Spouses so often refer to their partners as their “other half.” The same can be said of CRO. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) is SEO’s other half. Without it converting traffic into customers, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is just throwing spaghetti on a wall.
SEO has dominated internet marketing conversations for years. Outsmarting Google, optimizing your site for keywords, and getting backlinks have consumed millions of businesses. In the mad dash for Page One ranking and increased traffic, one crucial part of your site’s success has been overlooked: conversions.
What is a conversion?
A conversion is simply getting someone to do something you want on your site. It can be to buy something, download something, sign up for a mailing list, or submitting a contact form.
Getting more conversions through research, analysis and testing is called Conversion Rate Optimization. It’s its own industry with numerous professionals, books, podcasts, webinars and tools.
Are you hiding your checkout?
An SEO campaign unsupported by consistent CRO is like driving a horde of customers to a physical store and hiding the cashier. Yay, you have a lots of traffic, but if people can’t easily convert, they’re going somewhere else.
SEO and CRO work naturally with each other
Think of SEO as your lead generator and CRO as your closer. You need both. Thankfully, SEO and CRO are seamless if you understand how they work together. Let’s look at 7 popular SEO tactics and how they dovetail with CRO.
1. Title Tags and H1s
SEO 101 says your title tag and H1 should be very similar, right? Not only does that improve your onpage optimization, but it also aids CRO because it tells a visitor they’re on the right page and they’re going to find what they need, keeping them on your page longer.
2. Meta Descriptions
True, they don’t improve your ranking, but they are essential to convince someone to click your page instead of a competitor’s. Imagine your title tag like the headline of an ad and the meta description as the copy below it. Make it compelling. Your business depends on it.
3. Responsive design / Mobile-friendly
Google recently announced they’re including whether a site is mobile-friendly in their ranking algorithm. Finally. If your site isn’t responsive or have a mobile version, then how likely is it you’re converting mobile traffic on your full site on a small screen? Very low.
4. Page Speed
If your site is slow, it’s a bad user experience. Google doesn’t like bad experiences. Neither do your customers. People lose interest after 8 seconds, (one second less than a goldfish). It’s in your best SEO and CRO interests to make sure your site is lightning fast.
Optimizing your site for the right keywords is essential for ranking, but it also benefits CRO by sending the right traffic to your site. If you sell merchandise for the Panthers NFL team, you want NFL fans, not nature enthusiasts. Make sure you optimize for appropriate terms like apparel, team, jerseys, not habitat or diet ;).
Pictures add context to a page’s content. If those images are properly optimized with detailed filenames and alt text, they can improve SEO. While images make search engines happy, they’re excellent CRO tools (especially with captions) because they capture people’s attention and show what they can have.
7. 404 Pages
You don’t want any dead-ends on your site. Create a custom 404 page that converts people rather than sending them away. Here are some clever examples of CRO-focused 404 pages.
Links are leaks
SEO and links are inseparable. While you want good links to your site, you have be very careful about what you link to from your site. Not only will too many links from your site to others mitigate the power of those links, every link pulls attention away from that page.
On your service or product page, what is your #1 call-to-action (CTA)? It’s probably to request a quote or purchase. That should be the only obvious CTA on the page. Instead, these pages too often have many, many other CTAs like social share buttons, newsletter sign-ups, and so on. Every one of those is like a small person yelling for your visitor’s attention. Eliminate all distractions. Focus your visitor’s attention on the only thing that matters, your CTA.
**Disclaimer:** of course, if it’s relevant to the user experience to link to supporting pages or materials, then do so in moderation.
Testing: the true power of CRO
The true power of CRO lies in testing. Are you unsure if a red or green button will get more clicks? Test it! Optimizely is a great tool for testing page elements, or pages themselves, against each other.
Before you start testing, do some research first:
* List the top pages where you want people to convert (homepage, pricing, product pages, checkout, sign up page, etc.).
* Cross-check the list against your analytics list of most popular pages and add in any top pages you may have missed.
* Get an account with Hotjar or Crazyegg and add tracking to those pages. Depending on your site’s traffic, you may have actionable data in 1-4 weeks. The data will show you what people are or are not clicking, and how far they’re scrolling.
5 tests to convert more traffic
Once you have identified underperforming pages, test those first. Here are 5 ideas to help you start converting more of that valuable SEO traffic:
1. Calls-to-Action (CTA)
Do you have a CTA clearly visible on your site? Or is it hidden? Does the color match your brand? If so, change it! Your CTA needs to command attention, not color coordinate with your logo. Conversions matter here, not uniformity. Test different colors, placement and messages.
2. Contact / Sign up page
Your analytics may show 50 visitors to your contact or sign-up page, but only a few of them complete the form? Why is that? Is it too long? Does it lack necessary details to convince someone it’s a good idea to move forward? Know, don’t guess. Test fewer fields, less messaging, different messaging, different copy for the “submit” button, testimonials, and more.
Ever see a clever header and wish you wrote it? It’s so layered and might even be punny. Forget writing like that. Clarity trumps cleverness. Tell visitors what your product or service does. Don’t let them guess. You want them to buy your wares, not hire you to write limericks. Test different messages.
Does your site navigation contribute to conversions or detract from them? Many sites try to get clever with their navigation titles. If it’s not clear without explanation, keep it simple. Simple may be boring, but it’s never confusing. Test different navigation titles and order (ex. Products, Pricing, Contact instead of Products, About, Resources, Contact).
5. Page Design
Maybe your whole page design is flawed. If so, changing a headline or CTA is like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It’s going down anyway. The only way to know if your design is killing conversions is to design something different and test them against each other. Test a complete redesign.
Like any marriage, it takes work
Your first CRO tests will be a little clumsy but euphoric. Over time, it may be difficult to keep up enthusiasm when it becomes routine to test. But keep at it. Consistent CRO will make all your SEO effort and investment worthwhile.