Most websites neglect regular users. Imagine that in real life: the corner store owner across the street where you live who sells you a bagel each day doesn’t recognize you while he slams the door open and screams “hey mister, best bagels in town, buy here” each time a car passes.
That’s the sad reality of the Web now: most sites are catering to volatile search and social media traffic while they take returning visitors for granted and don’t care.
Another problem is how you arrive at a venue. Whether you’re a pedestrian, a cyclist or a car driver the store owner doesn’t care. The parking space is small or big enough for all customers even those driving tank-live SUVs. That’s enough of responsive design isn’t it?
The store-owner attempts to sell the same bargain to all of them, the extra large beer cases.
The teenage boy who walks in the store can’t buy them for legal reasons. The cyclist who’s training right now prefers something healthy without alcohol while the car driver feels tempted to drink while driving when there is beer around so he doesn’t buy it either.
What the heck is segmentation?
The solution for these and other similar problems sounds scary but is indeed easy by now: it’s called segmentation. I also like to call that responsive SEO. What does it mean? Adapting your website on the fly depending on what visitors arrive. I will show how it can work for sites using WordPress, Google Analytics and the SiteApps WP plugin. This way giving mobile, returning and known visitors what they want is a mere child’s play.
Responsive design vs responsive SEO
You have probably experienced responsive web design already. Sites that miraculously resize and move their content around when you visit them using a smartphone or tablet. By now not only user experience professionals argue that you also need to adapt the kind of content served for each user. For example someone on the move using a mobile phone might require different information than someone using a home computer.
Responsive SEO goes even a step further: someone who visits your site repeatedly also needs something else than someone who gets there for the first time.
Sites like Amazon already do that that for signed in users. They remember what you have looked or search for last time and remind you, show you more of it or similar items. Most sites do not require sign up though. Can average sites segment and adapt to user needs too? Yes, they can now.
Advanced segments in Google Analytics
Why am I talking about advanced user segmentation? Well, one reason is that Google Analytics has a feature called advanced segments. Any segment that shows only a part of your traffic or is user defined is “advanced” by that definition. On the other hand this is really an advanced technique I refer to.
Beginners and intermediate users don’t practice this.
Even I have come up with the idea just recently despite online publishing for 15+ years. Why is this advanced? You do not only track segments like for example “returning visitors” or “mobile visitors” you also react to them and adapt accordingly. The mobile or returning visitors get a customized version of your site!
How to customize your WordPress site on the fly?
By now I hope you aren’t scared anymore. The buzzwords segmentation, responsive, advanced lose their scary sound when you find out how easily the changes are implemented by now.
In case you don’t use a self hosted WordPress or Google Analytics yet you might want to start using them now. Both tools are free and easy to set up, many web hosters already offer one click WordPress installations. This article is for those who ideally already use WP and GA. You just need to download and install the SiteApps plugin for WordPress.
SiteApps offers a lot of free site apps (that’s where the name comes from of course) but most of them are pretty basic and generic. It’s not what we’re after here. Once the SiteApps plugin is installed we go to the
Appearance -> Widgets
section in the WordPress menu on the left side. You first need to verify your site identity etc. but I will skip these steps, they are self-explanatory or explained on SiteApps itself. We’ll jump in the actual fun. These are my widgets on seo2.us:
This is pretty standard with the exception of the text widgets. Also the text widgets are segmented in my case. I show the “Recommended” text widget to first time visitors and the “Welcome Back!” widget to returning visitors.
New visitors often have never heard of SEO 2.0 or me and my blog so that they get 5 suggested posts that explain what SEO 2.0 is, why I ban Google search on my blog and common SEO 2.0 techniques and services.
People who already know me don’t need to re-read my classic articles in most cases so I don’t show the recommended items.
Instead I show them a welcome notice urging them to comment and engage on my blog. That’s pretty simplistic but a good start. You might want to show the latest posts instead there or the recently popular posts (but you need another WP plugin to do that). Also you might display your ebook or white paper offer there.
Someone who visits your blog for the first time is not yet likely to trust you enough to buy a product but a regular user is most likely to appreciate you enough to pay for your advice.
How exactly did I do it? Take a look at the next partial screen shot:
This is what I see in my WordPress backend below the “Welcome Back!” text widget. It’s the SiteApps segmentation menu for that particular widget. As you can see only the “returning visitor” segment can view the “Welcome Back!” widget.
That’s all? You might wonder. All that segmentation, responsive, advanced voodoo is just a simple text paragraph more or less? Yes, it’s THAT simple.
The only thing I had to do as well was to hide the “Recommended” widget for returning visitors. So it looks like that in the WP backend:
You can customize your site further for all kinds of visitors. For example I hide some site elements for mobile users because on the go you rather want to look up something quickly or check out a post someone recommended to you instead of reading a lot of articles and clicking around in my category archives.
You can add the name of any of your self defined advanced segments from Google Analytics in the “Advanced expression” input. For example you can track visitors who read more than 5 articles on your site and stay longer than half an hour and offer them a “heroic reader” discount. there are of course endless possibilities here. Just be creative. You aren’t even limited to widgets. You can show and hide any site element.
This is optimization for people of course, not Google.
So you have to be cautious not to hide too much as Google will of course assume that you try to cheat them when you have too much hidden text. So please call this SEO Site Engagement Optimization!
Creative Commons image by Anonymous Account