Retailers have found that personalization helps out a whole lot in terms of creating closer engagement with customers, earning brand loyalty and converting browsers to buyers. Consumer choices are increasingly driven by those “haven’t we met before” moments, laid out like breadcrumbs via responsive design and other personalization practices. But applying personalization to improve search engine ranking? Sound like a bit of a stretch? You aren’t alone. Being able to connect how personalization helps increase SEO requires broadening the way you think about that word.
Ask someone to define personalization within an e-commerce setting and they’ll likely tell you something similar to it’s making the product or experience “more about them.”
A true statement indeed. Calling someone back to an abandoned shopping cart with the offer of free shipping is one example of personalizing the customer experience—so is recommending the right accessories for the Chromebook they just clicked on or reminding them of the wish list they created when their birthday rolls around. But personalization takes on a whole new meaning when you look at what’s happening in parallel to these activities from a search engine standpoint. Consider this:
Student A does a search for “backpacks.” This brings broad results (over 100M sites in fact) ranging from retailers who sell everything including backpacks, to sporting goods and outdoor stores, to specialty shops selling nothing but backpacks.
Student B performs a similar search, only they are looking for a backpack they can fit their laptop in as well as their skateboard. They search “backpack, laptop, skateboard.” The results are going to be narrower right? Right. Only about 1.4M results this time. The first page results include retailers specific to the skater lifestyle while a nationally branded sporting goods store is relegated to the second page.
What’s happening in the way of personalization and SEO here? Searches done using long-tail keywords (three and four keyword phrases very specific to the item searched) versus a single search term or two, pulls retailers with matching keywords to the top of the page. So why isn’t everyone doing it? It isn’t that easy for retailers to match long-tail keywords organically. In fact, it’s quite impossible. A keyword tool search of the word “backpack” comes up with over 45k long-tail search options. Yet savvy retailers are able to claim high-value SEO real estate by letting the personalization process of their recommendation engines do the hard work for them.
This from a recent Forbes article titled Recommendation Engines: Why We Love Big Data:
“The two main industries that at this moment benefit strongly from recommendation engines are the retail industry and the media industry because both have a lot of data in the long tail.”
As customers search recommendation-engine-driven retail sites for products they have in mind, more and more unique, relevant keyword combinations—more long-tail keywords—are produced and recorded. These highly-specific search phrases, in turn, continually mirror every possible combination of keywords that future shoppers might use, earning your site traffic on these long-tail keywords above everyone else.
Not only can product recommendations for retail bring users who win the long-tail search lottery to your site, they can bring people to you who haven’t yet realized what they want or that you can deliver it.
So yes, personalization really does help increase SEO when you take a step back and realize the enormous, exponential link-building process created between man and machine. As a result of personalization through recommendations of every size, shape and color, better personalization performance can be realized through improved SEO. But before you conclude that this SEO tactic represents nothing more to customers than cold, unfeeling algorithms at work, think again. When they type in three or four words that mean something to them and your brand is one of the first they see, that’s relevance. And being relevant to a consumer’s search means you recognize who they are and what they want. And that, in terms of upping SEO, is all the familiarity you need.
Find out how Strands Retail can help you maximize personalization: