How (and Why) to Personalize Content on the Web

Targeting and Personalization


According to Forrester research, your audience will consume around three pieces of content on your website for every one piece you can realistically complete and deliver. This shouldn’t be much of a surprise — creating content is a big investment of resources, and if your audience is spending a healthy amount of time on your site, you want them to consume your  content.

So let’s assume that you, as a marketer, have a finite volume of content that you can create. Your challenge is to make the most of that content, continually putting the most relevant content in front of each visitor to your website. And as we explore in our new ebook, Web Personalization 101, that’s where personalization tools come in.

Personalization and Content Marketing

First of all, what is “personalization”? The term can be slightly nebulous, but we define personalization as such: the dynamic creation of personalized, highly relevant content for your buyers. You can personalize your email campaigns, your can personalize your display ads, you can personalize in-person events…In short, any time that you’re creating an experience that is specifically relevant to a specific buyer, that’s a form of personalization. But one of the biggest use cases for personalization is on your website.

And when it comes to personalizing content on your website, personalization tools can help in two ways:

  1. You can personalize which content you offer or recommend to website visitors
  2. You can personalize different elements of a single piece content — in other words, show one version of an asset to one type of website visitor, and a second version to another

Content Recommendation

Content recommendation is one of the simplest ways to use web personalization tools. This works best if you already have some great content in your arsenal.

Sophisticated personalization software can push the content your visitor is most likely to be interested in, based on their profile and interests. First, here’s what these tools can detect about your visitors:

  • Firmographics: Place of work, size of company, company revenue, industry
  • Behaviors: Product interest, buying history, site browsing history, number of visits to your site, search terms used, price sensitivity
  • Geo-location (down to the zip code)

Once these tools have profiled each visitor, based on those attributes, they will offer a piece of content and track how the visitor reacts. For example, the CEO of a software company might see one call-to-action at the bottom of a blog post, while the CEO of a healthcare company (reading the same blog post) sees another.

Next, advanced personalization software can monitor which segments respond best to each piece of content, and adjust accordingly. The tools can then match subsequent visitor profiles to the demonstrated  preferences of previous visitors with similar profiles, increasing the offering’s relevance. In essence, your existing content works overtime for you.

Content Attributes

Personalization tools can also mix and match existing content attributes, such as offers, images, or even copy. In doing so, you create multiple “experiences” of a single content piece. You can swap out the header, logos, or even the images you present – in the example we just discussed, you might show the software CEO an image of a computer, and the healthcare CEO an image of a doctor.

To see how this looks is action, here are two versions of Marketo’s home page. The first version is shown to visitors not identified as Marketo customers:

marketo personalized website homepage prospects

The second version on is shown to visitors who are current customers:
marketo personalized website homepage customers

As you can see, the bottom row of buttons dynamically changes – potential customers see a “Free Trial” option in the navigation bar, while current customers have the opportunity to “Log In” directly to the product or register for upcoming customer events.

Of course, this is just one example of website personalization. Want to see a few more? Download our new ebook, Web Personalization 101, and let us know what you think in the comments below.

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