Being in the zone is a great feeling. If we’re talking about content, being in the zone means gorging yourself on material that interests you and avoiding everything that doesn’t. That’s what consumers want—especially in an age of scattered attention, lots of noise and seemingly endless content. Luckily, we can oblige them through content personalization, which means tailoring content to your audience based on what you know about them. Content personalization creates more relevant experiences for your customers, keeps them engaged, and ultimately helps your bottom line.

A study by Janrain found that 74% of consumers get frustrated when website content doesn’t fit their interests. If we stop to think about it, that statistic isn’t surprising at all. Imagine if you were looking for tennis content but were sent to a website about golf. It’s frustrating because it’s simply not what you wanted. Content personalization transforms your marketing from tone-deaf attempts on your audience’s attention to laser-focused communication that is exactly what your customers needed.

What is content personalization?

Let’s say you’re flipping through channels on TV. Most channels aren’t showing something you want to watch, so you skip them. But eventually you come across a channel showing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. You, a Harry Potter fan, have hit the jackpot, so you microwave a bag of popcorn and settle in.

Let’s also say that after you’ve watched Deathly Hallows, someone could wave a wand and instantly arrange for more Harry Potter material to be shown on your TV—content like movies, interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, deleted scenes and more. That’s an example of content personalization. As a result of this personalization, you end up watching more TV and have a lot more fun doing so. The concept applies elsewhere, too.

Content personalization is all the rage online. Here are a few web-based uses of content personalization:

  • Your email software shows that one of your subscribers opens 100% of your emails about pandas and none of your emails about lions. Now, through segmentation, you can start sending them more panda-related emails.
  • You get a lot of traffic from two sources: a fashion website and a surfing website. For a big article you’re about to release about your new clothing product, you might write two versions: one for the fashion enthusiasts talking about how stylish your clothes are, and another for the surfing aficionados discussing how your clothes will heighten their experience at the beach and in the water.
  • By default, the website of your B2B business—a CRM platform—offers each visitor an e-book explaining why every brand needs a CRM. If a visitor downloads the e-book, on their subsequent visit to your website they will be offered a case study describing how you helped other businesses achieve results with your CRM solution.

In each example, there was a piece of information known about the audience and a resulting content tweak to make the experience better:

  • In the first example, our data tells us the subscriber likes pandas … so we can keep them interested with more panda emails and less lion emails.
  • In the second example, we’ll know whether a visitor arrives from the fashion website or the surfing website, so we can adapt our article to show how our product fits their lifestyle.
  • In the third example, we know whether the visitor has downloaded the e-book … so we’ll know when to offer them new content instead of showing them the same material again.

Why content personalization matters

There’s so much content out there these days, and much of it comes in the form of bombardment and other unwelcome methods (pre-roll, flashy banners, etc.). We want to see content that interests us and forget about everything that doesn’t. That’s why content personalization matters. Personalization is a strategy that puts only the good stuff in front of your audience and saves them from wading through the sludge.

Perhaps the best part about content personalization is that it works. Nurturing leads with targeted content has been shown to increase sales by as much as 20 percent. And in CMO Council’s June 2015 survey, the majority of senior marketers polled said deploying personalized content resulted in higher audience engagement. Plus, it’s no secret that personalization algorithms, like those from Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook, delight consumers around the world and keep them coming back.

How to get started with content personalization

If you’re just starting out, begin slowly and take baby steps. Above all, keep in mind your guiding philosophy: Creating more relevant content for your customers will ultimately lead to more business.

Personalize your email

The first place you might want to start is personalizing your email list. If you have 10,000 email subscribers and are still shooting out email blasts, segmenting is a great idea. Different groups within your list will enjoy different types of content, so personalizing your email list will help you better connect with different demographics. Try these on for size:

  • Segment based on engagement. Use your email marketing platform to see who’s active and inactive on your list (e.g., who’s opening your emails, clicking on your email links.) You could reward active subscribers with coupons and discounts. Shoot some love to your inactive subscribers too: Consider sending them re-engagement campaigns to bring them back into the fold.
  • Personalize subject lines. According to Campaign Monitor, personalizing subject lines makes it 26 percent more likely emails will be opened. To get started with subject-line personalization, you may want to segment your audience based on where they opted in from, what website pages they’ve interacted with, etc.

Personalize your web content

After you’ve taken a look at your emails, think about how portions of your website might benefit from personalization. Consider these suggestions on where to start:

  • Suggest relevant blog content for your readers. It’s always a good thing when customers are spending lots of time on your website. One way you can make that happen is by keeping them interested with personalized blog recommendations. Check out software like Gravity and Boomtrain for a bit of help setting this up.
  • Personalize your website pages. You can change how your website looks to different visitors. Depending on who found your website, you can highlight different content based on what might resonate with their demographic. For example, if a rock climber visited your website, you could show them homepage slider images of climbers and tweak your CTAs to appeal to their adventurous side. Consider software like Evergage and Optimizely for some help.
  • Personalize based on channel. We’ve just talked about personalizing email and on-page experiences. But how about personalizing on social media? (Services like HubSpot can help.) Also, mobile is going to be a powerhouse platform for the foreseeable future, so personalizing for it is a smart choice.
  • Slice and dice your audience. What important segments can you see in your audience? Attributes like gender, location and age are good places to start. You can also personalize based on data like referral source and behavior on your website.

One great way to personalize is through Facebook and Instagram ads. Download our free guide to learn how to reach new audiences with higher intent to buy products and optimize ads with more efficient imagery.