The Intersection of Personalization, CRO, and SEO

Andy Crestodina is one of those rare kind of marketing minds – his cross-functional expertise about content, conversion rate optimization, and digital marketing is truly unmatched.

We connected with him to talk about website personalization, and to find out how YOU can optimize your e-commerce site to increase organic traffic, drive conversions, and keep your customers coming back.

Let’s get into it.

1. For a company that’s using its website as its primary vehicle to market and sell products to consumers (as opposed to having a bonafide brick-and-mortar presence), what will determine success vs. failure?

There is a chain of success criteria, each of which is make-or-break for a pure-play e-commerce company. If you’re familiar with the marketing funnel, this will look familiar.

  1. Attracting qualified visitors (SEO or advertising)
  2. Compel those visitors to add products to their cart (CRO)
  3. Get those visitors to check out (UX)
  4. Get the product to the customer (fulfillment)

Fail at any one of these, and you’ve lost. They are all critical, equally weighted, and very different from each other.

Attracting qualified visitors is either a matter of content and SEO or targeting and advertising. These are separate skills, but both involve careful planning and analysis.

For organic search, add content to your product category pages that answers specific questions. These tend to align well with key phrases.

For advertising, target lifestyle customers in social, where bored people hang out. But target urgency-driven customers in search, where busy people spend time!

Related Content: How CRM Ads Can Help You Retain More Customers

Fail at this and you’ll never sell anything. No visitors, no customers!

Compelling those visitors to add products to their cart is a matter of conversion optimization. Did the product pages answer all of the visitors questions? Was shipping and pricing information clear? What about the other common questions the visitors might have? Did we miss opportunities to indicate scarcity? “Only three left in stock!” “Order now to get it Monday!”

Or did we miss opportunities to leverage social proof? “Best seller!” “Top reviews…”

Fail at this and you’ll never sell anything. No carts, no customers!

Getting those visitors to check out is a matter of ease. Check your usability carefully. Is there any confusion? Or is everything easy? Does the site work well on the devices that your visitors are using? Try it using the browser and device that they are likely using.

Are there any opportunities to buff out the rough spots? Every bit of friction will cost you customers.

Fail at this and you’ll never sell anything. No check-out, no customers!

Getting the product to the customer is a matter of fulfillment. It’s time to live up to your promises. If the site connects well to your shipping and accounting software, the pick-and-pack process will be a snap. If the product is downloadable, make sure support is easy to reach and that team is ready to help.

Fail at this and you’ll never sell to that customer again. No fulfillment, no repeat customers!

2. What does a B2C brand’s homepage have to accomplish?

Homepages are difficult to design because they do so many jobs. It’s a weird page, so this is a great question.

Here are the top three goals for every B2C company’s homepage:

  1. Tell visitors they are in the right place

You have only a split second to let the visitors know where they are and remind them why they are visiting.

Only the super famous brands can get away with vague and general words and imagery. For the rest of us, we need to say what we do and show the product in use. Or show the service being delivered.

Good: A descriptive header (H1 tag) and pictures of the products in context, being used.

Bad: General benefit statements (“Live better!”) and lifestyle photos

  1. Add evidence that you’re legit

Almost immediately after showing what business you’re in, it’s time to start building credibility. Ratings, reviews, best sellers, top-rated, testimonials, certifications, awards, press mentions, endorsements, and logos of companies all help add social proof. These are all types of evidence that will lend credibility to your brand.

Good: The voices and faces of happy customers high on the page.

Bad: A lot of unsupported marketing claims (“We’re number one!”) that anyone can make.

  1. Get the visitor to go deeper

Now that visitors know what you do and how well you do it, the next goal is to get them to click – or “tap” if most of your visitors are on mobile.

If you have a big product catalog, it may be easiest for visitors to search. Make the search tool prominent. If you have a site with just a few products, use large visual buttons high on the page.

Either way, pay close attention to the verbs in these call-to-actions. “Search” is more explicit than a magnifying glass icon. “Browse all baby swings” is more explicit than a picture of a baby in a swing. Verbs are very important.

Good: Explicit, prominent calls-to-action with verbs

Bad: Big boxes for brand-focused content (Our Story, Values, and Mission) high on the page, forcing the visitor to scroll down to find what they came for.

Related Content: These items are from a much longer list of 15 things to add to your homepage. Use that checklist to see if you missed anything.

3. For an online shopper, what does a truly personalized experience feel like today? How do you think that’s going to change in the next 12-18 months?

It’s fast. There is less typing and more clicking. Landing pages show you just the things you are likely to want, based on everything that site knows about you. Fewer options means less visual noise and faster choices. This plays out in two big ways:

Laser-focused recommendations

Picked out a movie on Netflix lately? There are thousands to choose from, but you probably only considered a few dozen. It automatically filtered out the 99% of movies you probably didn’t want. That’s what the future of personalized shopping looks like.

Super-fast reordering

Ordered something on Amazon lately? Look how the options on your next visit have changed. The act of ordering again couldn’t be easier. For any product that is consumable, the act of getting more of it is so simple, it’s frightening.

The benefits of using website product recommendations and dynamic, AI-driven “reordering” correlate with higher conversion rates, and a greater percentage of visitors who buy. A visitor who sees the right product at the right time will buy it – that’s the purpose of the recommendation engine.

4. How can e-commerce or digital marketers most effectively leverage SEO practices to make their product listings, descriptions, UX, etc. more effective?

Some of the best SEO opportunities for e-commerce are on the product category pages. These pages are often easy to align with common key phrases that meet both criteria: not too competitive, and not too specific.

For example, an e-commerce website for swimwear may have a big catalog with several product categories and lots of product detail pages. One section might be for men and have categories for different styles of swimwear. In each category there might be a dozen or more products.

You can align a section with a key phrase, but these phrases are often too competitive. You have no chance of ranking. You can align a product page with a key phrase, but these phrases are too specific. No one is searching for them.

So the sitemap and hierarchy may look something like this:

  • Section “men’s swimwear” (too competitive)
    • Category “men’s swim trunks” (less competitive, more specific)
      • Product “Swimeroo Sunset Board shorts” (too specific)

The next trick is to make sure that you have room on these pages to add some copy and indicate relevance. If the product category page is just a big list of products, Google is unlikely to believe that it’s a great page for the topic.

In your templates for product category pages, give yourself room to add some copy. This could be a sentence or two at the top of the page under the header, and maybe a paragraph or two at the bottom of the page. If you’re not sure what to write, add quotes from top reviews… with key phrases of course!

Related Content: 3 Guaranteed Ways to Increase Conversions with a Customer-Focused E-Commerce Hub

In a lot of industries, it isn’t enough to optimize these pages. To rank for “men’s swim trunks,” you’ll need to have some authority. That means a credible website with links from other sites. The value of link building can’t be understated! But let’s be honest – very few people are ever going to link to your product catalog.

Here’s where content marketing comes in.

A content marketing program will create the links and authority that lead to ranking. Build a set of articles that focus on the related topics: swim fitness routines, swim trunk sizing guide, or how to care for your goggles, for instance. Each of these articles can link to the product catalog, passing some authority along.

Image source

A well-optimized e-commerce website has a search optimized catalog (focus on those category pages) and a search optimized blog (build up that internally-linked related content).

Final Thoughts

The promise of AI manifests in the customer experience. Personalizing your website has numerous benefits including:

  • Allowing visitors to get an experience fine-tuned for them, catered to their preferences
  • Providing customized content and messaging, most likely to convert individuals
  • Helping customers find what they want and find it faster

These outward results make personalization necessary, and AI marketing well worth the investment to get there. Optimize the content on your e-commerce website for search, conversion, and personalization, and sell more, retain more customers, and drive real results.


Big thanks to Andy for his time and willingness to provide his insights for this piece.

Andy CrestodinaAndy Crestodina is a cofounder and the strategic director of Orbit Media Studios, an award-winning web design company, which has completed more than 1,000 successful website projects. He is a top-rated speaker at national conferences who is dedicated to the teaching of marketing. His favorite topics include search engine optimization, social media, analytics, and content strategy. He has written more than 100 articles on content marketing topics. He lives in Chicago.

Connect with Andy: LinkedIn @crestodinaOrbit Media

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