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How User Personas Can Improve Your CRO Strategy

CRO is a technique that should be in every digital marketer’s arsenal – it would be short sighted to drive huge volumes of traffic to your site if you’re haven’t got an eye on whether they’re converting or not.

But how do you make sure that you’re optimizing your site for all the different types of users that visit your site, many of whom will have different aims and intentions for their visit? User personas offer a means of identifying these user groups and presenting them in an accessible format that can be shared throughout your business.

In my last post on the KISSmetrics blog, I spoke about how you can put user personas to work when carrying out keyword research or implementing a link building campaign. If you’re not familiar with personas and how they can be developed, I’d recommend you check out at least the first part before you read on.

Done? Great! Let’s have a look at how they can be useful in the CRO process.

User Research

Research is an integral part of any good CRO project – how can you make educated, informed changes to improve your website if you have no research to base them upon? User research allows you to get insights into how prospective customers might feel when using your site, how they react to different messaging, and what their objections might be.

Techniques employed during user research include:

  • One on one usability testing where representative users are asked to carry out representative tasks and vocalize their thoughts whilst the session is recorded or a tester takes notes.
  • Interviewing users either in person, online, or over the phone. This may be less focused on the usability of the site itself and more their attitudes towards the brand, the market, what they look for in a product or service.
  • Surveys and feedback forms which could be run on-site (typically and sometimes irritatingly presented as a screen overlay), promoted to email lists, promoted to social media followers, or respondents bought.

If you have already developed user personas for your site, this is a perfect opportunity to employ them to ensure that your user research includes responses that represent an accurate cross section of your user-ship.

I’m going to refer to the example personas used in the SEO centric post I mentioned above – it’s from the Vodafone developer blog and depicts 3 groups of users that they considered when designing a widget (but in this post we’ll use them for their website in general):

Vodafone might be soliciting feedback on new site functionality by sending a survey out to their existing customers and readers. Let’s consider where each of the personas might hang out online:

  • Mike the Techie – according to his persona, he consumes content through Twitter, blogs, and RSS
  • Zoe the Socialite – again, in her persona we can see that she predominantly hangs out on Facebook
  • Cost-conscious Geoff – he doesn’t seem to use any social media platforms, so maybe sending something out to their email list might capture this sort of user.

In this case, Vodafone might want to consider using all of these channels to promote their survey to ensure that they have a broad range of feedback. Furthermore, perhaps they’ve developed a new feature that allows users to compare handset specs side-by-side. This sort of landing page might have been conceived particularly with users like Mike in mind, in which case feedback might only be solicited from his user group.

More accurately, capturing demographic information during user feedback, whatever the technique, can help to ensure that all bases are covered.

Analysis and User Intentions, Objections

Once you’ve gathered your user research and hopefully have a lot of qualitative information to process, this is a perfect opportunity to develop your user personas still further to include their intentions on visiting your site and what their possible objections might be.

Identify feedback from users that fit into the personas you’ve outlined, and look for the common themes amongst them rather than the themes that span all of the research you’ve carried out.

Again, to come up with some hypothetical examples, when shopping for a new mobile phone, the profiles of the Vodaphone users could be:

  • Mike the TechieIntention: To find the phone with the best specifications such as processing power, screen resolution, memory. Typical objections: Specifications not available, hard to compare handsets.
  • Zoe the SocialiteIntention: To find the mobile phone deal that offers the most minutes, texts, and data on her given budget. Typical objections: better deals with other networks, confused about which contract offers best value.
  • Cost-conscious GeoffIntentions: To find the cheapest contract, or the cheapest pay as you go handset. Typical objections: Cautious about hidden costs for monthly contracts.

Identifying these intentions and objections can help you to develop tailored, engaging landing pages for each user group.

Figure out Landing Pages for each Persona

Next up, you need to consider where these different user groups with their own requirements might touch the site. Key pages, such as the homepage and main category pages may be part of a wide range of user journeys, in which case they must cater for all needs.

However, there are more specific landing pages for other users. You could start by looking at your referring keywords – what is the intention of the visitor and does that fit with any of the personas you’ve developed? Which other sites refer traffic to you, and where do those users land?

Mike for example, might use keywords relating to specification and technical details when he’s researching a new phone. He also uses blogs and Twitter to consume content, so look to those for referring sources. What are the landing pages for these types of referral?

Look for themes in the page type (category, product, gallery, article etc.) and look at the volumes of traffic hitting those pages in order to prioritize your efforts.

Page Content and Functionality

Right – you know what your user personas are, you know what they want to do when they get to your site, and you know where they’re touching your site. Now you have to ask yourself if the features and content on that page address their needs.

If, for example, price conscious Geoff was searching for “cheapest vodafone handset” he might see their PPC campaign at the top of Google UK’s search results. On clicking he would be taken through to the homepage:

cheapest vodafone handset search result

There’s very little on the page the addresses Geoff’s needs as a user. This may highlight a problem with Vodaphone’s PPC campaign, but resellers such as Phones4U are doing a much better job with pages such as this:

phones 4u screenshot

Users should be landing on the right page for their intentions (not just the homepage), and the content on that page should be focus on their primary needs.

Engaging On-Page Elements

Once you’ve got that basic functionality right, you can also make the user more likely to convert by engaging them with the variety of elements that are available when building a landing page.

Let’s take a look at KISSmetrics’ own anatomy of a perfect landing page:

perfect landing page example

Each of these elements can be used to be more persuasive – think about what sort of headline might make each user persona more likely to convert.

Zoe the Socialite might be more likely to browse the specifics of the contract pages, whereas Mike the Techie might be more interested in the product pages of the handsets themselves. Engaging them straight away with a relevant headline could help to improve conversions – on contract pages could it emphasize the sociability afforded by their plans? Photos of people socializing and having fun could be used to supplement this.

Mike’s attention might be captured by a headline that states that the handset is the latest and greatest, the highest spec. What unique selling points do those products have that separate them from other high-technology offerings on the market?

Clearly listing the benefits of a product or service is another common CRO technique – which 3 primary benefits are going to really connect with a user group? A strong call to action on a page is another crucial element, and again the wording used here could be tailored to specific user groups if you know that they are landing there.

Multiple Personas on a Page

Targeting multiple use cases, intentions, and objections on a single page can be inevitable – take your homepage for example. It’s only natural that users with all manner of needs will land there. Here are a few examples of homepages that use techniques to push different users down different funnels:

hp persona example screenshot

This page uses a slider along the bottom of their main carousel that has a section for Home Users, Small and Medium Businesses, and Large Enterprises. The carousel displays appropriate content accordingly.


omniture persona example

Omniture’s homepage uses a tabbed widget to display content that might appeal to Marketing Managers, Online Marketers, and Analysts.


ibm persona example

Perhaps more subtly, IBM’s homepage has 3 boxes beneath their main carousel that might resonate with different types of users with messages relating to knowledge sharing, social, and sustainability.

Start Testing!

Split test or multivariate testing, if you don’t already know, allows you to test different versions of a page and measure which leads to the best conversion rate. I’d recommend checking out KISSmetrics’s post if you’re not familiar with the subject.

Test different messaging for different user groups – Zoe the Socialite might be interested in both getting the most call time and messages for her money, but also the wealth of social apps available for that platform. But which of those two needs leads to most conversions? Or can you address both equally one page?

Once you’ve run tests and gathered some findings, you’ll hopefully be able to feed these back into your personas to make them more effective and get a better understanding of what makes each user group tick.

I hope this gives you some idea of how you might be able to use personas in your CRO strategies – if you’ve got any further ideas, please feel free to let me know in the comments of give me a shout on twitter (@rob_millard).

About the Author: Rob Millard writes on behalf of Distilled (, a leading digital marketing agency specializing in SEO, PPC, and CRO.

  1. This post is amazing! I really enjoyed the part about including multiple personas on page, this has a lot of benefits but what would you consider as the negative part of a multiple-persona page?

  2. I have subscribed for your newsletter one month ago Neil, I always wait for your kissmetrics newsletter, everytime I learn something new. Great work guys. Keep it up….

  3. Rachel McDermott Feb 07, 2012 at 7:33 pm

    Love this!! We talk about target profiles all the time, love the multiple persona approach.

  4. What does CRO mean?


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