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Alexis Hall

Content Marketing Win: Customized Content for Customers & Search Engines With Online Personalization

By Alexis Hall     Content Marketing, Online Marketing

online personalization

After an amazing three days at a recent conference, it was time to head back to Minneapolis.

One crucial pre-flight ritual: downloading enough new content to my Kindle Fire to stay entertained during the 3+ hours of flying and airport time.

As I flipped to the Kindle book store, the first place I started was my recommended list. I will say that, overall, I am always pretty impressed by how well Amazon “gets” me.

In less than two minutes I had made my purchase.  Without personalization, faced with the  1 million+ books which are part of the Kindle library, there is a 75% chance I would have never made a purchase at all.

When I think about a company that is personalizing my online experience well, I tend to go right to Amazon. But personalization extends far beyond product recommendations to devices, reviews, calls to actions, and more.  This is a subject which aligns well with TopRank’s approach to optimizing for customers. If many people can find your content through search but it’s not engaging, or if the content is hard to find but highly engaging, no one wins.  Optimizing customer experience and discovery through search is essential for a win all around.

Leveraging personalization for this purpose was the topic of one of the presentations at the conference I attended: “Personalization: Delivering Customer Content to People and Bots” given by Michael DeHaven of Bazaarvoice and Greg Ott of DemandBase.

I was really interested by the idea of moving beyond product recommendations to other types of personalization, Michael DeHaven outlined four types.

Four Types of Online Personalization

#1: Site Wide Personalization

Site wide personalization refers to serving site content which is personalized to my past behavior on the site, as well as other identifying information the site may know about me – like gender, demographics, etc. An example of this would be customizing the Webinar titles I see on the side bar based on webinars I have attended in the past.  A user is much more likely to convert if the content and call to action on the page is customized to them.

#2: Product Recommendations

As mentioned above, personalized product recommendations are pretty standard – although sometimes it’s done really well, and other times it’s not.  One of the best examples of doing this well is Amazon.

#3: Evaluation Personalization

Consumers today are highly likely to make decisions based on reviews.  Consumers hope that reading reviews, rather than just polished marketing speak, will give them the full story on a product or service. However, customers only want to read about 7 reviews.

As marketers we are charged with making people feel like they have received the full story after only seven reviews. This means that the typical strategy for sorting content – recency or votes of helpfulness – is likely not the key to providing the 7 best reviews.

It is best to serve reviews based on factors which are most compelling to users:

  • Sufficiently long
  • Inclusive of rich media – like images, video, etc.
  • Inclusive SEO targeted keyword phrases
  • Use of search terms

Personalization in the evaluation phase can have big results. Michael DeHaven shared an upward lift in conversion rate of 4% for big box retailers and hotel/travel businesses.   Of course, different types of reviews were more effective for different types of businesses.   For example, rich media was impactful for the retailer, but  not essential. Images and videos were key to conversion for the hotel/travel industry.

So don’t generalize.  Testing is key to personalization is all phases.

#4: Device Personalization

Personalization goes beyond content and extends to the device.  Delivery is very, very important to conversion rates.   If you don’t personalize the experience of an iPhone, tablet, etc, then you are likely missing an opportunity.

So now that you know the types of personalization – here are four steps to get started from Greg Ott.

4 Steps to Online Personalization

Step 1: Determine who you are Personalizing For

Personalization for every single visitor who consumes your content is difficult and inefficient. The best course of action is to determine who your best customer is and focus on personalizing their experience.

Step 2: Determine What you Know About Them

Once you know who you are targeting, then you flesh out what you know about that customer, from key attributes, 3rd party data, correlation studies, etc.

Types of Attributes:

  1. Behavioral  (measures short term interest and intent): includes past purchases, previously views, keywords, traffic sources.
  2. Identity based : includes gender, psychographics, company industry size, customer status (existing, competitive, etc.).

Step 3: Decide what to Show

Based on what you know about your customer, then you decide what you will show them. Use optimization tools, AB testing, and predicative modeling in order to optimize your content. This will be an iterative process, continuously optimizing content based on measurement and testing.

Step 4:  Find out if it Works

Use Google Analytics or another testing platform in order to determine if the content is working. Don’t be afraid of bad results.  A test isn’t always going to work, but you should publish the results so that your team can see the benefit of the ongoing process of personalization and optimization.

Personalization makes life so much easier for consumers. With each extra click the consumer has to take in order to take the action they want, the more likely they are to drop out of that funnel.  So look beyond product recommendations and consider all the aspects of a site you can customize and optimize for your customers.

So what’s your verdict on personalization? Convenient or creepy? Have you started personalizing content yet?


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