How SEO and CRO Work Together
Wouldn’t it be nice if you could totally nail it with CRO and SEO at the same time? Thankfully, it’s possible.
First, let’s define terms.
- SEO is search engine optimization — making your website get indexed by the inanimate web engines, and found by the animate web searchers (people).
- CRO is conversion rate optimization — making people more likely to do what you want them to do once on your website.
The two fields, CRO and SEO, share the word “optimization,” but they seem to have very little in common after that. There are, however, some fundamental commonalities that occur at a very deep level — the level of psychology and human behavior.
Is it possible to ramp up your game in both of these fields simultaneously?
I’m going to give you six actual techniques that you can put into place that will do two awesome things: 1) Get you more traffic and ranking (SEO), and get you more conversions (CRO).
1. Get your page load time down.
A page’s load time is the average amount of time that it takes the page to fully appear on your screen.
A slow-loading page will do two things, both of them bad:
- Make users infuriated and/or impatient. You lose out on conversions.
- Make search engines infuriated and/or impatient. You lose out on search engine optimization.
How page speed affects SEO
In the realm of SEO, site speed is crucial. Google uses page speed as a ranking factor.
Let’s say there are two websites that are exactly the same except for one difference. One page loads slowly, and the other page loads quickly. When Google provides you with search results, it will put the faster page on the top of the search results, and the slow page toward the bottom of the search results.
Sluggish page speeds cause a correlative rise in bounce rates, which then cause even more SERP downgrading:
How page speed affects CRO
That’s the perspective of the search algorithm. But there’s an equally important perspective — the user's, and how that user converts (or not).
You know how agonizing it is for a website to load slowly. According to metrics from Search Engine Journal, a single-second delay in load time will reduce sales by 7%! Radware discovered that a two-second increase in load time doubled conversions!
Slow pages lost conversions, and increased the occurrence of shopping cart abandonment:
Just a few seconds of lost time can crush conversion rates, as this graph indicates:
Check out PageSpeed Insights, Google’s free page load time tester. You can analyze a page’s performance, and discover how to reduce the load time.
Here are a few of the low-hanging fruits that will speed up your page:
- Reduce image size
- Enable caching
- Shrink your script size (minimizing scripts)
- Eliminate elements like spacers, image segments, Flash elements, background audio loading, auto-play rich media, etc.
Page speed is one of the best under-the-hood CRO tactics that I know of, simply because it has such a direct impact on conversions. By shaving just a few seconds off of load time, you automatically get more traffic and more conversions.
2. Create more content.
(Please note: “More content” doesn’t mean that your page speed will take a hit.)
When I refer to more content, I’m talking about long-form content. From landing pages to blog articles, some of the smartest marketers in the industry have taken to creating more content than the average bear.
This is one of the reasons why I write blog articles that exceed 2,000 words. That’s also the reason why long landing pages have higher conversion rates in some industries.
Content length and SEO
Content length has a profound impact on SEO. Take a look at this chart for proof. Pages with more content consistently rank higher in Google’s search results.
The plot thickens when you realize that longer content also gets more links.
Moz compared article length to how many links the content received. True to their hypothesis, they proved that the longer the article, the more links that article received. Links, as you’re probably aware, are the No. 1 way to boost your rankings.
Here’s the word-count graph:
And here’s the link graph. Looks similar, huh?
Content length and CRO
Not only do longer pages get an uptick in the SERPs, but they are also very effective at making more sales. Conversion Rate Experts is famous for their page improvement for Moz.com that not only increased page size by 20 times, but also boosted sales by $1 million.
Their new page defied the conventional landing page wisdom that said, “keep your landing pages short.” CRE snorted, thumbed their noses, and made this mammoth page:
The rest is million-dollar history.
Bottom line: Create more content. Search engines and customers alike will love you for it.
3. Add social sharing icons
You know what social sharing icons are. You see them everywhere, and probably click on them several times a day.
People use social buttons for sharing, but there are some subtle things going on with these little icons that boost SEO and CRO.
From the standpoint of SEO, it seems that search engines favor pages that have more social signals — that is the amount of shares, likes, tweets and plusses. The better a page is virally distributed, the more people will read it, see it, share it, link to it, and ... convert on it.
Social icons can also be a powerful trust signal for your page. Trust is an important part of conversion optimization. As CROs often remark, authority plus trust equals conversions.
When users see that your page is trusted, shared and followed by others, it increases their level of trust in your page.
Moz, for example, has 175,000 likes, which can help to improve their trust level among potential followers.
This can work for landing pages, articles, homepages, and anywhere else you want to boost trust. Buffer’s blog does it on their articles, which enhances the trustworthiness of the content:
As it turns out, social sharing is a win-win for SEO and CRO. Not a bad way to be all social and nail it on the other fronts as well.
4. Place valuable information above the fold.
Navigation elements, headers and lead images could steal a ton of real estate that could otherwise be used for above-the-fold power and conversion elements. Plus, the more wasted space above the fold, the more likely it is that a user will bounce, a true SEO killer.
For example, take a look at this page I recently analyzed:
Do you see any of the article content? No. It’s all below the fold.
Just so you know, search engines don’t like that. Users don’t either.
What about CRO? Is this a good idea? Well, to the credit of the website above, they do have a CTA above the fold. But what good is a CTA that the user doesn’t yet understand or have motivation to click? The content is what compels a user to act on the call to action. In that way, this page falls flat.
Users want to see what they need to see without too much unnecessary scrolling. Pages that hide everything below the fold are losing readers and increasing bounces, which slays SEO. Plus, they’re losing out on potential conversions.
Put stuff above the fold, and you’ll get more of both — conversions and searchers.
5. Focus on a single topic.
“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” So said Zig Ziglar and probably someone else.
The same truism holds for CRO and SEO, too.
Single-topic SEO: It’s all about the keywords
Search engine optimization depends on keywords or queries. These are the short phrases or words that users type in to find stuff.
Pages must have keyword focus. That is, you want a single page to score for a single keyword phrase.
A page is about one thing, and you’re going to win in the search results for one thing, not everything. A page can’t win for “red dress shoes” and “men’s leather wallet.” It just doesn’t work that way.
As Moz illustrated it, this is a bad idea:
Yoast, which brought SEO to the WordPress masses, taught us how to do this. They emphasize the focus keyword, forcing Yoast users to have a consistent keyword focus on each page.
What this means practically is that you use your target keyword and semantic variations on your page (don’t keyword stuff), as well using it in the title tag and the headers. The result is better SEO.
Single-topic CRO: It’s all about the focus.
And, no surprise, this works for CRO, too.
A single topic allows you to have a single CTA. One of the cardinal rules of CRO is that you don’t have more than one CTA. The CTA is about one thing, and only one thing.
The way to focus and refine your CTA is by making the page about one thing, too. Information on a page is designed to cause a corresponding action on the part of the user. That’s why you want to deal with a single topic and bring it down to a single CTA.
A successful page is a funnel, meaning that all the content comes to a climax in the call to action. For example, Basecamp uses a long-form landing page. After singing the praises of Basecamp for a few hundred words, they give the user a chance to convert.
That page is about one thing — Basecamp. It’s not about Highrise. It’s not about their founder. It’s not even about scrambled eggs. Their focus allows them to dominate the SERPs and the conversions.
6. Create killer headlines.
I know, I know. I hate using the word “killer” because it’s meaningless. But “awesome” is even worse. So, I settled for “killer.”
Now, I need to explain myself.
What does a headline have to do with SEO, much less CRO?
As it turns out, almost everything,
Headlines and SEO: It’s about the keywords.
Every page needs a headline. In SEO terms, it’s the H1 header tag. An H1 tag is one of the first few things that a search engine looks for when it indexes a page. If the content of that H1 header is relevant to a searcher’s query, than that page is more likely to return higher in the search results. It’s really that simple.
Using headers is indispensable to good SEO, and the content of the H1 tag is the most important header. What do you do with this important header? You use keywords in it.
For example, if your page is about men’s footwear, then you should use something like the following:
Unbelievably Comfortable Men’s Shoes
As opposed to
Comfort to Die For
You may be tempted to get fancy and cute and try something different, but if you’re not using the term “shoe” or “footwear” or something similar, then you’re missing out on valuable SEO potential. That second headline has no SEO value.
Headers have a significant role in conversion optimization, too. The headline is one of the first things that a user sees when they land on a page. It shapes their entire perspective on that page. It affects their likelihood to stay and to convert.
It’s not just search engines that are looking for relevant keywords. Users are looking for them too. If a shopper is in the market for “shoes,” they will want to see a headline that has “shoes” or something similar. If you get the relevancy right on your headline, you’ll get them to stay and convert on your page.
Here’s a sample test from a Business2Community article. The first headline was small and bland: “Smart Tools.” What’s that talking about? A Swiss army knife?
But the second one was more precise and keyword-focused: “Create successful social media campaigns fast.” Not only did it have the keywords, but it also named user benefits, giving an even greater boost to conversions.
In the A/B test, version B gained 28% more signups.
Every page needs a headline, and the better the headline, the better your SEO and CRO.
Conclusion: It’s all about the users.
If you had to roll up CRO and SEO into one big gooey ball of awesomeness, what would you call it?
SCREO? (Um, no.)
I would make it this simple: User optimization.
The better you make a page for the user, the better it becomes for search. The better you make a page for the user, the better it becomes for conversions. Users are at the crux of all this optimization.
Think about your users first, and let your technique and tactics flow out of that.