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Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) & SEO: What You Need to Know

The goal of good SEO isn’t to turn your site into a receptacle for web traffic. The goal of good SEO is to turn your website into a conversion machine. Combine CRO with conversion SEO practices to convert more customers and make a meaningful impact on your bottom line. Here’s how…

Aug 5, 2021

8 m read

It’s a common misconception that the sole purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) is to drive traffic to a website. Traffic in and of itself doesn’t have intrinsic value. To create value, the traffic that comes to your website has to convert.

The essential question for an online business is how to increase the percentage of traffic that converts on your website. By combining SEO with conversion rate optimization (CRO), you can elevate your website from a traffic magnet to a conversion machine.

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Before I detail how to implement SEO conversion practices, let’s set the foundation with some definitions.

What Is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is a strategy for increasing the total number of website visitors that complete a specific action like making a purchase, downloading an ebook, or scheduling a demo. CRO practices incorporate user feedback,  analytics, and A/B testing to spot and repair potential roadblocks in the customer journey, simplifying the transition from prospect to paying customer. Rather than generating traffic, conversion rate optimization is about generating more sales from the traffic your website already has. It’s also known as CRO, conversion optimization, and SEO conversion optimization.

What Is a Conversion?

At its most basic level, a conversion is any predefined action a visitor makes on your website. By “pre-defined,” I mean something you’ve determined will move them through your sales funnel. 

Different types of conversions happen at various junctures of the user journey. For instance, a top-of-funnel prospect converts to the middle of the funnel when they subscribe to your blog or sign up for your email list. At the bottom of the funnel, a prospect buys or signs up to convert to a customer. 

Although it’s easier to calculate the value of purchase conversions, every type of conversion has revenue-generating potential.

seo conversion optimization: what is CRO

Why Does CRO Matter?

Simply put, conversion optimization is the most direct method to improve revenue generation on your website. Think of it this way — you put considerable resources into bringing visitors to your website. Those visitors are valuable because they represent potential revenue. Every visitor who leaves your site without taking action (whether it’s completing a form fill or making a purchase) is a missed opportunity to make a sale.

Conversion optimization investigates and addresses why someone abandons your site without transitioning to the next stage of their customer journey. 

The Benefits of Conversion Rate Optimization

Crafting a CRO strategy for your website can help you funnel visitors to a specific goal — whether it’s physically or psychologically — in a way that’s measurable and logical. 

A systematic approach to CRO can lead to:

Data-Based Decision-Making

Without a formalized optimization plan, you might be taking action based on what you think or feel is the right thing to do. A rigorous conversion rate improvement strategy creates the structure for testing your theories and evaluating your results. 

Learn More About Visitors

The continual A/B testing of a robust conversion optimization program will reveal details about customer preferences that you can use to refine both online and offline marketing strategies.

Better Results

I’m an ardent proponent of the idea that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. If all marketing roads lead to conversion, optimizing the pivot points for revenue generation removes potential roadblocks that impact the success of your marketing plan. 

Additional Revenue

By improving the efficiency of your marketing funnel, you’ll be able to reclaim leads or sales that you’ve been missing out on. Over time, you’ll increase your revenue without expanding your marketing budget, which means bigger profits for your business.

Improved Search Visibility

Conversion optimization tactics, like creating better content, improving site functionality, and speeding up page load times, align with Google’s Core Web Vitals update. Improvements in these areas will be rewarded with improved search visibility through better rankings.

What Does SEO Have to Do with CRO?

The goal of SEO is to improve the quantity and quality of organic traffic to a website. Unfortunately, even search strategists often forget the “quality” part of the organic traffic they drive with search optimization. 

What do I mean when I say “quality traffic?” 

How Can SEO Deliver Converting Traffic?

One of the core activities in a search optimization campaign is creating valuable content that ranks in Google results. But, something magical happens when content is optimized with long-tail keywords that target specific points on the customer journey. 

Say, for instance, someone is looking for the best organic food for babies. And they land on an organic food website with a product page that has optimized content explaining why their organic food is the best for babies. The search intent and long-tail keywords the content targeted have created the shortest path from search to purchase and delivered high-quality, high-converting traffic.

Search optimized, content-rich pages are a valuable source for increasing conversions. In that sense, SEO content isn’t merely a traffic generator. It’s also a conversion generator.

CRO & SEO Content

Combine the disciplines of optimizing conversions and optimizing traffic, and you have a match made in heaven.

Implemented together, CRO and SEO complement each other, bringing in qualified traffic that converts. 

The Human Side of Conversion Optimization

There’s no doubt that CRO is a metrics-based discipline, but an exclusive focus on metrics, such as conversion percentages, averages, and benchmarks, comes with a downside. 

The more fixated you are on conversion data points and actions, the less you think of the human beings behind those numbers.

At its core, conversion rate optimization is about understanding what drives your users and which barriers get in their way so you can create the best possible user experience for them, making it effortless for them to move through your marketing funnel. 

That kind of understanding requires more than data. It requires empathy. 

Focusing on the final desired action — the conversion — is important, but the truth is there’s a lot that happens before that point. 

Rigorous CRO requires understanding what drives people to your website, what makes them leave, and how to engage them in a way that leads them to convert.

How Engagement Drives Conversions

Improving your conversion rates depends on engaging prospective customers on your site and encouraging them to take the next step on their customer journey. Thus, understanding Google Analytics engagement metrics can help you identify how to improve your site’s conversion rate.

Bounce Rate

Google measures bounce rate as a percentage of people who leave the web page they land on without taking any further action on your site. Contrary to popular belief, a high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t finding what they’re looking for on a landing page. They might discover precisely what they’re looking for, happily consume the content you’ve provided, and move on with their lives. 

A high bounce rate may also mean you’re not providing people with 1) the inspiration to take action or 2) an obvious next step they should take. 

As an engagement metric, bounce rate is less about engagement with your content than with your user journey. 

Exit Rate

GA calculates exit rate as the percentage of people who leave your website from a particular page. Like bounce rate, many people believe a high exit rate is a red flag for content that doesn’t provide what users want. Instead, a high exit rate can represent missed conversion opportunities. If you have a page with a high exit rate, ask yourself if you’re providing a clear set of next steps for your users.

Average Time on Site

At the most superficial level, average time on site is just like it sounds — it’s an average of how long users spend on your website. Only, it’s not that simple. 

Because GA measures the time spent on a page by calculating the time between page views, it cannot measure the time spent on an exit page (because there is no next pageview). 

As a result, if someone spends 20 minutes reading an in-depth article on your site, then exits, that time isn’t calculated into the average time on site. 

That’s not to say average time on site can’t be a helpful metric to measure engagement, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt when you’re looking at pages with a high exit rate.

Pages Per Session

The average number of pages a visitor clicks through on your site could indicate their engagement with the experience you’ve created for them. But, it might also be a red flag for poor navigation and internal linking if users click around trying to find what they need. 

You’ll want to dig into this metric for more context before using it to identify areas for conversion improvements.

The Best CRO Tools 

One best practice for conversion optimization that I can wholeheartedly recommend is this: Spend time understanding your users and customers. Invest in understanding your users and use what you learn to build an optimization strategy to help your business thrive.

Before diving into the types of tools you may need to diagnose and optimize your website, I recommend you start with a low-tech approach. Let go of your assumptions and approach your conversion data with curiosity. Approach the customer journey with empathy for the human beings on it and walk a mile in their shoes. 

Top Four Conversion Rate Optimization Tools

  1. Your eyes,
  2. ears,
  3. heart,
  4. and mind.

Pay attention to people. Do you understand what they need and why they need it? Start there. Then, if you need a new app or service, have at it. But remember to lift your head out of the heatmaps and line graphs now and then to challenge what you think you know about your prospects. This can lead you to solutions you wouldn’t have considered otherwise.

Additional Tools to Test Your Conversion Rate Optimization

Keeping the human side of CRO in mind, you can use the following types of tools to gather feedback and test whether the changes you enact support your conversion goals.

Gather Feedback

To determine what to change on your website to boost conversions, you’ll need to gather feedback and usage data. Analyzing this type of information may point to weak spots in your funnel, like offers that don’t align with where a visitor is in the customer journey or forms that require a visitor to leave a page to complete.

If you’re able to gather feedback directly from site users, that’s great. This type of qualitative feedback can help you finesse your site’s UX and ensure that you’re providing visitors with the information they want and need.

Alternatively, you can use tools like heatmaps to identify what users are doing on an individual page and how they’re interacting with it. You can also look into your scroll metrics to see if your UX or copy is failing to engage potential customers.

Follow Metrics

Your favorite web analytics tools are probably perfect for your CRO, especially if they allow you to gather and track the engagement metrics I mentioned earlier. 

Your analytics platform should allow you to annotate when you make changes and  track conversion and engagement metrics over time so you can analyze the impact of your CRO activities. If your analytics platform doesn’t provide this functionality, you can easily use Google Analytics to capture this crucial information.

When implementing CRO improvements, make sure you aren’t negatively impacting other metrics. For example, changing the copy on a page could alter its ranking and reduce page traffic. Take a holistic look at your metrics and don’t just focus on conversion rate.

Enact & Test Optimizations

Once you have an idea of areas that may benefit from improvement and understand which metrics to monitor, you can start setting up A/B tests. Consider using the LIFT model to determine what to test.

You don’t need any additional tools to implement certain optimizations. However, if you want to run A/B tests to help verify you’re on the right track, a quality A/B testing tool like Google Optimize may make the process easier. Look for a tool that allows you to test the things you want, automatically serves up different versions to visitors, and tracks the performance of each of your changes.

To ensure that you’re able to accurately measure the effects of a particular change, only make one change on a page at a time. For example, if you change both the form and the CTA on the page, you won’t be able to measure whether the increase in form fills was due to the CTA or the new form. Since you want to learn more about your customers from your CRO activities, take a measured approach to improving a page and monitor each change for a couple of weeks to truly capture its effectiveness.

SEO That Optimizes Conversions

Partner with an SEO agency to build a search optimization campaign that leverages high intent keywords and drives traffic directly to your highest converting pages. Pairing a targeted SEO approach with conversion rate optimization creates a virtuous cycle where increased traffic and improved conversion fuel profits that help your company thrive. Get in touch with one of our SEO consultants and learn how SEO can maximize your conversion rate optimization efforts. 

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