Website Personalization: What It Is and Why It’s Important for Site Performance

If you’re having a hard time converting your website visitors into paying customers, it may be time to consider personalizing the user experience.

All good business strategies take the preferences of their target group into account. After all, the success of every company depends on the willingness of potential customers to engage with the business either by buying a product, offering their contact information, signing up for a particular service, or completing another desired action. 

Think about your own experiences as a customer. How do you feel when a server waits until you’ve put down your menu to ask for your order? Or how about when a shopkeeper skips the polite chit-chat when you’re out with the kids? Even having someone address you by name can make you more willing to hear what they have to say. The key point behind all of these interactions is personalization. 

Successful businesses understand the importance of tailoring their processes to their clients. A cookie-cutter approach isn’t going to yield positive returns or high conversion rates. Customers want to feel like their wants, needs, and desires are being met before they think about spending money. The same is true online as it is offline. That’s why personalizing your website is crucial for overall site performance. 

 Here, we’ll explore the concept of website personalization, where you can implement the changes, how to decide what to modify, and some pitfalls you should avoid in the process. 

What Is Website Personalization?

Website personalization is the activity of creating personalized experiences for site visitors. Instead of taking a one-size-fits-all approach, website personalization seeks to include more customization. By focusing on the needs and wants of the target audience, each aspect of a site can be tailored and optimized for a unique experience and increase performance overall. 

Broad applications can make visitors feel misunderstood, alienated, and lost. With website personalization, site owners hope to bring the one-on-one attention experienced offline to an online setting. 

Personalized sites are dynamic, unique, and optimized for their target audience. By tracking and comparing important data about website visitors such as previous interactions, firmographics, demographics, site owners can determine what users like and dislike about the site. This information makes it possible to determine what content is relevant, and to whom. With this insight, sites can become a bespoke experience for visitors that creates meaningful and long-lasting connections. 

Where to Personalize Your Website

With so many moving parts to your website, it can be difficult to know where to start when implementing website personalization. While the goals for your site will inform this decision, there are some common aspects that all site owners can benefit from improving. Here are some areas you should consider personalizing. 

1. Featured Blog Posts 

The whole point of blog posts is to encourage people to visit your site by offering free and informative content related to your niche. With a great call-to-action at the end of each article and important links throughout, blogs are an effective way to convert readers into active customers. 


If you notice one blog post outperforming others in terms of conversion, you can personalize your homepage by promoting this article at the top of the page or in a suggestion box in the sidebar. The whole idea is to promote content that's more likely to catch the attention of your readers. Maybe your target demographic likes to see success stories, how-tos, or the inside scoop on the coolest products. 

2. Highlight Product Features 

Whether you're selling physical or digital products or offering a service, there are certain solutions or features that hit home with your target audience more than others. Instead of burying these highlights in dense descriptions or laundry lists of features, you should add website personalization to put these advantages front and center. 

This might come in the form of implementing featured products on your homepage, stylizing descriptions to draw a visitor's attention to the best features, or focusing on a key solution offered by a service or product that resonates most with people. Again, consulting key demographic information will increase the accuracy of these changes. 

3. Customer Reviews 

It’s tough to overstate the impact customer testimonials can have on converting visitors. According to Big Commerce, 92% of buyers consult online testimonials before making a purchase. Also, a whopping 72% of consumers said that positive reviews lead to an increase in their trust of a business. These reviews give your site social proof that really can't be gained through alternative efforts.

When visitors see others in their position have trusted your business and have had a great experience, their guards are down. Your company is seen as more relatable and credible. If you're offering an array of products and services, you can target a certain portion of your demographic with relevant testimonials to their industry, background, or other characteristics while showing another group with different preferences something else. These catered reviews are more impactful than just having generic reviews that might not resonate with everyone. 

How to Personalize Your Website 

Knowing where to personalize your site is only half the battle. Even the most creative and aesthetic changes could lead to poorer site performance or, at the very best, no change at all. You have to understand how to personalize to make a real difference. Here are two of the most important considerations to make when performing any form of website personalization: 

Base Changes on Your Target Audience

You should only take cues from your target audience when implementing changes for website personalization. It doesn’t matter what competitor sites are doing or what SEO gurus are preaching. Any site modification has a significantly greater chance of improving site performance if it’s made with regards to your target audience. How do you get this information without asking directly? There are a few places: 

  • Demographic information: Most content management systems and website platforms collect data about the people who visit your site. This collective data about users like age, gender, and location is known as demographic information. You can also develop this info on your own by creating an ideal customer profile which highlights some details about your target audience. No matter how you come across this information, its accuracy is paramount when it comes to website personalization. If it's trustworthy data, it's like the holy grail for basing further changes upon. 

  • Contextual information: This data provides important bits of information about how the person accessed your site. This includes how they found your site (whether it was through a search engine or a referral), what browser and device they used, and whether they're a unique or returning visitor. 

  • Behavioral data: One of the most important sources of information upon which to base your website personalization is known as behavior data. This refers to what your visitors do while on your site. Using this insight, you can craft your site like a maze that takes advantage of habitual visitor behavior to encourage them to take specific actions or visit particular pages.

Utilize Website KPIs to Track Performance

Not every change in the name of website personalization is going to hit the mark. Finding the best modifications requires a little troubleshooting. To accurately determine the success of these changes, you have to use some key performance indicators (KPIs). These metrics track important bits of information on your site that clearly illustrate its performance. Here are a few common KPIs that you'll probably use to track the impact of website personalization: 

  • Bounce rate: The percentage of people who leave your site after only visiting one page

  • Top landing pages: Which landing pages are performing the best 

  • Page speed: How quickly all contents on a page load

  • Unique visitors: The number of individual users who visit your site 

  • Average time on page: The average amount of time a user stays on a page

  • Goal completion: How many times a predetermined action is completed (product purchase, email sign-up, button click, etc.)

The specific KPIs you choose to track will be determined by what website personalization changes are made. For example, if you personalize your homepage to include a more customized greeting, you might track the bounce rate. If this KPI decreases, meaning more people are moving on to another page rather than leaving, this means the modification worked.  

Pitfalls of Personalization

Personalization has several advantages when it comes to improving your site’s overall performance. However, it’s important to consider the potential downsides this tinkering can have, too. It’s helpful to imagine the balance between design and performance on your site like a scale. If you make even a minor change to one, the other is most likely impacted in some way. Let’s take a look at two common pitfalls of personalization and how to overcome them. 

Reduction in Page Speed

Page speed, or the time it takes your site to load all of its contents, is a key factor in site performance. The longer it takes a page to load, the more visitors you’ll have leaving to visit other sites. All aspects of site design, including page layout, images, and font size impact your site’s page speed. When you make significant changes to your site for the purpose of web personalization, you might inadvertently harm your site’s page speed.  

This doesn’t mean you should avoid the changes altogether. Instead, it simply highlights the importance of testing page speed after even minor changes to your site. Pantheon’s Website Speed Test is a free and easy-to-use tool that can give you accurate results regarding your site’s load time. 

At the top, you’ll find a quick summary of your page’s overall speed performance


If you scroll down a bit further, you’ll find a more in-depth analysis with specific details. 

Too Much Information

Simplicity is always going to win out over complexity when it comes to site performance. With fewer elements on the page, your site will be able to load quicker and more seamlessly for visitors. Furthermore, people prefer a design that’s basic and functional rather than complex and showy. Website personalization sometimes requires some modifications that go above basic-level design, but you don’t want to get carried away with these changes. 

If you have too much content on your pages, for example, none of it will seem actionable to users. This confusion and frustration will lead to higher bounce rates. Ironically, many people end up achieving the exact opposite of what was intended with website personalization. The overused K.I.S.S. acronym isn’t a bad thing to keep in mind. Keeping personalization simple will accomplish the changes you desire without having a negative impact on user experience

Optimizing For the Wrong People

Whether you’ve just launched your new business, recently expanded, or ventured into a new market, it’s critical to have an accurate and up-to-date understanding of your target demographic. You should know as much about your ideal customer as possible, without stepping out of legal bounds, of course! One of the biggest mistakes site owners make with website personalization is optimizing for the wrong people. 

An outdated or poorly-performed assessment of your target demographic can end up rendering hours upon hours of work and multiple investments meaningless. After all, the only thing worse than a cookie-cutter site is one that’s optimized for a group that differs from your target audience. The efficacy of your personalization efforts are completely dependent upon the accuracy of this information, so it’s important to double or triple-check beforehand. 

You can’t start website personalization without accurate metrics, so plug your site’s URL into the Pantheon website speed test to get an accurate assessment of page speed. You’ll also find a host of other services aimed to help you achieve even the most ambitious site goals

Hero image by William Iven on Unsplash

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Topics Content, Testing & Optimization