Note: This is part one of a two-part series on the overlap between CRO and SEO and how they work together. Part two discusses how to do CRO without hurting your SEO. There’s also a video interview where I talk about SEO and CRO a bit too.
We all know what a beautiful thing an effectively search-engine-optimized site is. Traffic flows in from natural search rankings without you spending huge monthly fees for pay-per-click ads.
However, you also know that site traffic is useless unless those visitors become customers – and that’s where Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO, also known as Conversion Optimization) is required.
(Note: WiderFunnel’s Conversion Optimization services are often confused with Search Engine Optimization or SEO. If you get confused with the word ‘Optimization’, you’re focusing on the wrong word. If we were in the business of ‘Pancake Optimization’, we would probably be pursuing the perfect pancake, right? Likewise, Conversion Rate Optimization is the pursuit of the optimal Conversion Rate, not a higher Search Engine Ranking.)
Without Conversion Optimization, all the Search Engine Optimization in the world will, at best, increase your traffic levels, but your conversion rate will not improve. Or worse, unsophisticated onsite SEO techniques will actually lower your Conversion Rate. (You know the type of site I mean; the copy is so filled with repetitive keywords that it’s nearly impossible to read. That’s a credibility killer.)
If you’ve already been successful driving traffic with SEO you may be nervous (and justifiably so) that testing a new layout or content could hurt your search rankings. In our experience, however, that is rarely a significant risk.
How can I say that?
SEO and CRO Can Play Well Together
Fortunately, the principles of SEO and Conversion Rate Optimization are totally compatible. Here are some foundational principles that apply to both SEO and CRO:
- You will achieve better Search Engine rankings with pages that focus on a single topic or product. This will improve your conversion rate too.
- Changing clever headlines (ie. your ad agency’s ‘Big Idea’) to Clear and Relevant headlines will improve both SEO and CRO.
- Replacing complex content presentations and animation (ie. Flash-esque content) will usually improve your SEO and Conversion Rate.
- Using clear content hierarchy with proper heading tags will help with SEO and force you to think about your message progression, which will likely help your Conversion Rate too.
As a Google Authorized Consultant, I’ve spoken with key individuals at Google about this question and their stated policy is to not penalize pages that have been tested using Google Website Optimizer. They’ve told me that Google wants to reward pages that provide what visitors are searching for. In fact, Google has requested that we provide any examples of conversion-optimized pages that have decreased in search or quality score ranking due to conversion rate optimization so they can address it. We have yet to see a single example.
Conversion optimization can help your SEO efforts in other ways too:
- A page that’s optimized for conversions will be more usable and visitor-friendly, which makes it more likely to receive inbound links and referrals
- Search engines will index pages more highly that are updated frequently, so it doesn’t hurt to keep the layout and content fresh
- A conversion optimized page should be using more relevant keywords that match what visitors are searching for
Read the next post, for the process to use to ensure your Conversion Optimization efforts don’t hurt your SEO rankings.