Current state: You know that you need to improve website traffic and conversions. Despite having good content and a good content marketing strategy, you’re just not where you want to be. And you’re pretty sure it’s time to see what all the fuss around website personalization is all about.
It’s true. Website personalization is all the rage these days — and with good reason. There’s no better way to get great content, product, and service recommendations in front of your target audience segments.
Naturally, though, there’s a bit of a catch. Not all personalization solutions are created equal.
Some are more expensive than others.
Some are more labor-intensive than others.
And some are more effective than others.
But even the most affordable, efficient, and effective website personalization solutions can’t achieve their full potential without a thoughtful and thorough website personalization strategy.
Let’s dig a little deeper to gain a shared understanding of what we mean when we say “website personalization,” how you and your marketing team can implement and use website personalization successfully, and also a few of the main benefits of website personalization.
What Is Website Personalization?
Website personalization uses machine learning and artificial intelligence to track user behavior data and deliver tailored experiences based on those behaviors. As a result, you’re able to better target and engage your website visitors as they navigate your site. Better yet, as you review your key performance indicators (pages visited, time on page and site, and conversions), you’re able to then build and update your content strategy around what’s working — and also improve what’s not.
The idea behind website personalization is that it’s a win-win for everyone. Your consumers don’t have to go on a wild goose chase scouring your website for the information they need. And you’re able to deliver a more comfortable and rewarding experience for your website visitors while also getting awesome insight into the strengths and weaknesses of your content and your content strategy.
For example, let’s say your regional insurance agency sells a ton of great offerings that cover a variety of different policy types (home, auto, life, etc.). Your customers can either purchase individual policies or bundle their coverage. Your software notices that certain website visitors are interested in just one type of coverage, but there’s also another subset of users who seem to be viewing and engaging with content across two or more policy types. A good website personalization solution will begin serving up quotes and content related to bundled insurance offerings to this unique audience segment since they clearly have a need for (or at least an interest in) multiple insurance products.
Website personalization helps you streamline the attraction phase of your holistic marketing strategy, gather useful data for further outreach, and create stronger, more trusting relationships between you and your prospects and customers. What’s more, it gives your sales team crystal clear visibility into your visitors’ preferences and interests — empowering them to have more informed and impactful conversations with new leads and current clients.
It shortens the sales cycle, improves conversion rates, and leads to more and better closed deals.
How to Use Website Personalization Successfully
So now that we know what website personalization is, let’s examine the steps involved in learning how to use website personalization successfully.
1) Optimize Your Existing Content Strategy for a Website Personalization Solution
Since website personalization technology leverages machine learning to do its job, the heavy lift required for it to work actually occurs prior to turning it on. Before considering potential solutions and vendors, you should have a firm grasp of your current content strategy.
Here are just a few questions you should be asking:
- When was the last time you performed a content audit?
- Do you have any existing content gaps?
- Is your content up to date?
- Do you have the right assets for your target personas along each stage of the sales cycle?
- Do you have a nice mix of high-level thought leadership content and more solution-based content?
- Are you tracking content performance? If so, how?
- Are you emphasizing productive content, updating lagging content, and sunsetting irrelevant or outdated content?
Another pivotal question you need to ask yourself is if you have the right team in place to meet and exceed your goals. Great content marketing requires more than just great writers. Of course, writing skill is paramount, but your content team should also understand SEO best practices, how content impacts demand generation, and, of course, the details and benefits of your products and services — as well as a concrete and comprehensive understanding of your industry.
If even one of these questions isn’t covered to your satisfaction, you might not be able to get the most out of your website personalization solution. So make sure your content strategy is strong across the board, that you have (or are producing) the right types of content, and that you have an awesome content team in place to help you reach your goals.
Most importantly, you need to have your content properly organized and labeled. This means you’ve created and are using a strict taxonomy in which all of your content is broken down by category, sub-category, and tags, and that all of those classifications are consistent across your website. This will impact how your website personalization tool is able to make sense of your content, so it’s imperative that this is in good shape from jump street.
2) Choosing the Right Website Personalization Vendor
If you’re serious about adopting an effective website personalization vendor, and you’re confident that your existing content strategy is in tip-top shape, the next step in the process is to begin researching and vetting potential vendors. There are a lot of helpful solutions out there, but every organization will have different needs, so your company’s industry, size, and mission should heavily influence your selection process.
Here are a few questions you’ll want to ask as you begin interacting with potential website personalization solutions:
1) How Does This Website Personalization Solution Fit in with Our Current MarTech Stack?
The different tools and technologies your sales and marketing teams use should complement and enhance one another, and the same is true of a website personalization solution. Before deciding on a platform, you should speak with vendors about how their solution fits in with your existing MarTech stack. Specifically, the tool should play nicely with your marketing automation, CRM, and CMS systems, as well as any third-party APIs you’re using. If the proposed solution doesn’t integrate seamlessly with your existing technologies, you should move on — or at least ask if they’re working on building out new integrations.
2) What Are the Capabilities of This Website Personalization Solution?
As I mentioned earlier, not all website personalization solutions are created equal, and some are better suited for specific use cases. So, depending on what you and your key stakeholders have identified as your principal needs, you’ll want to look only at those solutions that are able to meet those needs. Whoever you choose should provide flexible, outcome-based solutions and be willing to work with you to align your content marketing strategy with their platform. Most importantly, the solution should allow you to turn anonymous visitors into known users so that you can continue to market to those individuals on separate marketing channels, such as social media and paid digital advertising.
3) What Are the Limitations of This Website Personalization Solution?
Does the solution work sitewide? Can you tailor it to work in different ways on different pages? Does it work with your CMS? How much work does it require on your end? These are pivotal questions that you should be asking, and the answers will inform your decision. The best website personalization tools are dynamic and can be formatted to any site or page to provide the best content or product recommendations at the perfect time to influence buyer intent. Furthermore, the tool you choose should be simple to use and operate on rules-based logic that make sense given how you’re housing and categorizing your content.
4) What Are the Costs Involved in This Website Personalization Solution?
Website personalization solutions vary greatly by cost, so you’ll want to understand your budget limitations and make that figure clear to the vendor before getting too far in the weeds. There’s no sense wasting your time speaking with a company out of your price range. Once you’ve established a mutual understanding, you’ll need to look closely at several line items in the quoted price — including ongoing management and strategy, onboarding and training, data connections, and platform access. You’ll also want to consider contract length and potential fees for choosing to opt-out prior to completing the engagement.
5) What Is the Time to Value with This Website Personalization Solution?
The most commonly used misnomer in marketing and sales technology applications is “out-of-the-box.” I hear this phrase constantly, and the truth of the matter almost never matches the promise. And when dealing with website personalization, it’s often more misused than with other software tools. Regardless of what a vendor tells you, you need to understand for yourself what goes into getting up and running with your website personalization solution, and the best way to do that is by speaking with current and former users of each solution. You should ask them how long it took to develop their strategy, how long it took to start seeing results, and how long it took to start optimizing their content strategy based on the performance of their website personalization solution.
3) Implementing Your Website Personalization Solution and Tracking Results
At this point, you’re almost there. Now it’s time to open up your new toy, align it with your MarTech stack, and let it absorb the data before turning it on. If you’ve chosen an easy and effective website personalization solution, you’ll be able to install a basic plugin to enable:
- Automated content exports
- Automated code placement
- Admin control for recommendation display options
This should drastically reduce the workload for you and your team and get you started on the right path toward successful implementation and deployment. It might take a week or two to collect enough data for the system to start working properly, so you’ll want to install the plugin as soon as you’re able. After about 10 days, you should have enough data to turn on your solution with the confidence that it will deliver the right content to the right visitors and yield immediate results.
This is where the fun begins because it’s the point at which you’ll begin seeing some initial success. Whatever platform you choose should have its own portal with access to a reporting interface. From your dashboard, you should be able to view aggregate time on site, pages per session, and conversions.
You should also be able to drill down further to see which content categories are performing the best and even view performance by individual content assets. Best of all, these metrics are unique to those sessions where visitors are engaging with personalized content, so you’re able to see a breakdown of “participating” vs. “non-participating” traffic, which will help you measure the effectiveness of your website personalization software in isolation.
Serve Intelligent Content Recommendations with Act-On Adaptive Web
This blog was a little long, so I don’t blame you if you skimmed. Actually, that’s perfect because you’ve now arrived at the best part!
Act-On’s Adaptive Web solution is the most affordable, efficient, and effective website personalization on the market today. It’s designed to make personalized content recommendations simple, easy, and attainable for every marketer and organization. It’s easy to implement, requires no extra work for marketers, and produces serious results within weeks of installation. It also gives you the ability to manually manipulate your content recommendations to promote new and especially relevant content.
Download our eBook to learn more about website personalization and how Adaptive Web can help you “Personalize the Web Experience.”