Digital Marketing Bradley Hearn By Erin Quist (LiftIgniter)

[Guest Blog] Make More Money With Website Recommendations

Today, the online market is saturated with content and products. There are more articles to read and products to browse than at any other time in digital history. And that means consumers have the freedom to be extremely selective about the content they search for, read and purchase. 

For content providers and retailers alike, personalization is key. Specifically, sections that provide an opportunity for product discovery must keep users engaged. If website owners do not maximize these sections, users will keep looking elsewhere. 

Website recommendations present a challenge that is not easily solved. Almost all visitors want to see more products or articles related to what they are researching at that very moment.  Every digital company knows that optimization is important, but very few companies know how to implement website recommendations effectively. 

While any optimization is better than nothing, the most successful ventures will be the ones who leverage the right personalization engine. 

Good recommendations on your site can drive performance both before and during site visits in a sustainable and scalable way. To drive excellent site performance, you must first understand how content recommendations can affect search engine optimization (SEO). 

Without putting thought into your recommended content, you’re missing out on a huge amount of traffic. 

SEO is the process of enhancing your content to rank higher in the search result page. However, many website owners don’t consider how that area with suggested items may affect rankings on certain web pages. On content pages, these areas live mid-article, on the right rail or at the bottom of the page. On product detail pages, these areas are usually located on the right or below the information about the product itself.

There are two major ranking factors when considering how to display suggested items within your webpages. The first ranking factor is the load time of the webpage, including the load time of more suggested items. If the page does not load quickly and completely, a web crawler does not evaluate the entire contents of the page. 

The second and less obvious ranking factor suggests that this region should include URLs on the same domain. If the suggested items redirect to another site, you will not be providing internal links to the additional items. Internal link building demonstrates the relevance of different parts of your website to a search engine.

Be careful to choose a tool that helps you rank in your desired search queries. Many third-party personalization tools take far too long to load.  Even more tools use redirects that briefly send the user away from your domain. If you ignore these two issues, your website will miss a significant amount of traffic, due to poor page SEO.

Unlike other tools, LiftIgniter can help you improve both load time and redirect issues.  Our website recommendations load in under 150 milliseconds. Our URLs are treated as internal links, so they link properly and directly to other parts of your site.

Not surprisingly, SEO specialists often become our best champions. In their eyes, we have helped to transform an otherwise blank spot into an indexable section.

But, even if the search engine optimization has improved, you have only solved part of the equation. Once visitors have landed on your web pages, you have to keep their attention. 

Consumer browsing behavior has changed. 

Every day, the world generates more and more data, which translates to more and more competing content vying for consumers’ attention. 

Through social media, pay per click and organic traffic, your hard-earned traffic oftentimes leaves after browsing just one page.  Attention spans continue to grow shorter and shorter, and bounce rates continue to increase. Website owners need to worry about how to stop users from leaving.  

To keep your traffic on the site using additional content, provide visitors a strong call to action, like, “Recommended for you.” Ensure the placement of this area is above the fold. Most importantly, provide a highly customized user experience from that very first moment.   

To do this, you may assign an editor to curate lists, or to select good related content on a regular basis. You might also try to create a complex set of relationships and rules around potentially related content. If you set up complex rules, you will spend countless hours editing and adding meta tags on each piece of content. 

These tactics are all a good start, and anything is better than nothing — but better technology exists. These tactics are time-consuming and prone to human error, and may not always keep your visitors engaged. Without the help of a third-party personalization engine, you’re likely missing out on essential consumer interaction. 

The right personalization engine keeps buyers on your site longer, which inherently boosts revenue. 

For example, a visitor is viewing a San Francisco Giants hat on your site. Because you are trying to keep your users engaged, the page shows other SF Giants gear. You have done the work to only show merchandise from the same team to try to improve the user experience.

Your human intuition is telling you that most people are looking for team merchandise, and you might be correct. 

However, maybe the visitor is shopping for her two sons. The visitor may have one son who loves the Giants and one son who is a Dodgers fan. Or, maybe the visitor is interested in the orange color and the team logo is secondary. 

In either case, the predetermined rule has made an assumption that might be incorrect. The set of suggested products may miss out on further browsing and purchasing opportunities.

Here’s another example: A visitor goes to your site, where you sell both male and female fashion.  This shopper usually buys men’s clothing, but this time he is buying a gift for his wife. 

If you factor in his past buying history too heavily, the website might display only men’s clothing.  If you use other third-party methods to figure out he is male, the website might display only men’s clothing. He will only be shown the correct items if you factor in his current browsing history.

To keep visitors browsing for longer, the right system needs to leverage the buyer’s current behavior. Longer browsing time translates to increased revenue. 

If you use current behavior instead of past purchase history, you gain another benefit as well.  You can tailor these recommendations to your users without requiring them to log in. Research has found that login prompts encourage casual browsers to leave. If you leverage the current visit to improve the user’s experience, you won’t have to force them to sign in too early in the process.

Think beyond that first visit.

When it comes to connecting with a consumer, so many moving pieces need to fit together just right. Help guide your site visitors through a journey that starts and ends on your website. Focus on how you suggest more web pages to improve traffic, and listen to what your customers want by customizing the user experience. If those visitors feel understood, they’ll come back time and time again.

Blog post by Erin Quist, VP of Global Sales and Marketing, LiftIgniter