What is web personalization?
And why do you need to embrace it as the advanced content creator, marketer, growth hacker, blogger, podcaster that you are (or whatever buzz word you want to use)…
Spoiler alert: It’s all about making more money from your website by more precisely helping visitors.
Website personalization means displaying different versions of your entire website to different types of visitors to increase your conversion rates and traffic.
— Dustin Hartzler (@DustinHartzler) June 12, 2015
Now, I have no idea who started calling it “web personalization” but the concept was originally applied by some very small websites you might have never ever heard about before called Amazon, Google and Facebook… The sarcasm comes free of charge. The concept is not new, eCommerce guys have (to some small extent) been using this for a while. However, no one in the industry of content marketing seems to really be embracing it.The strategy came in about the same time as the concept of #BigData (masses of customer information in sizes never seen before, made available thanks to the evolution of software and analytical tools) and Small Data (a version of Big Data that allows for more personalization). Think of website personalization as the practical application of any intelligence you gather from this “Big Data” thing to tailor content and design to whoever is viewing it.
So these tiny websites mentioned before wanted to increase their revenue, but increasing traffic was super hard (I’m narrating the very VERY early stages of this then-startups). Old Google boy was the first to show some forms of personalization, with the introduction of the Google Adwords platform and the way they would dynamically display their ads to people based on their very unique characteristics. As time went on, their strategy of displaying tailored ads to people would evolve. Allowing for deeper and more advanced audience segmentation and targeting.
Then Amazon and Facebook both started applying personalization in similar ways. Facebook developed an ad platform that would allow for some very targeted advertising and Amazon started applying the concept in a way that is more relevant and related to us content marketers, no ad platform, they simply started dynamically displaying their content (product recommendations) to people tailored to their needs and characteristics. (what pages they viewed before, products they purchased, geographical location, etc).
The other smaller (I’m serious this time) eCommerce websites, wanted to imitate what Amazon was doing of dynamically marketing to visitors who had certain characteristics, and the need for a product was born. eCommerce websites had different needs than bloggers or content marketers because they would typically focus on simply different featured products based on the visitor.
Oh yeah, I can see those eye brows raising and your brain starting to connect the dots…
A fantastic thing that web personalization has allowed me to do is to sell to my email list without selling to my email list.
Chapter 1: Benefits of Web Personalization for Content Creators Chapter 2: Audience Segmentation & Types of Personalization
Chapter 3: Identifying Your Website’s Flow of Goals Chapter 4: Applying Web Personalization
Chapter 1: The Benefits of Web Personalization for Content Creators
So how would this work for content marketers?
It’s quite simple really. Are you familiar with the concept of a Content Upgrade? This is a strategy that some bloggers or content magicians started to use somewhat recently to increase the conversion rates at specific high traffic posts by providing a lead magnet or giveaway in exchange for people’s email that was extremely and very closely related to whatever that specific post was talking about. If the post is about “Top 10 Paleo Recipes” you offer a Content Upgrade on a “30 Day Paleo Diet Plan”.
This will typically increase conversion rates by a considerable amount as seen in this case study. The problem is, what about all those other call to actions outside of your post content? What if your visitor (who you have identified is interested in whatever that blog post is talking about) moves from the post to your Home Page and you still want to keep things relevant and related to the original topic this person showed interest on?
Here are a couple of questions that demonstrate how the concept of content personalization makes sense for a blog:
What if you want to combine the fact that you identify the interest of that visitor with their cultural background and country of origin?
Or with the device they are using to browse your website? (and no, I’m not talking about responsiveness but actually displaying different information).
Or better yet, whether they are already subscribers or followers of your blog. In which case you could replace sing up forms (already used by this person) with something else, a different, more relevant call to action base don the fact that this repeated visitor is already a subscriber that originally showed an interest in topic X. This is useful for any type of blogger, but it’s ideal for those who use a “Soft-selling’ approach. You are simply replacing sing up forms that have been already used with advertisements.
I’m talking about displaying entire, different versions of your blog (sidebars, homepage, widget areas, paragraphs, images, even your logo, navigation bar and colors of your website) all with the purpose of making your website more relevant to the specific visitor that is viewing it.
You can make and endless list of combinations of these and many other factors that would make sense for different types of blogs on different types of industries.
Now yes, of course you require software to implement such a strategy, but rather than turning this guide into an elaborate sales page, the purpose of this guide is to educate on what is coming next in the world of online marketing for content creators and the benefits of getting in sooner. Assuming you have access to a piece of personalization software like Cerebro by Smartduu, here’s an implementation process that will leave you fascinated with this strategy. It consists on identifying your ideal and most important audience segments and making a mathematic selection of the goals you want visitors to accomplish on your website.
3 Concise Benefits of Web Personalization
VERY Affordable Native Advertisement: This strategy of personalization makes it affordable for me to run paid Google ads to blog posts because Google will reward me with a 10/10 relevancy score and reduce my costs, it also turns my blog into a huge “squeeze page” because by making things so relevant I’m able to have an overall conversion rate of 25%.
SEO: All of Google’s ranking factors are meant to provide the user a better experience, a good metric of this is website bounce rates.
And what do you think happens when you have a website that is super duper relevant to your visitor?
Bounce rates decrease and time spent on your website increases, and Mr. Google rewards you for that.
Conversion Rates Optimization: The main purpose and benefit of personalization is increasing the conversion rates of your website and the engagement of your visitors with your website.
Chapter 2: Audience Segmentation & Types of Personalization
In general marketing, everything starts with your customer. In content marketing everything starts with your audience.
It used to be that companies would invent a problem and create a product that would then be sold by focusing on the features of the product.
Now, if you don’t focus on what problem the product actually solves and how it makes the life of your customers better, you will get nowhere and you will sink like the Titanic. With your website, the same thing happens. You must understand who are you providing information to in order to know what you are going to say.
Every time you are about to strike the keyboard you should first think who is it you are typing for. Every word counts.
When identifying your audience segments or “segmented avatars” it’s important that you keep your selection relevant to your website, industry and means of “monetization” (or whatever the ultimate purpose of your website is) because you don’t want to go down a rabbit whole and do unnecessary work now do you?
Of course you don’t…
Here’s a list of variables to determine when creating audience segments. You can combine these variable to create your segments:
1. Identifying topics of interest: If you have an established website and you are using Google Analytics, Google Webmaster Tools and/or any other tool, start by identifying your most popular posts, the keywords and search phrases you rank for the highest and relevant sources of traffic that might help you identify a clear, specific topic of interest and expectations those visitors have.[cerebro-content-area id=”cg8″]Example, my software identifies you are advanced on business and marketing knowledge.[/cerebro-content-area]
2. Identify the loyalty level of your visitor: This means how aware and engaged is this person with your website or personal brand and it’s strongly related to chapter 3. You can identify this by seeing if they are coming from an ad you are running, or from a Social Media channel of yours, or if they are email subscribers, or using a custom URL you used to mention your website at a specific Podcast (also useful for identifying topic of interest), or by looking at how many times they have come to your website yet haven’t engaged with it. Identifying loyalty helps to determine how strongly or softly you can sell, it’s very useful for crafting your copywriting.
3. Identify cultural background and geo-location: This is also easily done by looking at your analytics and useful in almost any type of industry. For example, in this blog I make money from selling software and affiliate commissions from recommending digital products available to anyone with internet access and I get a lot of questions like “will this work for me if Im locate din X place?” which is why I see a noticeable increase in conversions by making an emphasis in my call to actions that, yes, you can use my downloadable information even if you are in United States (your location as you can see).
In a Spanish “teaching strategies” blog I run with my wife (the teacher), it really makes a huge difference on what we recommend and say. Spanish speaking countries not only have a lot idioms and words that mean completely different things in every country but a loft of them also have online purchasing restrictions, in which case it doesn’t really makes sense to lead people to shopping carts, rather show advertisements to at least make some money and not let our audience be met with the frustration of not being able to purchase.
It’s also great practice customizing the currency of your product for every country, it helps create a great sense of relevance. You can even charge different amounts based on the regional location of your visitor which is legal in some countries like the United States (this is a controversial topic, I know, but it’s legal) and chose to display different charging prices based on the neighborhood of your visitor.
4. Device: Depending on your goals (chapter 3), it can be extremely beneficial to create segments of your audience base on the device they are using and display different versions of your content. Why do you think responsive websites are so popular now? Google even recently released an algorithm change that benefits or punishes websites based on whether or not they are mobile friendly. But people are wrong to think that mobile friendly only means making your layout adjustable to the screen. Mobile friendly in the future will also include how relevant is the actual content and information to the device. You can modify your offers to suit your visitor’s device.
Keep in mind that people searching through mobile are usually on the run and need things fast, they are also typically closest to performing a purchase.
5. Time: Most businesses run time sensitive offers, it’s great for increasing conversion rates by creating a sense of urgency and it’s great when you have content that is relevant at certain times in the day (a television broadcast or webinar announcement).
6. Behaviour: You can chose to create segments based on people that are performing clicking certain links in your website or visiting specific pages and spending certain amounts of time.
Once you identified and defined your main audience segments you proceed with identifying the different tasks or goals you would like your visitors or members of your audience to accomplish in a short period of time. We will discuss more on website goals in Chapter 3.
Chapter 3: Identifying Your Website’s Flow of Goals
Before you start applying web personalization and creating different versions of your website, it’s important that you know exactly what is it that you want your website visitors to do through their life as members of your audience.
Goals can be things like subscribing to an email newsletter, sharing your website, becoming a follower, purchasing a product, calling a phone number, submitting a quote request, etc.
The great thing about real time web personalization is that you can put does goals in a sequence based on priorities and move your visitors through a “funnel of goals” where they keep coming back to your website and keep seeing different call to actions based on what stage of that “funnel” they are at. Nowadays, people display on their website or blog everything they want their visitors to accomplish, all at the same time, which creates distractions for visitors who end up accomplishing nothing. The more options you give people, the less they will actually do what you want them to do. It creates inefficiency on your funnel.
Once you know all the different things you would like your visitors to do in you website in their time as active members of your community or audience, you proceed to assign priorities to each of these actions. Based on these priorities you create a funnel of website versions, combining your goals with the audience segments you defined on chapter 2.
[cerebro-content-area id=”cg8″]Usually, across all of my different website versions, the first thing I want people to accomplish on my website is to sign up to my email list but this version you are seeing right now is for more experienced marketers, like you, therefore I know you will get much more value for at least giving a glimpse at this guide than signing up to my list. You probably don’t invest a lot of time on learning and we are probably already connected via email[/cerebro-content-area]
Chapter 4: Applying Web Personalization
Now to the fun part. Depending on what software you are using for personalization you will be able to customize certain or all things on your website. Now that we have identified our audience segments and our website goals and it’s priorities, we are ready to start applying changes to our website and defining which of our segments should be seeing those changes.
For the purpose of all examples we are going to assume that our flow of goals is as follows: 1. Gather Leads > 2. Turn Lead Into Customer > 3. Turn Customer Into a Brand Advocate to Increase Traffic.
Keep in mind that personalization is only a semi-automatic process, you do have to manually create the content and design modifications and only certain people will receive customized versions of your website. The rest of the people will receive a default version of your website. For example the default version of my website is meant for beginner to intermediate marketers/entrepreneurs to whom I teach how to create a blog that is profitable by implementing audience segmentation, and I r.emember my visitor that yes, this can be done from their specific location
Website Version 1:
Goal: Get Leads
Target Avatar: Visitors from United States using a Desktop Computer showing an interest in web personalization. (like you)
We are going to start by modifying all of main call to action locations. Let’s say I have identified that you are interested in learning about web personalization because you might have used that keyword to land on this website or because you landed on this guide. I can also see that you are using a Desktop Computer and located in Virginia. Based on this information I could chose to provide you with a free downloadable extremely related to all of those factors. Something like “5 free Desktop Computer apps that will help you with web personalization and how to use them in Virginia“. Along with the actual downloadable offer, I can customize the slang and wording that I use and the colors that I use in my call to actions to further increase conversion rates.
I use orange on this version of my website as my call to action color to transmit confidence, energy, friendliness and because it really stands out from the rest of the website. I use green as my primary color to transmit wealth, growth and health which is what marketing is all about.
I make sure to keep it very clear what it is I want you to accomplish, I don’t fill my sidebar with fluff, I include a sign up form (obvious), my picture (to establish a human connection) and a link to this guide (to establish my brand’s unique selling proposition, personalization and segmentation in online marketing).
Website Version 2:
Goal: Turn Lead Into Customer
Target Avatar: Subscribers from United States using a Desktop Computer showing an interest in website personalization. I could throw in there a couple more variables like time ( 0:0:0 ) but I want to keep it simple.
I’m not a person who likes to sell hard to my email list, I prefer a soft selling approach where I keep sending people back to my website to offer valuable content and imply a purchase opportunity where my call to actions are meant to be located. This is the main reason I ever started doing this strategy.
For this version of my website I simply replace any sign up form with product purchase invitations for products related to the subscriber’s topic of interest. I also change the color of my call to actions because the subscriber’s eye will now ignore orange, since it already knows what it’s for and it already used it, so by changing the color I generate curiosity.
Website Version 3:
Goal: Share my content to generate more traffic
Avatar: Customers from United States using a Desktop Computer showing an interest in web personalization.
Now I can replace the already used advertisements with invitations to share my content on social media, something like “share this post with 4 friends via email and download my newest guide on advanced personalization”. This way I’m turning customers into brand advocates and generating more traffic to my website.
You can create as many versions of your websites by combining all of those factors and be as creative as you want. Instead of running one A/B test at a time, you can run multiple test for your multiple audience segments.
The sad part about this is that none of this will work, if you don’t take action on it. So I sure I don’t need to tell you what you should be doing now. We left that pretty clear above (insert happy face here).