Search engine optimization (SEO) is an essential marketing activity to ensure long-term business success for your website and one of the best investments you can make besides building the website itself. Luckily, despite any initial concerns that the dynamic nature of personalization would complicate SEO and site crawlability, the two can be designed to work in harmony. This article outlines how that can be done.
What is the Value of Personalization?
Personalization on websites is the key to continued growth for businesses online today.
With more businesses adding touches of personalization throughout their websites, customers are getting used to the idea of a personalized experience. In fact, customers even expect it with 91% saying they're more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations.
Does Personalization Fit Into Your SEO Strategy?
You might now wonder: how do I create harmony with my overall SEO strategy and digital marketing efforts and how does that play into online growth? If set up correctly, website personalization will have little to no impact on search rankings performance, and in some cases may have a positive impact. Taking the time to integrate these two efforts from the start is a worthwhile venture.
What Are Some SEO Challenges When Personalizing?
While the benefits of personalization can include improving the customer experience, gaining visitor information, and indirectly increasing search engine traffic, there are four additional areas to consider before moving forward with your strategy. We've outlined these areas of consideration and our team's perspectives:
According to Eric Markson, Optimizely OMVP, “what happens with SEO is that the bots only crawl whatever is set as the "default experience.” This makes it easy to know what to expect and what Google and other search engines will be looking at.
Recommendation: If the canonical tag is set up correctly to point to the “default” version of the page, then the search engines should crawl and index the canonical version of the page. This setup allows you to create experiments and personalize other versions of the page beyond the canonicalized version.
2. Site Speed
As all SEOs know, Page Speed is a Google Ranking Factor, and sometimes scripts can negatively impact load time.
Recommendation: Most products have resources available to guide you and your development team in implementing your tools in whichever way provides the best performance. For Optimizely's Web Experimentation product, that instance would be to execute so that Optimizely's front-end loads synchronously. Sitecore Personalize also loads similarly. However, these are not universal truths and you should check with your development team.
When personalizing a page, be sure not to add too many components, as this could potentially slow down overall page speed due to the number of resources involved in loading personalized modules.
Cloaking is the act of creating two versions of the same page, one for humans and one for the search engines like Google. News and specialized content websites use advanced techniques like using a user’s IP address to show them a different version of a website with personalized content relevant to their part of the world. This is considered an acceptable cloaking practice, as the goal is to provide a better experience to the end user.
Recommendation: According to Rick Cabral, Sitecore MVP, you want to “make sure you’re not showing Google something different from your visitors,” as the page for Google and the page for users should be as similar as possible, minus the personalization bits. This would score poorly with Google, which is why different content resulting in cloaking is not recommended.
Duplicate content is content available on multiple pages across the web. While you can’t necessarily control what others do on their pages, you can control the content on your pages and recommend to the search engines which pages to index across your site. A canonical tag is a simple way to recommend to the search engines to index one page rather than another page that may have similar content.
Recommendation: Add canonical tags where applicable and recommend pages the search engines should index to cut down on duplicate content issues.
Once you're ready to initiate your website personalization strategy, make sure to incorporate conversations around the challenges above and utilize the recommendations provided to ensure negative SEO consequences don't occur in your personalized user experience.
If you're looking for a partner to help with your SEO, Personalization, or general website, Verndale would be happy to discuss some options. Contact us today to learn more!