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Avoid these 5 common errors when you test and personalize content in Sitecore

Marketing Analyst, Marketing Science & Applied Analytics Practice

November 10, 2017

Sitecore XP allows content authors to easily optimize their website through content testing and personalization. When approached correctly, this optimization can result in increased conversions and operational efficiencies. However, if not approached correctly, this attempt at optimization can be the source of pain and anxiety.

If you find yourself relating to the latter, read on to make sure you have not fallen victim to the top five errors that can negatively impact your optimization efforts.

1. No plan

You’re on a road trip, driving to a new destination. You didn’t look up the directions because “you know where you’re going.” Next thing you know, you’re lost and unsure how you got here in the first place. This is a common malpractice when embarking upon an optimization journey: starting before you even know where you’re going.

Tools like Sitecore XP make content testing and personalization simple to execute. While the ease and speed may be alluring to both you and your boss, it’s important to pause and answer some crucial questions before embarking upon this optimization journey.

Before you even begin to think about what type of tests you want to run, ask yourself this: what are my business objectives? Is it to increase brand awareness? Improve sales? Once you have established your business objectives your testing will become far more targeted and refined.

The next question you must ask yourself is: what does success look like? Test results and metrics are only useful when there has been an expectation and goal is established. Collecting data and results with no expectations gives no indication how successful (or not successful) a test was.

Your time is valuable, make sure you use it effectively by looking up your route before you hit the road.

2. Testing body content

The SEO health of a website is crucial to its success in today’s online marketplace. While perhaps seemingly harmless on the surface, testing the body of a blog post or content piece on your website can negatively impact your website’s SEO ranking. When you run a test on the body of a page, you run the risk of Googlebot crawling and saving the temporary version of that page, rather than its original intent. This will impact what searches your website appears for, and the page relevancy compared to the search term. If the query and page do not align due to the temporary version being saved, your SEO health will suffer.

Focus on areas such as the banner or related links to personalize the experience for your users.

3. Traffic doesn’t justify the test

The purpose of website optimization is to conduct a series of quick, impactful tests. Running tests on all of your pages is a fruitless exercise, as it takes a long time for relevant data to collect, and may not impact how your users interact with your website.

Instead, when considering testing a page ask yourself: does the traffic to this area warrant a test? Then, validate your answer using a tool like Google Analytics or Sitecore Analytics.

When looking for a page to test look for pages that have high traffic, but low conversions. These are ripe for optimization with the volume of traffic that will provide you with quick, substantial insights.

4. Offerings do not differ enough

Personalizing your website’s content can boost website engagement for a target audience. However, over-personalizing can be detrimental to your efforts, and produce lackluster results. Too granular of a target audience can often times generate low traffic because the audience is too specific. Other times, this granularity siphons your audience into multiple categories, when one larger would be sufficient. In these instances, your results may begin to look repetitive, because you are unknowingly running a multitude of experiments for nearly identical audiences.

It is important to identify your target audiences and ask yourself: do your audiences’ web activities drastically differ from one another? If you find them to be redundant (i.e. visiting the same types of pages), create a larger segment to personalize to. Also note that marketing personas may actually be the same web personas. Personalize according to web activities and don’t over-personalize.

5. Interpreting negative results as failure

Not all tests will render positive results, and that is ok! Getting into the routine of continual optimization means that your organization will be able to find quick wins as well as quick fixes. Each test will provide insight into your audience, user behaviours, and happenings on your websites. As long as each experiment ties back to a business objective, there are learnings to be had, and ways to improve upon the experience to best achieve your organizational goals. Web optimization through content testing and personalization is a journey. Be open to positive and negative results and let them help inform your next steps.

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