When CRO Met SEO

When CRO Met SEO

SEO and CRO are kind of like men and women, they are both equally important and valuable. However, they both have different strengths, and they both work great when they work together. The basic principles of SEO are fundamentally the same as those of CRO – just give people what they want.  Both SEO’s and CRO’s (hopefully you do both) use clear, descriptive copy to explain what they sell.  

My elevator pitch for CRO is, “give people what they want” and I think we can all agree that SEO works on the same principal.  So, the foundation of both SEO and CRO is to give people the information they want as efficiently as possible.  You may have a perfectly optimized site for SEO, but, if your visitors are met with dirty navigation and confusing text then you may lose great leads.  Here are 12 ways CRO effects SEO.

1: Dwell Time

Dwell Time has been an SEO catch phrase ever since Duane Forrester from Bing told the world that dwell time (not bounce rate) was something they factored into their  rankings.  This created a phenomena that reminds me of the “above the fold” or “duplicate content” cliques.

The truth is that dwell rate is only important, well, if it is important.  If a visitor needs to find your phone number on their mobile device, they want a fast answer. In that scenario, dwell time is a bad thing.  On the other hand, Facebook had better have a high dwell time or they will go the way of Myspace.  Please don’t jump on this bandwagon.  If dwell rate is irrelevant to your business, than you do not need to worry about it.

If Dwell time plays an important role in your conversion funnel, you are allowed to focus on it for both SEO and CRO.  Everything from your website’s design, the content, the CTAs and especially your use of multi-media, can effect a visitors dwell time.  The best way to find out why customers are leaving your site prematurely, is to ask them.  Use a tool like qualaroo to find out what your site is missing. You can also talk to your sales team, and mine them for the most commonly asked customer questions.  I tell my clients, ” if customers repeatedly ask you something on the phone, it is because they couldn’t find it on your website.”

improve your dwell time with qualaroo tool

2: Social Sharing

Did you know that customers who stay engaged with a brand will spend an average of 20-40% more?  I realize that I am speaking to the choir.  The way this effects SEO is; the customers who stay engaged with you, are the same customers who will share your content on their social profiles.  Now, if you are Wil Reynolds, you might be rolling your eyes right now.  I know Wil, social media doesn’t directly effect SEO (yet.)  I am talking about the second-tier benefits of using social media for link building.

Pro Tip: You should use a Share Wall plugin to encourage social actions on your site.

Plus 1 This on


Actionable Tip:  One of my SEO roll models (John Doherty) just shared this Google Analytics report.  It will show you which referral sources lead to conversions. Get The Report

advanced google analytics segments

I suggest you configure the report (read the instructions), and determine which social media channels are the most portable to your company.  Now, optimize your site for those social accounts.  SlingShotYou does a great job at this. They point visitors towards Facebook as a primary conversion.

3: Branded Keywords:

If you want to turn the word “distilled” into a query for an SEO company, instead of a water purification process, you are going to need branded keyword searches. How do you get those queries?  You get them by building a powerful brand with happy customers who will return to you again and again!

Did you know that 52% of shoppers will avoid a website if its design was displeasing.  If we follow this logic one step forward, then the only way to retain 52% of your shoppers is to have a professionally designed website.   The first official Google algorithm update (that I know of) to favor brands was the Vince update back in 2009.  Since then, branded keyword queries have continued to factor into a site’s authority.  If you want to be remembered, optimize your site’s UX, and it will help all aspects of your business.

4: Search Intent:

It seems appropriate to piggy-back off branded keywords, and launch into search intent.  Search intent is another layer of determining what your customers “mean” by their searches.  For example, if you Google “suits,” you will see results for the hit TV show, not the popular business outfit.  As you create the strategy around your copy, you should keep in mind that all words have different meanings, and it is our job to make sure a visitor finds exactly what they are looking for.  You don’t want to run the risk of publishing a copy-editing foupa like the one below (not an actual headline.)

does conversion rate optimization help seo

Social media is the best source to research search intent.  Take your main categories, keywords and headlines and run them through social media mining tools.  You will gain insight into the ways real people talk about your keywords, and how they use them in sentences.  Some of my favorite tools are Topsy and Social Mention. This will help you optimize the copy on your website because you will have a greater understanding of how your customers perceive each keyword.

5: Happy Customers Leave Reviews. 

Reviews provide social proof for your visitors.  They give your site a level of freshness and UGC that would otherwise be lost, and they give you the opportunity to show star ratings in SERPS.  Once a customer purchases from you, the next step is to encourage them to share their experience with future shoppers.

how to get customers reviews for your ecommerce site

Net-flix and Amazon are expert re-marketers.  After you meet a gaol with their products, they send you an automated “review request.”  In the case of Net-flix, they ask you to rate the quality of a video.  Targeting happy customers with product review requests is one of the easiest ways to produce a consistent flow of reviews. Mailchimp has a free plan, I recommend you sign up for a Mailchimp’s account, to start sending these requests.

6: Lose The Ads: 

Google’s layout algorithm isn’t going away.  In fact, according to a recently leaked quality guidelines Google is further defining their idea of a page layout.  Both search engines and users are starting to demand a clutter free, unobtrusive browsing experience.  A/B testing is the only way that I know of to find a balance between driving revenue through Ad space, and increasing reader satisfaction.

For those of you who are unaware of how Google classifies the different parts of a webpage, there are three main sections; Main content, Supplementary Content which could include navigation and related products and Advertisements.  Keep in mind that internal advertisements (if obtrusive) will also effect your UI and can trigger Google’s page-layout algorithm.  Here is an example of a standard e-commerce site (from one of my favorite paintball companies). Many sites put their content too far down the page, and fill up the top of their site with supplementary material.

usability effects seo is a ranking factor

7: Keyword Relevancy: 

Keeping the content on your site relevant has become a staple in any content writers repertoire.  You should split test all elements of your copy, including, but not limited to, your Call To Action buttons.  Want to increase conversions on a newsletter sign-up?  Try changing the copy from “submit” (which makes you sound like you are Darth Vader trying to mind control Luke Skywalker) to something that communicates a benefit.  Try something along the lines of to “download the free marketing guide”.  This will increase the relevant keywords on your page, and your number of conversions

keyword relevancy helps seo and conversion rate optimization
to see this report navigate to GWMTs>Optimization>Content Keywords.

8: Video:

Video might not be for every page, but it works well if you can explain something on film better than you can explain it with text or pictures.  For example, Wistia (who is ranking #2 for the term “video hosting“) tested their pricing page with and without video.  The test with video produced a 14.9% increase in conversions.  High-quality videos will improve your search foot-print and they will improve your conversion rates.  I suggest you use an html embed code, and a video platform that has advanced analytics.  Wistia is my favorite tool, but you can also use Vimeo’s old embed code if you want a free version.

video seo and video cro

9: Images: 

Images, even more so than video, play an important role in conversion rates.  This article by Optimizely describes how the colors, character, and messaging of your images should all be tested.  They will give you insight into what your target customer is (do they want pictures of a man in a business suit, or a student jogging?)  Images also give you the ability to add another level of optimization to your pages.  The alt tag, alt=”keyword rich description of your image,”  is a foundational element in on-site optimization.

10: Product Categorization. 

One of the biggest challenges in E-Commerce SEO is building links to specific product pages.  One way around this, is to create useful category pages.  This is good for CRO and SEO.  If a customer wants to see all the new releases in your 2012 snowboard line, they want to see them on the same page.  Turns out, keeping your products organized like this makes link building easier as well because you can build links to hub-pages.

You can also test what products sell the most during different seasons, and feature them on prominent sections of your website.  If your site is like 90% of the web, your prominent pages have stronger link graphs, and more authority. Featuring your popular products on these pages will make them rank better.  If they are historically popular products, your visitors will thank you because they won’t have to search to find their favorite products.

11: Your guarantee. 

A properly crafted guarantee should be memorable, split tested, and linkable.  The CEO of life lock is famous for publishing his Social Security Number (457-55-5462) on the home page of lifelock.com.  That bold marketing ploy increased their CR, and helped them build links through PR, Marketing Blogs, Tech Bloggers, Hacking Blogs all totaling 1444 linking root domains.

test what elements of your page will make people feel more comfortable buying from you
12: CTR

Click through Rate is one of those metrics that all in-bound marketers have access to.  GWMTs and Bing’s Webmaster Tools show you historic CTR.  CTR can be optimized through better title tags, meta descriptions, video and image snippets, and social share counts.  This hasn’t been proven yet (though there has been numerous correlation tests) but I believe CTR is factored into search rankings.  A/B tests are the perfect way to optimize your click through rates.

Bottom line, SEO and CRO are two sides of the same coin.  It is about time we stop thinking about SEO as the way a customer finds you, and CRO as the way they are convinced to buy from you.  Instead, both SEO and CRO are the ways you create an integrated, powerful and positive experience for all of your users.  2012 and 2013 should reveal some shocking algorithm updates that effect user experience.  Both sides of this coin need to pay attention.  If you know of any other ways split testing can help SEO, share your experience in the comments below.