Whether online shop, portal or news site – websites automatically personalize their content in order to offer their visitors exactly what they are looking for. But what do companies have to consider so that personalization also has a positive effect on search engine optimization?
Experts see the automated personalization of content as an important trend in online marketing . If websites only display the information and products that are particularly relevant for the respective visitor, this significantly increases both the conversion rate and user metrics – for example the duration of a visit or the number of pages viewed per visit. Amazon provides a good example of successful content personalization: The website evaluates user data so extensively that it can display precisely those products based on previous page views that are most likely relevant to the visitor.
But not only the industry leader Amazon is customizing its content based on user data. Since the costs of attracting (new) visitors are rising sharply, it is obvious that the shop operators attach a corresponding relevance to the conversion optimization and “pick up” the visitor in the conversion funnel in good time – that is, a “funnel” of conversion elements, which the Ultimately, it aims to guide website visitors to purchase.
The possibilities of automatic personalization are enormous. But how exactly should companies implement this technically so that it has a positive effect on search engine rankings?
Personalization versus cloaking
In its quality guidelines, Google warns site operators against providing their visitors with different content or URLs than the search engine crawlers – a technique known as cloaking. Google’s negative attitude towards cloaking can be traced back to the early days of search engines, when website owners used this technique primarily as a means of deception.
At that time, websites gave search engines content for one reason only: to signal relevance for certain search terms and achieve good rankings accordingly. However, if a user clicked on the page, they saw completely different content – for example, content that was much less relevant, but wanted to push the purchase process with much stronger conversion elements. It is understandable that this form of misleading can neither be in Google’s sense nor in that of the user.
From a technical point of view, however, the suspicion of cloaking can also arise with individualized content. However, Google emphasizes that websites are primarily intended for users and not for search engines, so that personalized content makes perfect sense from the user’s point of view if well implemented.
The SEO- friendly personalization
Google itself therefore tries to take the fear of such a possible cloaking suspicion from website operators without malicious intent. Ultimately, they just shouldn’t show the Googlebot any content specifically aimed at it – and that’s exactly the case with typical content personalization.
In order to ensure that the individualization of content does not have a negative effect on the search results – i.e. there is no suspicion of cloaking – the content of a website should only be so highly individualized that personalized product content and static page content are in a balanced relationship to one another.
A fashion shop that is relevant to search terms such as “buy shoes” due to its content should therefore not only show shirts, but above all a suitable selection of shoes. Important: Content personalization when logged in has no relevance to search engine optimization, as the bots cannot read it.
No impact on SEO
Cookies are used, for example, to save which shop categories a visitor has called up during their previous visits. Even if Google could technically use these cookies, the search engine does not use them because this would significantly falsify the crawling results.
How customization influences SEO: length of stay and bounce rate
The technical implementation of automated personalization in relation to SEO is therefore all about avoiding errors that could negatively affect the ranking. However, the SEO can also be improved with the individualization of content.
The user metrics also ensure good rankings – in particular the bounce rate and the duration of visits per page view. The lower the bounce rate and the longer the dwell time on a page, the more relevant a website is for a certain search term according to Google’s algorithms – after all, previous visitors seem to have found exactly the content they expected.
The better the automatic personalization and the more relevant the content is for the page visitor, the greater the likelihood that the user will navigate the page and not jump off directly. Not only online shops can use this – for example, by showing users the categories they have prioritized. News sites can also benefit from the possibilities. For example, by showing their readers only the posts that have been added since their last visit.
In order to increase the length of time a visitor stays on a page, website operators can show returning users not only the articles they are looking for but also further information. For example, if a user searches for “apps for smartphones” and has previously selected a lot of content on the topic of “Apple iPhone” on the same page, the assumption is that he is looking for apps for his iPhone despite his rather unspecific search query. Online shops can also offer their visitors refill materials or add-ons for products that have already been purchased, for example, or present inexpensive upgrades for purchased software.
Of course, websites and the corresponding solutions can only achieve these effects if a user has already visited the website several times and his interests have been evaluated accordingly. Only through the history of a user does a website operator know which categories, products or articles are particularly relevant to him.
Those who stick to a few rules of the game with automated content personalization and avoid suspicion of cloaking do not have to fear any penalties with regard to SEO. On the other hand, there are opportunities for optimization through the individualization of the user metrics, length of stay and bounce rates, which as Google ranking criteria increase the relevance of a website with regard to certain keywords. In this way, personalized content can help websites rank well in search results.