MarTech360 Interview With Shane Paladin, Chief Executive Officer At Siteimprove

“Invest your marketing budget in making your website performant by starting with the bottom of the funnel, which is an accessible experience.”

As the CEO of Siteimprove, you’ve highlighted the importance of empowering individuals in the digital world through accessibility and inclusivity. How does your leadership influence and guide the marketing department at Siteimprove to ensure that the content produced aligns with the company’s mission, providing not only effective marketing but also meeting the criteria of accessibility, inclusivity, relevance, discoverability, and usability?

Siteimprove aims to enable every person to experience, engage, and thrive in the digital world, so it’s essential that our content and marketing practices align to what we preach.

The Siteimprove marketing team uses our comprehensive product suite to ensure the content we are producing is engaging, accessible, and high performing. For example, the team recently leveraged Siteimprove Analytics to get a better understanding of what website content had the highest engagement based on specific roles across marketing – our buyer audience. They were able to take those insights and develop additional inclusive content grounded in what the data shows will resonate and drive conversions for the right audiences (our buyers). The team also leveraged Siteimprove’s AI Generate to incorporate an automated, inclusive language policy and general population reading level to optimize messaging and display ads across our entire website. Not only does our marketing team use our products to get data-driven recommendations and insight into content that converts, but they are also publicly sharing their experiences and learnings with fellow marketers through our Marketers in Progress blog series.

However, we know that to truly practice what we preach, it can’t just be the marketing team that we’re guiding—it needs to be all Siteimprove employees. That’s why as part of our employee onboarding program, every new Siteimprover receives digital accessibility training through a must-pass mandatory course. Additionally, we have a ‘Center of Excellence’ packed with e-learnings, e-books, checklists, and webinars on best content practices. These courses are freely available to all employees and the public to ensure all marketers understand not just the “why” but the “how” to build more inclusive digital content experiences.

We do this because at Siteimprove, we believe that being a socially responsible, sustainable, diverse, and inclusive organization is critical to any business’ success, no matter the stakeholder or seniority level.

What specific strengths and collaborative efforts within Siteimprove’s team, customer base and partnerships do you attribute to the company’s recognition as a ‘strong performer’ in The Forrester Wave™: Digital Accessibility Platforms, Q4 2023 report, particularly excelling in the ‘market presence’ and ‘platform’ categories?

At Siteimprove, collaboration is key. We view this as the culmination of people, process, and technology. Through this holistic collaboration we are able to help our customers make lasting change on their accessibility journey. We know this approach of including our customers, partners, and the whole Siteimprove team contributed to being named a strong performer. Our customers play a critical role because they are the ones that help shape our product roadmap so we can deliver solutions based on their needs. Our partners play a critical role because they help us bring our services to the broader market. And most importantly, the Siteimprove team plays a role because they are the ones working day in and day out to create and deliver the products you see in the market today. By bringing all these efforts together, we are unifying digital experience teams to work better together.

It’s also important to recognize why Forrester named us a Strong Performer—it’s because they share our vision that marketers play a central role in scaling inclusive experiences and building a digital world that goes beyond boundaries (cultural, language, physical, etc.). As a company, we want to support content contributors in their battle to capture attention through inclusive and engaging content, because we know the content they publish can have a make-or-break moment for their digital experience.

Shane, can you tell us about your professional background and your current role at Siteimprove? Also, tell us how does Siteimprove differentiate itself from other companies in the same space?

I started my professional journey in the military. This was, for me, a way to educate myself and give back to the community I grew up in. The power of teamwork, leading through servant leadership and focusing a diverse group of people around a mission-driven purpose have served me well in the commercial world, particularly with scale-up/start-up companies.

While I spent many years in Silicon Valley scaling companies, I spent much of my formative years working across the globe at SAP. I ran multiple businesses in North America, served as COO in China and also as President of Services, based in London. Now as CEO of Siteimprove, I’m based out of Seattle, enabling marketers and web teams to consistently deliver across content and digital performance. By building richer, deeper, more complete digital experiences, we’re not only part of the movement toward an internet that’s built for everyone, but we’re also helping marketers win in the attention economy with optimized, relevant, discoverable, and accessible content that delivers the right messaging to the right people at the right time.

When it comes to what makes Siteimprove different from other companies, it’s our ethos of empowering marketers with the knowledge they need to create content experiences that keep their visitors coming back for more, again and again. We do this by bringing together accessibility, content quality, search, analytics, and campaigns in one holistic platform. Otherwise, marketers are stuck using many different point solutions which don’t speak to each other, provide conflicting directions which breed workflow silos and create delays in producing high-quality, timely content and end up producing a disjointed user content consuming experience.  It’s important to know what’s happening, but the real value comes from when you understand why it’s happening and how to change that behavior.

We saw the recent news about the release of your newest product offering, AI Generate. Can you tell our readers what AI Generate is and the value it will provide to marketers?

AI Generate is a website content optimizer that allows marketers to leverage the speed and flexibility of AI tools to create on-brand content experiences with a fraction of the time and resources.  AI Generate makes generative AI easier and more useful for marketers by integrating it into their current processes. This seamless integration enables marketers to leverage high-impact, real-time, AI-driven optimization to make content shine, empowering marketing teams to become more efficient and deliver results faster than ever before.

At Siteimprove, we know it’s important for digital marketers to find a balance of using AI to enhance their work but not replace it, so that they can focus on quality instead of quantity. AI Generate is our way of helping marketers strike the right balance between delivering content experiences that delight customers and providing the scale necessary for marketers to produce at pace.

Also Read: MarTech360 Interview With Alberto Spinelli, EMEA Chief Marketing Officer At Lenovo

How can you harness the power of centralized data and sophisticated marketing analytics tools to translate user behavior into tangible business growth?

Multiple analytics and digital optimizations tools give you numerous and sometimes conflicting views into your marketing effectiveness. You can’t learn what’s working well and what needs improvement if each team uses a different tool to measure and optimize the customer journey. To achieve growth, you need to understand how visitors behave at each stage of the customer journey, to identify the most impactful improvements to make across the entire customer journey and to drive maximum growth.

Let’s say you’ve just launched a new product supported heavily by campaigns. It seems to be going well, you’re acquiring lots of traffic, but all your hard-won traffic is bouncing. What you didn’t see when launching your new landing page was a poor mobile loading experience and the call to action was further down then users are scrolling. That lack of oversight can be really painful.

The key to translating user behavior into tangible business growth is being able to view your customers’ journey end to end, all in one place. Marketers are time poor, so they don’t have time to jump around multiple platforms and play detective to find out the true root cause of the problem. They need to find out at which stage and why their marketing funnel is leaking and apply the necessary patches. A single accessible, versatile platform enables everyone on the team to work off the same diagnosis and agree on what needs to be done first, next, and later.

The result is the entire marketing team understands together how to best focus their efforts to make a tangible business impact.

What are the specific analytics features offered by Siteimprove, and how do they cater to different user needs, ranging from the simplicity of Content Analytics in the Content Experience package to the comprehensive Marketing Analytics capabilities, ensuring that users can make informed and data-driven decisions for their businesses?

If you think about it, every facet of what we do is powered by our Analytics capabilities. The way we have built it out from when we started out in accessibility and inclusivity has really been focused on delivering what we saw our users needed.

This led us to create focused web analytics that provide insights for the generalist marketer. Whether you’re simply managing the website, creating content, or setting up ads, there needs to be tracking on the performance and health of the website. Essentially, we provide a “base” set of insights that prove useful to every marketer.

From there, we started creating deeper-level insights for each of the job functions. With the Content Experience solution, which provides what a content marketer needs to do their job, we have deeper content insights that tell you which pages or posts perform better, how long a visitor is engaging with the site, how much content and how far down the page they’re consuming. These insights clearly connect content to results.

Finally, we have the full Marketing Analytics capabilities, and with the addition of Behavioral Insights, you get the “Why” behind the “What.” This really caters to the digital marketers overseeing conversions. Behavioral Insights features like Heatmaps, Funnels, and User Journeys allow marketers to understand exactly why users are making (or not) progress through the “happy path”; the intended user journey. For example, if there is a sharp drop-off in the user journey, the marketer, without having to do deep analysis, can understand what’s happening, where the user is dropping off at, and why, then quickly implement a fix. We know that every user is not the same and the context of where they are coming from in their journey is important. Users from organic search, digital advertising, and social or direct campaigns have different starting points. We enable segmentation of these groups so that the marketer can make informed decisions specific to each channel or campaign, providing the tailored experience users have now come to expect. This ease and focus allow for marketing teams of all sizes to maximize conversions and ultimately revenue.

What advice do you have for other leaders who are looking to drive growth for their brand?

The first piece of advice that I would give is that it all starts with hiring for specific behavioral traits. For me, I look for consistency and adaptability. In this volatile climate, the tech journey is full of ups and downs. The only thing we can control is our own reactions; being able to maintain consistency and pivot even under difficult circumstances. Everyone has good days and bad days—what matters most is to keep improving and learning. Employing talent that is reliable and flexible is critical for sustainable growth in the new world of work.

The second piece of advice I would give is to invest your marketing budget in making your website performant by starting with the bottom of the funnel, which is an accessible experience. There have been many times when I’ve met with a customer who has said that they invested most of their marketing budget into SEO, ads, and strong copywriters. And while that is important, that investment does no good if users bounce because the website isn’t accessible. You only get one chance to break through the noise.

What is the biggest problem you or your team is solving this year?

Helping marketers compete in the attention economy in the age of distraction. Attention is our most important and scarcest resource. The average consumer is exposed to 4-10k messages daily. With more and more distractions, capturing attention is only getting harder. Capturing attention is no longer about who shouts the loudest. It’s about precision and delivering to the right people at the right time.

It’s our goal to help empower our customers to capture attention, to beat the competition and cut through the noise with inclusive, accessible, optimized content. And for ourselves, too–while Siteimprove platform helps, commanding attention is an art and a science that we are still trying to crack!

Is there anything that you’re currently reading, or any favorite books, that you’d recommend?

The Great Mental Models by Rhiannon Beaubien and Shane Parrish—I’ve gifted this book to my kids. It’s designed to upgrade your thinking with the best, most useful and powerful ‘mental models’, or ways to look at problems through different lenses, so you always have the right one on hand. From an economist lens to that of a biologist or a statistician, this helped me as a CEO understand how different disciplines and backgrounds see and shape the world.

Thanks, Shane!

In the role of CEO at Siteimprove, Shane articulates a mission for both personal and corporate endeavors, focused on the empowerment of individuals to navigate, engage, and prosper in the digital domain. Shane is unwavering in the commitment to facilitate increased capabilities for people through the promotion of digital accessibility and inclusivity.

At Siteimprove, the empowerment bestowed upon each individual is channeled through the company’s Marketing department. Recognizing the pivotal role of content, the team under Shane ‘s leadership acknowledges its significance in fueling every channel, shaping each experience, and driving any conceivable marketing.

Siteimprove is a people-centric, $100M ARR SaaS company driven to help businesses achieve their digital potential by creating an accessible, purposeful, and performant web experience for all users. We strive to create true inclusivity – in ability, geography, ethnicity, and culture – for every customer. We are a leader in content experience, inclusivity, and marketing performance and our 550+ employees serve over 7,000 customers worldwide.

Siteimprove also works with leading accessibility groups around the world, including the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and the International Association of Accessibility Professionals (IAAP), to define international accessibility standards and we lead conversations with the United Nations to advance the causes of web accessibility and digital inclusion around the globe.

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