" is the operative word in that statistic. Use it to direct how you’ll use contextual marketing.

When you know someone’s name and hometown, you don’t necessarily add value by displaying it. Providing a relevant offer can be much more effective than saying “Welcome back!”.

By understanding your user’s context, you’ll be able to provide content that helps users progress through their buyer’s journey and have a good user experience at the same time.

Next, you’ll want to optimize for search engines and first-time visitors. Don’t focus all of your efforts on your contextual marketing strategy and neglect the first-time visitor.

Your website needs good default content so that a first-time visitor can get just as much value out of your site as a segmented group that you’ve targeted in your contextual marketing strategy.

Much like your website before implementing contextual marketing, your content should educate and inform a broad segment of your audience.

Search engines are also evaluating this default content that you create for the first time visitor. A search engine will not look through all of your content variations with smart content.

So whenever you optimize for search engines, focus your efforts on the default content since that is what search engines will evaluate.

The next best practice, while seemingly simple is important to keep in mind. Don’t confuse your users. Since marketers have been using personalization in emails for quite some time, the general public is used to seeing their name appear in an email.

But most businesses aren’t using contextual marketing on their websites, with the exception of ecommerce. Perhaps Amazon or Netflix come to mind in how their sites make recommendations based on your interests and display your name. However, it’s just not quite ordinary to see on a homepage “Here’s a new offer, Casey”.

Don’t personalize your website for the sake of personalizing. It can confuse or even frighten a user, making the user ask “How does this website know my name?!” You’ll learn some techniques for using personalization effectively, so stay tuned.

Lastly, make sure that users can get to all valuable content. There should be a way to navigate to every last piece of content, even if you don’t promote it specifically to a particular segment. You don’t want a visitor to miss out on a great ebook that you’ve created because they aren’t in the right segment to see it.

Even if you have a content offer that you’re promoting to a specific audience, you’ll want to make sure that there’s a way to navigate there by default. Users should still be able to browse your website fully and discover information that's relevant to them.  

And those are all of the best practices for getting started with contextual marketing. Begin by starting small with your contextual marketing strategy, be helpful to your users, optimize for search engines and first-time visitors, don’t confuse or frighten your visitors, and ensure that users can get to all of the valuable content you’re creating.

Refer to these fundamentals to achieve success in contextual marketing and to create a great experience for your users.


Quiz: What are the Fundamentals of Contextual Marketing?

Test your knowledge on what you just learned!

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Video: What Does Contextual Marketing Look Like? (2:24)

See contextual marketing techniques and how it applies to different businesses.

Contextual marketing is a powerful approach to creating a personalized experience that adapts to a user’s needs. Let’s see how a couple of different types of businesses could apply contextual marketing.

Here’s a CTA or call-to-action by LyntonWeb, a HubSpot Partner Agency.  This is a CTA on their website that is offering LyntonWeb’s social media community manager playbook.

As an example, LyntonWeb has noticed that a lot of users that click on the playbook come from Linkedin. Since the playbook is for social media community managers, it makes a lot of sense that the offer would be of interest to social media marketers.

LyntonWeb would like to target visitors with a social media referral source of Linkedin and provide them with content that would be most applicable to them.

LyntonWeb can target users from Linkedin and provide a different content offer to them. All visitors that arrive from Linkedin will see a free ebook for prospecting with Linkedin. The prospecting ebook is even more targeted and specific to users arriving from Linkedin.

Here’s another example. Spotify’s homepage has content at the top of the page with a special promotion to try their music subscription services.

But what about their current customers? The offer isn’t applicable to them. Instead, Spotify could segment their customers and for any customer that visits their homepage, they can promote new releases to customers in order to get them to engage with their content.

Let’s take a look at another type of company. provides free shipping to some countries. can segment by country in order to relay this information to relevant users. can provide different messaging, even in different languages based on the website visitor’s location. This is a great way to target first-time visitors. They haven’t filled out a form just yet, but you’re able to target them based on their country.

Feeling inspired yet? Hopefully, the examples have given you a few ideas for your own business and how you could use contextual marketing on your website.

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Blog Post: 4 Examples of Contextual Marketing and What it Means for You

See examples of how to use time, events, and different channels to target specific users based on their context with no special digital tools required!