500 different people go to Amazon.com. Each one sees a different version of the home page. How come? It’s personalized! It’s no secret why Amazon does that: content personalization makes money.

A new survey by Adobe and Econsultancy finds that 52% of digital marketers consider the ability to personalize web content to be fundamental to their online strategy.

Content personalization and behavioral targeting are the next 2 big things that are going to give you the conversion lift you want. Both of them should be looked at seriously by anyone looking to keep rocking in the future.

What is content personalization?

People visiting your site have different intentions: some are there to buy something, others simply doing research, and some might be trying to get a job with you. Then you got your first time visitors, and returning ones. Some don’t know why they’re there and are looking for a way out.

Despite of this, most websites and landing pages display exactly the same content for all visitors – no matter what they’re searching for or how they got there in the first place. These websites try to appeal to a wide range of visitors simultaneously, and thus are not exciting many.

Wouldn’t it be awesome to display different content and call-to-actions for different types of visitors? Essentially making your visitors feel like that the page speaks their language?

Creating a one-to-one customer experience contributes significantly to customers that are more highly engaged, which in turn has a direct impact on the merchant’s bottom line.

– Blair Lyon, Vice President of Marketing with Monetate

This is where content personalization comes into play. It lets you target different content to different types or groups of visitors based on their behavior or other factors.

How it works?

personalizeImage credit

It works by looking at the data that is available to you about the visitor – things like location, keywords they searched for, ads they clicked in, whether they’ve been to the site before and also things like buying history – and compares that against a set of variables that you have put in place.

Those variables could include:

  • Location – city, country, region
  • Device – iPhone, iPad, Android phone/tablet, Windows, Mac, Linux
  • Search keywords – did they arrive while searching for shoes or shirts?
  • Visitor frequency – First , second, third, fifth time visitor?
  • Date and time of day, proximity to payday
  • Referring URL – where did they come from?
  • Customer history – have bought before, what, how much did it cost?
  • Sessions behaviour – navigation clicks, page views

There are many more variables which can be taken into account like age, gender etc – possibilities are pretty much endless and it depends a lot on how much info you have about that customer already.

Location targeting

How about showing people ads relevant to their location? Seems like an obvious idea – and it works *really* well. According to a recent study location targeting more than doubles performance of mobile ads. #nobrainer

Monetate has found that across its significant client base when it personalized experiences based on international visitors’ geo-location, it improved conversion rates by as much as 100 percent.


Paramore, an american rock bands merchandise store, uses geo-location data to direct visitors from different parts of the world to their respective pages.

This is how it looks when you visit from the States:    us store

And like this if you do it from the United Kingdom:

uk store
And finally like this if you are, like me, from Estonia:

estonia store
All this makes buying for customers around the world easier as they can see prices in their national currency and don’t have to Google exchange rates. Less friction equals more paying customers.

Ad targeting and Amazon

Similar system is used in targeted ads on websites across the web. Let’s say you read an article about the lastest Android phone on a news site. Eventually you navigate away and read something else on another site, and you see ads about Android phones there. It works by tracking your behavior across the web through the use of cookies, and then using that data to give you relevant ads. Some think it’s freaky, some consider is useful since you’re actually seeing ads you might be interested in.

The same thing happens on Amazon where it uses your interaction history and other data to drive more sales. This is how “More Items to Consider”, “Frequently bought together” and “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” lists are generated – using user behavior data.

You don’t even necessarily need to buy something. The other day I was looking at external hard drives on Amazon. A couple of days passed and I got this e-mail from them:

Systems in use for ad targeting on big retail sites like Amazon are very complex and are what are called learning systems. Meaning that they are capable of looking at the data and learning from it all by themselves.

This doesn’t mean that content personalization is only for the big boys. There are tools available for companies of all sizes, and it’s becoming a more crowded marketplace by the day.

Case studies

Case #1 – Visual Website Optimizer

The team over at Visual Website Optimizer were looking for engineers and designers to join their team over at their New Delhi office in India.

To increase job applications from their own homepage, they ran an behavioural targeting campaign for users accessing their homepage from India. For that they used their very own software, Visual Website Optimizer.

The test was about having a tiny banner displayed on the right hand side of the screen which said “We’re hiring in Delhi :).” Half of the visitors from India were shown the usual page and other other half the new version with the banner on the right.

This is what the original looked like:original VWOImage credit

And this was the one with the tiny banner:with banner VWOImage credit


Results were 149% increase in clickthrough rate to the Careers page. For benchmarking  they also measured worldwide click through rate to the same page and got 0.43% as the results. For visitors from India without the banner, clickthrough rate was 9.17%.

With the banner, clickthrough rate for Indian visitors was 22.86%. This is an improvement of 149% compared with normal 9.17%.

Case #2 – BedBathStore.com


BedBathStore, an Lynbrook, N.Y. based online retailer of bed and bath products was looking for ways to increase conversions of their eCommerce site. They experimented with traffic segmentation and personalization of web experience of its visitors.

We wanted to increase overall revenue and profitability through superior conversion,” says Co-founder and COO Mike Reichman. “Conversions are the key to increased revenue, decreased ad spend and increased return on investment.

They used software that responds to specific visitor interests or needs, and displays relevant campaign banners on pages. “Now, if a person is searching for bedding, we can do a targeted banner for the bedding category,” Reichman says. “The offer can appear in the bedding category on our site and can say anything from ‘Shop our Luxury Bedding and Save 10 Percent,’ to ‘Free Shipping on All Bedding Orders Over $75.’

Banners can also be targeted by how many times a visitor has been to the site, number of pages searched in a given visit, or geography or region of visitor.

Conversion rates increased throughout the site by 10% since implementation of targeting strategies. That’s thousands of dollars of more revenue with a simple change.

Getting started with content personalization

You might be thinking now that content personalization is valuable, but probably complicated and time-consuming. Luckily there’s software that can help you out.

Personalization software

While Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer described the content personalization technology as being “a few years away”, there’s a lot that’s here already now.

In  fact, there’s a multitude of companies offering content personalization of various sorts. As mentioned before, Visual Website Optimizer is an option. So are their competitors Optimizely and Convert.com, and other prominent testing tools (Test&Target and so on).

Then there are tools like

As always there is no one size that fits everyone. Check them out and see which one fits your needs.

Step 1: Choose your variables

First analyze your incoming traffic – where it is coming from, what are they doing on the site? Take a look at organic search and the keywords they use to land on your site.

After analyzing current behaviors and traffic sources, go ahead and try to figure out how to make their buying experience even better.  Start small at first, choosing your top three audience segments and go on from there. Remember that the more segments you create, the more content / personalized experiences you might have to create. So start small so you wouldn’t get overwhelmed and kill your motivation.

Another good one to start off with is using your top 3-4 organic keywords and personalizing landing pages for all of them so that they mention that keyword in the copy.

We recently wrote a blog post about getting quality traffic that converts – take a look there for hints on where to get good traffic from. Combing good traffic with personalization is pure gold.

Step 2: Configure rules and create segmented content

Once you have created your initial set of rules (variables) and customer segments it’s time to take all that info into your personalization software of choice. Whatever software you chose, it should be pretty straightforward with most of them.

Below an example from Visual Website Optimizer:insert rulesImage credit

Simply choose your variables from the first two boxes and add the value to the last one. You can choose between AND, OR statements.

Step 3 – Run it

Time to see your personalized segments in action. There’s always a chance that something went wrong, so run it for a period of time and analyze the results, make adjustments as necessary.

Keep tweaking and playing with until you have something that you are satisfied with and works to boost conversions.


You want to provide the best experience possible to your visitors – so ideally they only see stuff relevant to them. This is why content personalization is so incredibly important. Higher relevancy leads to higher revenues – win-win across the board.

Featured image credit