Laura Harkness

Web Optimization: 3 considerations for testing personalized webpage content

January 31st, 2014

Content personalization is perhaps one of the fastest-growing optimization tools, enabling formerly static websites to segment visitors and deliver a more personalized message to optimize conversion.

With social media providing more data than ever about customers, online marketers can cleverly deliver a message.

Personalized messages are delivered through various audience segments, built according to customer data pulled from the user’s cookie. When a user with a qualifying cookie visits a page, their cookie will trigger the display of a more personalized message.

When effectively designed and utilized, this personalized page may closely match customer motivation, resulting in a higher conversion rate.

Recently, one of our Research Partners, a large mobile network carrier, challenged us with designing a test that would allow them to compare the performance of 10 personalized audience segments against a control.

Our Partner presented the question, “Does a personalized version of our webpage increase the chances of conversion?” Although it sounded like a simple task, we learned that there are many pitfalls when testing multiple personas.

Here are three considerations to keep in mind when designing your test for personalized webpage content.


Account for an overlap in personas or prepare for duplicated data

When designing personas for your webpage, it is important to remember there is no one-size-fits-all audience segment. There will inevitably be some overlap because we humans typically don’t fit into one box that defines us.

Our Partner’s test included segments ranging from DIYers, bookworms, the upwardly mobile and gift givers. But what if I am an upwardly mobile individual with a love of books, home repair and gift giving?

Which page will I see, and how will you know?

Another contributor to overlapped personas will be shared devices. It is important to remember we are only capable of evaluating visitors’ cookies, not the visitor personally. If the visitor’s device is shared with others who each fit into vastly different audience segments, we may not be able to accurately segment the visitor into the correct category.

To combat this challenge, we set up our test so our audience segments were mutually exclusive. This meant that only users qualifying for one segment were taken to a treatment, and any user qualifying for multiple segments were taken to the control.

However, this approach will inevitably result in less traffic to each persona. Keep this in mind when selecting the number of segments your test should have.


Utilize a control for each persona and persona aggregates

Although our main question was simply whether a personalized version of our webpage increased conversion, there were many more ways we could compare the data.

Through setting up corresponding controls for each audience segment rather than the segments as an aggregate, we could not only determine how personalized pages performed in general, but specifically how each segment performed individually.

By adopting this method, your test will allow you to answer the following questions about your personalized pages:

  • Did the visitors qualifying for a personalized page (i.e., have qualifying cookie information for any audience segment) convert higher than those visitors with no qualifying data or had disabled cookies?
  • Did the aggregate of visitors directed to a personalized page have a higher conversion rate than the aggregate of visitors qualifying for a personalized page, but were directed to the control page?
  • Within the visitors qualifying for the same particular audience segment, did the personalized or control page perform better?
  • Did one specific audience segment have a higher conversion rate than another audience segment?

Transfer your findings back to your online marketing efforts

Through tracking and testing personalized pages, you now have information about your visitors that could prove to be invaluable for your online marketing campaigns.

By tracking visitor data, you will learn what quantities of each audience segment are actually visiting your page, and which audience segments are converting at a higher rate.

This information can help you determine not only which audience segments your marketing is currently reaching, but where your future advertising dollars will have the highest impact.

Feel free to share your thoughts on content personalization in the comments below, or if you have a success story in website optimization that could help fellow marketers improve their online marketing, we’d love to hear more from you at Web Optimization Summit 2014.


You may also like

A/B Testing: Optimizing calls-to-action for maximum conversions [Video]

E-commerce: A/B split test produces 36% more cart completions [More from the blogs]

E-commerce: Moving beyond shopping cart abandonment nets 65% more checkout conversions [Case study]

Laura Harkness

About Laura Harkness

Laura Harkness, Research Manager, MECLABS As a member of the MECLABS research team, Laura is responsible for multiple projects for a Fortune 20 wireless company. Before MECLABS, Laura worked as a public relations and marketing manager, and clerked for several law firms. Laura holds her B.S. in hospitality management from the University of Central Florida, and a J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law, where she specialized in legal research and writing. In her spare time, Laura enjoys tennis, days at the beach, playing classical piano and playing with her Wheaten Terrier, Maggie.

Categories: Marketing Tags: , , , , ,

We no longer accept comments on the MarketingSherpa blog, but we'd love to hear what you've learned about customer-first marketing. Send us a Letter to the Editor to share your story.