Content Personalization Tips

Does Personalization Make Sense For Content Creation?

I’m going to cover personalization for your content and how to connect better with your audience. I’ll give an easy example for email marketing as well as offer valuable advice for “talking” with your blog readers, followers, and subscribers.

Personalized Email – Getting the most from Email Personalization

I use AWeber$ and, like most email management tools, you can personalize the email broadcasts. I rarely use the feature anymore but when I do I use the {!firstname_fix} option. That corrects any capitalization issue. I’m amazed at how many people never bother capitalizing their names. Another issue with the name personalization field is that so many people don’t include a first name, or use a biz name, or even a single initial.

I don’t mean to be cynical but I have to wonder how many people don’t understand when they get an email from Sears using their real name that it is simply automation and not real “personalization“. I understand it’s more a psychological issue than anything else and I should probably use the feature more often.

On the other hand, we want to avoid looking spammy to the masses to appear personable to a few. Personally, I believe many marketers tend to overdo personalization in their email copy. Finding the appropriate balance for your market is key and will require testing to make the most of it.

A few Email Personalization examples – doing it right:




Sway - personalization example

Swayy address my name AND curates content based on MY interests.
See: Swayy – Great Content Discovery Tool For Your Buffer Schedule.

Sorry, Swayy is no longer available.

Social Media Examiner

Social Media Examiner - personalization example

Social Media Examiner discreetly uses our name in the header.


Sears - personalization example

Sears displays our name and member info in the header of each email AND they know our purchase and watch history.

Ideas Watch

Ideas Watch - personalization example

Ideas Watch greets us by name within each email.


Audible - personalization example

Audible sends content based on my listening history and wish list.

Taking Email Personalization to the Next Level

Have you ever received an email reminding you of something that you knew was automated but you still found it helpful, even a little impressive? Let’s look at a real example AWeber$ allows you to easily accomplish.

Okay, you have great opt-in copy, a nice lead magnet and you’re well on your way to building a quality list that will deepen the connections that you worked so hard to build.

Side Note: Terms like “copy” and “lead magnet” might sound a little technical, even somewhat cold, but they are important regardless what you call them. Please don’t allow marketing jargon to prevent you from a successful approach. I mention this only because I cringe when I hear buzzwords like “linkbait” or “link juice“.

Want to enjoy a little parody video on the issue by Stephen Colbert (The Colbert Report)? Wheat Thins Sponsortunity  is so funny. 🙂

Back on track: You’re working on the list of your dreams and you really want to make sure your “lead magnet” was downloaded because you are certain it will help your subscribers. No problem, you:

  1. Segment your list into those that subscribed during a certain period. Or, perhaps your lead magnet (free subscriber gift) is a more recent product so you segment your list for those that subscribed before you made it available.
  2. Next, you craft your copy (Oh, no he didn’t! lol) with even more personalization not only using the subscriber’s name but the date they subscribed. {!date long+0}

Sample Email Using Personalization

Hi {!firstname_fix}, I appreciate you trusting me with your email so I wanted to make certain you got the chance to download my latest free subscriber gift.

I just released the guide a few weeks ago and since you’re a long time reader (since {!date long+0}), it wasn’t included in your original welcome letter.

You are already subscribed so there’s no need in re-subscribing, simply download “3 Things You Can Do In 1o Minutes That Will Increase Your Traffic By 30%”.

Let me know your thoughts about the short guide by hitting the reply button – I’m always here for your feedback.

Brian, Your Blogging Buddy

Note: If you really want to go ninja, you can “target” those that opted in from a particular page.

Can you say value? You just gave your best gift to those already on your list, or made sure they were aware of it, when you didn’t have to. Look out for your subscribers and they will be glad they subscribed.

By the way, Lead Pages$ is an amazing tool for allowing those already subscribed to download new subscriber content without going through the opt-in process every time. I use and recommend LeadPages$.

Blog Content Personalization – Or any other content you create

Right now I feel that it’s just as important, if not more important, to write content to the single reader rather than a group, e.g.

“I’m so glad you took the time to read this”

Rather than,

“I appreciate those of you that took the time to read this”.

Apples and oranges I guess, but both email content and any other form of content creation seek the same effect – personal connection.

When you write to an audience, whether on your blog, email, ad copy, or a social media update, it’s important to realize the reader doesn’t want to feel like they’re a member of a group you’ve amassed, they are the person reading, watching, or listening to your content.

Sure, like I mentioned above, they don’t believe you created the content exclusively for them, it’s more on the unconscious level. That’s the way I see it, how about you {!firstname_fix}? ☚ joking lol

It’s not complicated, it’s just a matter of getting used to addressing your audience in the first person. Make it a habit of replacing things like “all of you” into “you”. Easy peasy. 🙂

Content Personalization Tools

There are tools that help with content personalization but that’s really not what I’m talking about here.

  • There are plugins that will offer a custom greeting determined by the referring site or network.
  • There are even tools that will serve specific content based on the search terms entered to find our website.

Truthfully, this might be a little overkill for most basic bloggers. I’m referring to content personalization more on a direct communication level – talking to your avatar, if you will.

Does personalization make sense?

Does making your reader feel like they’re being catered to make sense to you or am I making too much of it? Can you see the difference? Do you have any more advice? Questions? Commnets? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

About Brian Hawkins

Blogging superhero by day and internet super villain by night. Blogger, future online millionaire and an all around great guy.


  1. First, did you put those dollar signs in on purpose?

    Second, I see the personalization in a lot of things that come my way and it kind of freaks me out because I know it’s auto-generated. I also know they wouldn’t do it if it didn’t work, so I’m not mad at them. Right now I don’t use anything like that so I won’t be doing it but one of these years… who can say for sure?

    • I use the ($) as a symbol indicating that it’s an affiliate link. I have that in the disclaimer at the footer of every page. That’s just my way of being as clear as possible without using the standard (aff link) label. Since you had to ask maybe it’s not as clear as I had hoped. lol

      The real players that have mastered personalization can really freak us out. I intentionally left out sites like Pandora that knows me so well they play my favorite songs almost every time. Or Google that finishes my sentences for me more than my wife of 31 years ever could! Sites like Amazon take it to the extreme and frustrate me to know end. Yesterday I looked at a Roku device for a post I wrote for my personal blog and I’ve seen ad after ad for that silly little product all day long. Don’t even get me started on Facebook.

  2. Hey Brian

    I agree that the best way to write a blog is to write it to a single person rather than a group. I often think of it as chatting to someone over coffee or a beer. They want to feel that your attention is on them.

    I stopped asking for people’s names on my opt-in forms a while ago as a test to see if it increased conversion rates. It hasn’t. The trouble is once you’ve stopped asking for names, you can’t personalize emails again! I don’t really miss it though.

    Some people find it quite unnerving when you use personalization in any case. I don’t find it unnerving but the amount of ads that follow me around after viewing something gets annoying after a while!

    • That’s a nice way of thinking about it Tim, chatting over coffee. If we started addressing everyone in the shop when we talked they would feel like just another patron and may as well sit at another table. 😉

      I almost did that exact thing, removing the name field. I had the same thoughts as you; that they might be more inclined to opt-in. I’m glad I didn’t.

      I was telling my wife last night that I should go browse the bikini section of Amazon so I’d at least have something more interesting to look at other than stuff I’ve already purchased.

  3. Hi Brian,

    I stopped using names in my emails long time ago. For many reasons. This is a sensible topic and I’m not claiming that what I do is the right thing. It’s a controversial topic.

    One of these reasons is that people think and act different. We aren’t the same 🙂 For example, one of your “doing it right” examples is on my “don’t do it” list. “Hi Adrian” doesn’t bother me, but I hate when someone adds my full name after “Hi”. I prefer no personalization instead. So… send me an “Hi Adrian Jock” email and I may unsubscribe.

    Even the reports issued by the big email marketing companies are contradictory. As usually LOL. Each company analyzed millions of emails, still the results aren’t relevant as long as they contradict each other. So what you think or what I think is even more irrelevant. It may be relevant to OUR list, but not to the others.

    Did you know that “when both the subject line and message content were personalized, open rate dropped to 5.3% lower than that of messages with no personalization at all (9.8%)”? (Source: MailerMailer)

    There are different types of personalization and sometimes not customizing an email is better. I’ll stop here, I’m not gonna write an article here 🙂

    • Hey, great stuff Adrian, I didn’t really think of it as that controversial but I see how it could be. As far as using the full name, I have a couple of thoughts on that (We all have many opinions – that’s why we blog, right? lol). First, I’d expect the large corporate sites to use full names. They have a better chance of getting real names since they’re often getting info from credit card data. They probably don’t get something like “josh69 loves cars”. Lol

      Not that Ideas Watch is a large corporate site, they’re not. I could have broken one of my cardinal sins with that example, had I used it to make a decision. Not that they used my full name but that it didn’t bother me. I’ll explain:

      I like seeing my full name with initial because that’s what I’ve been using for years since someone beat me to just “Brian Hawkins”. I started using my initial years ago because I was able to secure that domain. Anyway, my cardinal sin? Never apply our personal likes onto others when making a business decision unless it’s somehow wrong or unethical.

      We see bloggers do every day, “I don’t do “this” because it affects me like “that” and then applying that feeling to those we serve. Like you said, we’re all different and we shouldn’t expect the masses to “feel” just as we do, we should do our best to understand how to best serve them. I call this Consumer Thinking. I wrote about it using a Twitter example on my personal blog if you want to see more on that: Are You Stuck On Social Media Consumer Thinking?

      You bring up a great point about all of the contradictory advice and data we get. It’s so hard to make a decision when we are told to go left and right at the same time. It all comes down to our own testing but that has its own challenges.

      The fact that it bothers many of us and doesn’t bother the rest is exactly why I think it’s better to focus on addressing our readers as the single person reading at that moment. Not addressing a crowd but an individual. Personally, I believe that’s the best solution and don’t even allow the rest to factor into our stress level.

  4. Hey Brian, I think the personalization can be important.
    If I get an email from someone that I question where they got my address, if it doesn’t have my name, it gives it a bigger “possible spam” look. If it has a name (personalized) then I can usually figure out who it is, if I really signed up and why. I spell my name differently for different things….

    Many list that get my address because I bought something, gets one name,
    a list I had to sign up for because I wanted to checkout their free report, but I am not really interested in them gets a different spelling.
    List I do trust the person and feel they will only send useful info, gets my real name.
    This makes it easy for me to sort.

    So, having personalized email is more than just feeling like they know me…I know by the name, if I know them. LOL

    • You are a complicated lady Sheryl, or whatever your real name is. lol

      So it sounds like you’re saying that when the person addresses you personally, it has a better chance at being real? I can understand that; I do the same thing with blog comments. It doesn’t always work but I have pulled real comments out of the spam box because my name caught my eye. I still have to give it a hard look because spammers can be so clever but sometimes that little signal warrants a deeper look. That’s a good point to consider.

  5. Hey Brian,

    Personalizing is very important. Interesting enough, I wrote a blog post about that. Online, it’s going more towards conversations rather than just talking to a group. I like it when I receive an email and it’s personalized with my name. It makes me feel as though it was written specifically to me.

    I rather that than “Hey friend”.

    Just my opinion. It would be very interesting if some type of technology can do that with blog posts, huh.

    – Andrew

    • Another great comment Andrew, I love this topic. For me, I’d rather see just “Hi” or “Hello” then “Hey friend”. Or what about, “Hello Dear”. Can you think of anything more spammy than Dear. lol

      I think Adrian had it right when he said everyone is different. That’s what makes it so tough on our end, we can’t go by a single thought, not even our own.

  6. Hi Brian!
    Nice image (which I already pinned) 🙂

    I like the personalization and I think my subscribers do too. Each time I run a split test I get more clicks and more opens when I add the first name.

    For the record I knew right away what the dollar signs meant and I think it’s neat. How’d you do it?

    • Thanks Ileane, I’ve been trying a lot harder with images and YOU are the inspiration for that. 🙂 I’ve been using when I don’t have an image of my own or Canva doesn’t sem to fix a topic very well.

      I love that you tested your own subscriber base and know from that what works best. That’s what we should all b doing because we’ll often have different audiences.

      I’m glad to knew what that was. I just put the dollar sign in between < sup> $ < / sup> without the spaces. Then I leave an explanation in the footer. It’s a little like using an asterisk.

  7. Hey Brian,

    Well I’m sure you’ll probably know my thoughts on this but I’m all for personalization and I have to say, so does my list. They know I’m speaking to them and we’ve built up that relationship.

    So for that reason I say use it but I dislike getting spam from something I never opted into that’s addressing me. Easy enough these days to get all our information so I’m assuming that crap still works.

    I’m all about relationships so you also know I ask for their phone number. I don’t care how many people think I’m nuts, to each his own. I know what works for me and I’m not going to stop now.

    I use their firstname_fix as well since I have Aweber because I still have the occasional person who doesn’t want to give me their information. That’s okay, I don’t expect them to hang around long. LOL!!!


    • Thank you Adrienne, You are, hand’s down, the most social person I know. Not to mention energetic. You make that “be everywhere” phrase look like child’s play. lol

      I think you do a great job with your list, that’s why I’m subscribed. 😉 Actually two lists now, I just subscribed to Build A Blog Community today. I do want to mention, for anyone else reading this comment, that you not only ask for the phone number but also give your number in every email.

      First name, full name, or no name, it’s all fine with me. I just think what’s under that greeting has to be as amazing as we can muster.

      • I’m definitely going to take that as a compliment Brian! LOL!!!

        I saw that and thank you my friend, I SO appreciate the support. Yeah, on my blog I do ask for phone numbers although people still tell me I’m nuts. That’s okay, it works great for me and I sure do give my phone number out. I don’t mind them calling me at all, that’s why I’m here darn it. I mean what I say, I truly do want to help.

        Thank you Brian, I appreciate that.


  8. Hi Brian, i think personalization is good in blog content, it helps you and your audience; we should be able to know hw Adriene, Carol, Lizy, Harleena and Emebu writes. however, it is also very important that we write in the tone of our audience in many cases because in my language there is an adage that says “One man’s best food is another man’s poison”

    Thanks for bringing up this issue.

  9. I think it is good that we become personal when it comes to content writing, it help you to be real and to pour out your heart into what your are talking about.

  10. Hi Brian,
    Thanks for this great post!
    Personalization is acually a requirement for sending e-mail. The chance that your e-mail message went straight into the junk mail is much bigger without personalization. But this is just a detail 🙂
    I think one of the best things you can do in your webshop is to greet your returning customer by name! How often does a customer has this experience in a real store?
    I try to have all the customers phone number in my smart phone. Doing this I’m able to know who is calling right before I answer the phone call. Call someones name and you het his attention, it’s so easy.

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