In 2017, content ruled the marketing discussion, and in the new year it doesn't look like that will change much. Thought leaders published blog posts, podcasts, newsletters, videos, case studies, infographics, e-books, and more. But as we look to 2018, the name of the game may be personalization.

As new lists of trendy buzzwords start to emerge, there's one word that keeps popping up: Smart Content. Put simply, smart content is website content that changes depending on who is looking at it. In other words, if you go to a website, what you see may be different than what your daughter sees or than what someone in another country sees.  

According to HubSpot, calls to action using their smart content feature performed 42% better than generic calls to action. But it's not the easiest thing to implement. Let's spend some time getting to know smart content better before jumping on the bandwagon.

What is it?

According to HubSpot, "Using intel from your marketing software or CRM system, marketers can customize their site pages for every type of visitor. For instance, you could segment your pages to provide a different experience for your leads versus your customers, so you can deliver the most personalized and relevant experience possible to everyone who visits your site."  

In other words, you can use identifying information about your site visitors to divide them into buckets. With no shortage of customer data to draw upon, there are endless ways to splice and dice that information. If you've created customer avatars, think about some of the key characteristics of those people. Do they live in the same region? Are they using the same search terms? Have they been to your website before? Once you know who they are, you can deliver custom content that fits their specific needs.

Why are we talking about it?

Content marketers have been busy in recent years. The media landscape is congested with so much information that consumers need to be picky about what they consume and what they bypass. On top of that, consumers continue to increase their use of mobile-based web visits.

To keep up, marketers are looking to engage these busy consumers with the most personalized content possible, cutting out the unnecessary information and getting to the heart of their needs more quickly.

How can I implement it?

To implement smart content on your website, working with a company like HubSpot is likely the first step. However, if the idea of segmentation or customer avatars sounds foreign, there are some small steps you can take to make your content more personalized now.

Start by getting to know your audience well. Study how they speak, and get to know their needs. You may have 3-4 different audience categories, and the content that you produce doesn't need to appeal to all of them.

Say you own an accounting business. Your blog may be geared toward younger adults who are trying to navigate the tax system on their own for the first time while your podcast may be geared toward established business owners who are looking for deeper, longform content. Put some targeted advertising behind those elements to help drive traffic to those areas of your website. Similarly, email automation can allow you to create relatively personalized follow-up sequences once someone has signed up for your list.

Above all, use whatever data you have at your fingertips to get to know your audience as best you can. If this key component is missing, you'll spend a lot of wasted hours creating content for the wrong customers. Whether you fully implement smart content or not, make 2018 the year that you make content creation more efficient and personal.