How Much of Your Copy Is Totally Irrelevant? A Case for Web Personalization

IrrelevantOdds are your website is flooded with irrelevant copy…

Overrun by it. Infested with it.

Visitors are coming to your website and – even though you’ve followed all the ‘best practices’ you read about conversion rate optimization – a big chunk of them are leaving…

Why, you ask? Because your tested website copy may be the highest performing copy for your visitors in the aggregate… but that’s not always the case for specific visitor segments.

If you really look into who visits your website, you will probably discover that you have many different kinds of visitors…

There are different job titles. Age groups. Geographic locations. Visitors with varying levels of “influence”. Visitors with varying motivations. Visitors coming from search through specific keywords…

The list goes on.

These visitor segments may have an idea of who you are and what you provide. But if you do not capture their specific interest – the exact pain points they care about – then chances are you will lose a heap of ’em.

So here’s how to stop turning off prospective customers and stop turning away their money…

Attention Grabbing Optimization (AGO):
Get Personal

Yes, some of your bounced traffic was going to leave anyway. Either because they accidentally arrived at your website or they simply are not interested. However, if you have qualified visitors who are leaving after a brief stay on your site – say under a minute – it’s likely because you did not capture their attention or compel them enough to stick around.

You weren’t able to capture their attention because your offering didn’t connect with them personally.

If you want to keep your visitors engaged and get the highest conversion rates possible, making sure that your web experience is relevant to every qualified visitor* is key.

To do this, you need to jump into web personalization.

That’s right. Web personalization.

It is finally starting to be used in interesting and powerful ways. Web personalization is about more than just personalizing shipping costs by geolocation, or personalizing product recommendations based on past (signed in) purchases.

Web personalization has matured to the point where you can personalize the user experience based on in-depth visitor behavior and engagement data, whether the visitor is a logged-in user or anonymous.

By getting to know your website visitors based on their behavior and serving them targeted messaging, you will capture more attention and get more web conversions. Keep reading to see how to do this practically. (Plus, we have a contest for you at the bottom! But read first.)

You Are Likely Already Personalizing,
Just Not on Your Core Website

Marketers have long known that to get better results you need to direct more relevant traffic to more relevant website copy and offers.

“Web personalization,” as most people would think about it, has only started to become popular, but here are a few ways you may already be personalizing your message to your website visitors.

1. Recommended Products
Many of the biggest and most popular ecommerce sites already offer customized product reviews based on past history. Most of us are familiar with Amazon’s recommended items.

Web personalization and recommended products

To get that level of Amazon personalization, you need to be logged in and send an item to your shopping cart. If you’re not logged in, you can see what other customers who purchased something you bought were considering. You see something like this:

People who bought this bought that - web personalization on Amazon

These recommendations likely work great for Amazon… Otherwise, why would they be doing it this way?

But, I can’t help but believe that if they personalized their product recommendations for anonymous visitors the same way they do for logged in visitors, they’d get more sales.

Next time you are on an ecommerce website, pay attention to the website’s method for recommending products.

You are likely to start seeing better product recommendations as websites start personalizing their recs based on individual visitor behavior and demographics data rather than on the behaviors of the masses. (Here’s something I built to do just that)

2. Email Marketing
Event-driven email marketing is being used to effectively pull people back into an app after leaving. It’s also being used to warm up leads and improve conversion rates. This form of email marketing depends on a customer in a certain segment taking a defined action.

Web personalization in Groupon emails

Take Groupon as an example, you have a certain number of days to buy your first item on Groupon and receive a $10 off discount. That’s a small degree of personalization – it knows when and how I created my account, my location, my interests, and my activity.

Event-driven email marketing’s efficacy is displayed in a 2012 study from the Lenskold Group. The study found that 60% of respondents believed the quality of the leads that were passed onto sales were improved by using event-driven email messages.

Here’s the problem: you need the user to give you their email address before you can act on this marketing tactic. Without their email (and possibly other information) you won’t be able to personalize their experience and ensure maximum relevance.

3. Retargeting Ads
When someone visits your site and exits, they’re not lost if you use retargeting ads well. These ads know where you’ve been and if you’ve purchased there; with that, they follow you online. Here’s one Copy Hackers used recently to reach out to those who’d clicked on their ebook catalog without converting (Heaven forbid!):

Copy Hackers

Retargeting lets you target specific ads to specific visitors based on the behavior of their previous visit to your site. If you can determine the persona of a visitor based on this behavioral data, your targeting efforts can result in some great conversion increases for each return visitors coming back to your site from the retargeted ads.

Retargeting is one of the most personalized marketing strategies popular today, but it isn’t quite the full enchilada: personalizing the entire website experience.

4. Landing Pages
The landing page mantra is that you need multiple landing pages to appeal to your various customer segments. Again, this is a form of partial personalization that you experience every day.

Take Buffer for example. When you search for “buffer app” you see this:

web personalization buffer

Based on these results alone it’s clear that this basic search could mean two things: you want to learn more about Buffer generally, or you might actually want to know more about the company’s iPhone app.

They’ve got it covered. The prominent search result brings you to their main landing page:

Buffer landing page personalization by search results

Or, if you want information on the iPhone app, you can click that search result and arrive at another landing page:

Buffer iPhone landing page shot

Each page is different, with different goals, but they are targeted based on different segments of potential customers – from people with a general interest to people with a very specific interest.

When, Where and What to Personalize

Web personalization increases the relevance of your copy, thereby making it more attractive and attention grabbing. It improves conversion rates, reduces churn, improves customer happiness, boosts engagement and visit duration, and can nicely complement email marketing campaigns.

So what can you personalize on your site?

1. A Personalized Value Proposition
Your value prop (USP) needs to be precise yet speak to the desire of the specific customer or user. Sittercity does a good job of this:

Sitter City personalizes web experiences

As their site learns more about you, they can customize their USP to be even more relevant to you.

Sitter City value prop

2. Personalized Headlines
Different people respond to headlines in different ways. So, you can test a bunch and create many different landing pages. Or, instead, you could personalize your landing page to adapt to each reader as they see it.

If a visitor has already seen your headline, you don’t necessarily need to repeat the same spiel.

Instead, you could take the information you’ve gathered from the visitor thus far, and use that prime headline real estate on your website to recapture their attention. After you’ve gotten to know a specific visitor, such as what value propositions they care about most and what offers they’ve clicked on, a great personalization tool allows you to match your headline to what they need or care about most.

I should mention, in most cases you wouldn’t want to immediately personalize your core headline, but rather personalize within or after the initial visit. This is for Search Engine Optimization purposes to make sure that Google is always able to read your core headline describing the page.

3. Personalized Calls to Action
CTAs are the point at which someone will decide to convert or leave – it’s a crucial moment. The trick is not only making your CTA relevant, but also using it to effectively communicate value

Look at Tribe HR. Initially they have two CTAs when you visit their homepage:

Tribe HR personalized buttons

But what if you’ve already booked a demo with them? Then that critical button spot is wasted. Having the ability to eliminate “Book A Demo” once someone has already completed that action would let you offer another CTA. This simple act of personalization can result in:

– Greater message relevance, meaning and stickiness
– More effectively communicated value
– A better conversion to the next stage in the customer lifecycle

Another way to beef up your CTAs is to use “click triggers” – copy and content around the CTA that will make people even more likely to take your desired action.

For example, you could offer free shipping if someone completes their order in the next few hours. Or you could offer a free month of a premium offering for a SaaS product.

Amazon web personalization

In the Amazon example above, you can see that they highlight your total order and then draw attention to the fact that spending a few more dollars will help get you free shipping. It also gives an hourly countdown to say they can have it to you next day if you act quickly.

Now imagine being able to actually personalize these click trigger so that they are based on a previous visitors experience. Amazon would know:

– If you bought an extra item in the past to get free shipping; or,
– If you jumped at the chance to get quick one day delivery.

This knowledge could be used to offer a personalized message to make this call-to-action even more effective in the future…

Just remember, click triggers are very often incentives. They’re the bonuses, like 24/7 free support, or support by e-mail and chat, or support by phone. Click triggers are about positioning the right small message to get prospects to click that button.

4. Personalized Graphics and Imagery
Images play a crucial part in engaging your visitors and grabbing their attention. As you come to know more about each visitor, you can tailor your images to match their preferences.

Take Sittercity for example: their image changed and is reflective of their copy – one about keeping summer alive and another about sending your kids back to school. This is an attempt to ensure that your graphics and images are relevant and consistent with your overall message…

5. Personalized Form Fields
Of course, you need to test for optimal form length. While shorter may be better for some customers, multiple step or more detailed forms might be better for others. What you don’t need to test is if you should stop asking for information you’ve already collected.

If you already have their name and email address, don’t ask for it again! Ask for more information that will help you better understand and respond to them instead. Your sales team will thank you for the extra information that helps qualify your leads even more. Your visitors will thank you, too!

6. Personalized Social Proof
Social proof can take multiple forms – you can use things like media mentions, customer reviews or individual testimonials.

Take HelpScout as an example. Their homepage features two different customer testimonials: one from Wistia and another from Gary Vaynerchuk.

Sicial proof personalization

These are two great testimonials, but the top testimonial from Wistia is the first you’ll see. Instead, you could personalize your website to make sure the first testimonial people see is going to be as relevant and persuasive as possible to them – given their background and history.

For example, if someone is coming from a SaaS company site, you could show them a testimonial from a similar company. If someone is coming to you from an established partner site, you could, again, adjust the testimonial.

Each of these small, subtle adjustments will increase the relevance of the testimonials viewed by your audience.

The more relevant, the more impact…

7. BONUS: Dynamic On-Site Messages
You can use on-site or in-app messages to help guide people through the conversion funnel. We do this over at our site.

When you first visit – psst… we’ve officially launched! – we send you a customized pop-up after you’ve viewed at least 80% of the content and stayed there for 50 seconds. It’s designed to engage people and move them to the next piece of relevant content.

Evergage personalization tool - popups

As you move through the site using this prompt, you will see it change and evolve as it adapts to your past decisions and behavior.

This is just one of the many ways you can use personalized on-site messages to capture your visitor’s attention and compel him/her to take action. Here are a few more:

  • Welcome social media traffic
  • Prevent bounces with relevant ebook or offer
  • Guide return visitors to action
  • Respond to press coverage
  • Offer a limited-time or “limited-visit” discount
  • Survey fast bouncing visitors to learn why they are leaving
  • Reward engaged visitors

8. BONUS: Use Word Pictures (learn more here)
Word pictures are phrases that trigger an image in your reader’s mind; think of them as metaphors. If you want to do this well, you need to take one thing and have it mean another.

Copyblogger gives a great example:

“Put another way, visual words work better than words lacking in imagery when it comes to effective communication, as long as they also satisfy our left brain by being something we can logically relate to.

Iacocca substituted the concept of the “safety net” in lieu of the inevitable “bailout” stigma in order to invoke a strong image in the mind, which also coincided with many people’s view of the purpose of responsible government. The “safety net” visual reframed the issue.”

Henneke Duistermaat says it well: “Metaphors use imagery so readers can see, feel, hear, taste, or even smell what you’re talking about … The more specific and sensory your metaphors are, the easier it becomes for readers to experience your words. That’s how your writing makes an impact. That’s how you become more memorable, more engaging, and more persuasive.”

If you can use word pictures well, you’ll reap huge rewards. For some great examples, just look at the titles of some great business books: Purple Cow or the Blue Ocean Strategy.

The Blue Ocean Strategy, one of the most important business strategy books in the last few decades, isn’t suggesting you take a swim. Instead, it means your business and its product should be surrounded by a big, wide open blue sea – one currently unoccupied by your competitors and probably not even considered.

If Your Message Isn’t Relevant,
It’s Clutter

Sites are already using personalization “lite” to make copy more relevant, but more can and should be done. A watered down form of personalization isn’t enough because it still treats customers as segments – as a slightly smaller version of the aggregate rather than as a distinct being.

The more relevant your message is to each individual, the more likely you will be able to capture their attention and intrigue them enough to stick around, learn more about your solution, and take action. And it doesn’t have to be hard! Smart tools (ahem) are making it easier…

What are your thoughts about web personalization? Do you think it will make your site and its copy more relevant? How would you incorporate personalization into your marketing strategy? Comment below – and you could win a free month of Evergage for your startup!

* Note: I mentioned qualified visitor because you still want to promote your product / service to targeted visitors that are most likely to convert. You may have determined that you do not even want a certain kind of customer. You could go as far as saying you don’t want them, or just focus on the other visitor segments you’d love to convert.
About This Fab Author
Copy Personalization by Rob Carpenter of EvergageRob Carpenter is the Director of Marketing at Evergage, which recently released a free web personalization tool to help web businesses get more conversions through more relevant website copy. He writes on how to get more conversions at each stage of the customer lifecycle on the Evergage blog. Follow him on Twitter and sign up for the Evergage blog for more CRO content.

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About the author

Joanna Wiebe

Joanna Wiebe - Copywriter and author of "Copyhackers"

  • Silviya Dineva

    Thank you on the great article – it’s crucial and a recent research of mine – showed personalization must be embraced throughout the whole organization and supply chain to deliver a complimentary customer shopping journey from beginning to end. I will be happy to discuss even more on meCommerce 🙂

  • This gives me a ton to think about! It’s pretty amazing where we’re headed with personalization.

    Do you have some tips on how to write copy for each segment versus what works for the aggregate? I’m a little lost on where to start with that…

  • John Mignano

    Yes, great article and crucial topic. We’ve been focused on entire customer lifecycle (not just at the top of funnel) already noticed a huge spike in conversions and retention rates while using behavior-based, dynamic messaging on many of our sites. There’s a simple WP Greet Box for WordPress platform, which uses a personalisation plug-in to deliver a welcome message to first time users depending on their referrers. You definitely want to proactively test, target and fully utilise any specific tools which helps to effectively segment visitors in order to deliver personalised content and messages. The key is integrating with web analytics (ie, Google Analytics) for a truly amazing approach. Thanks for sharing…John

  • Wow! My head is spinning. As technology gets more and more sophisticated, the types of messaging and how it’s delivered becomes more involved. I’m really interested to look into Evergage and see what it does.

  • Fantastic examples of personalization and visitor retention. I’d love to introduce event based marketing to my site but I think it’s very specific in it’s usage unless you link it to festivals or the like…

    Joanna, you gotta convert this site to serve a responsive mode!! 🙂

    • Joanna Wiebe

      Does event-based marketing have to be about literal events (i.e., on a calendar) or about behaviors-as-events? Perhaps Evergage can chime in here…

      (It is responsive! Whatchu talkin’ ’bout?!)

      • You could definitely use web personalization to promote local “in real life” events to visitors coming in from those locations.. but in general, when people talk about “event-based marketing” (vs event marketing), they are talking about behavioral events within a web experience.

        For instance, if the visitor has been to X page and Y page, but haven’t downloaded XY ebook, then promote ebook. Or if they have downloaded the ebook, then promote the next stage in the customer lifecycle, like getting a demo.

        You will sometimes also hear people talking about “event-based marketing” in referring to event-driven emails. Emailing people – that you already have a contact for – based on their website or product behavior has definitely become popular over the past year or two, but the problem still lies with getting the contact information in the first place. This is where web personalization comes in.

        By responding to visitor behavior within your web experience in real-time, you are able to put the most relevant Call-to-Actions possible in front of them, while they are engaged with you (paying attention) and very likely boost conversion because of it.

      • That’s pretty insightful Rob. I hadn’t considered the pain point of getting the email address in the first place!

        Of course, so far I’ve been betting almost entirely on copy(thanks Joanna!) and some design ordered as a binary tree. Something like an If This Then That model…

        Obviously, I’m working on very limited data but your post has given me a TRUCKLOAD of ideas!

      • You’re right but you may want to peek at the header email opt-in on an Android. Looks a tad squished…

        Also, the type for mobile is a bit small…

  • Mark Halliday

    Very timely as we’re reworking our site content. Like the idea of word pictures; something we hadn’t thought of and could apply to make more relevant.

  • Rick Healey

    sweet, love all the examples. great post.

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