Staying ahead of the Google curve can be a feat in itself if you spend all day analysing keyword saturation rates and anchor text diversity. All SEOs need to remember it’s important sometimes to go back to basics to see the bigger picture.
Are we sculpting keywords and orchestrating anchor text to give Google-bot an easier job? No! We’re trying to make the internet a more productive and valued place, where users are able to locate worthy content easily and intuitively, and the same principle should be applied to all facets of our businesses, be it in store or online.
So instead of relying on SEO/PR practices, we should be thinking about how we can add value, and improve the customer engagement through other methods. What about Conversion Rate Optimisation?
A conversion health pack would certainly improve overall performance and budgets, but will enhancing usability improve SEO?
It could take a manual review to fully interpret all usability improvements, but even if this doesn’t occur, the algorithm still pays attention to drop rates, engagement (time spent on page), page-views, and this group of metrics all count towards overall visibility.
So the bottom line is, as long as your developments actually enhance the user journey, you’ll see ranking gains and a higher domain authority accruing.
What is CRO?
Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO) is the improvement of signposting and usability to enhance the rate at which people buy. If you’ve been using SEO techniques to send more traffic to your site, it’s likely that you’ll be looking for further ways to improve your market share.
By harnessing modern directives to improve the quality of search results you can improve your site’s usability and ranking capabilities whilst ensuring you get the best out of your traffic.
There are two main ways to analyse and gather information on usability, through A/B Testing and Surveys, and they both have their benefits, so it’s up to you to select a combination of techniques which you think are most suitable for your business.
Before you dig into the various usability testing methods, consider points of inspiration, this might even be your competitors.
If you want some stimulus, then look at Interflora.co.uk. It has some of the best rates of conversion in the industry, and some of the practices might directly be applicable to your website.
If you spent all day sending quality targeted traffic to a website, but the c'lient' wasn’t converting in line with industry standards, you might be forgiven for occasionally feeling like you were swimming upstream.
But if you realised just how little your department was invested in compared to marketing-centric departments, you might just go postal.
Digital job titles are merging more and our practices are becoming all-together more unified, as departments work together towards the business goals. As we can see from the statistic above, it’s important to give credit to all facets in a measured manner.
One way to justify this can be through attribution modeling, this is a theory which can attribute conversions to all interaction stages in the sales process, not just the last click.
So if your Ecommerce team have modified the checkout process, adding a retention strategy for dropped baskets, and this has been instrumental in bringing a customer back to the website but through another channel like search, then the partial credit can be attributed to the CRO department.
Start with a strategy, where improvements to conversion are valued as important as traffic gains, in order to achieve the overall business goals. By reducing the steps taken in the customer journey, and improving opportunities for up/cross-selling you can ensure that you leverage traffic to its potential.
In the words of Bryan Eisenberg; “For you to achieve your goals visitors must first achieve theirs”.
Examples of proven/employed CRO techniques
A few years back Amazon decided to remove the traditional left hand navigation from its product pages. The justification behind this was simple, give your customer fewer opportunities to change their mind, and they might actually buy what you’re offering.
Now Amazon didn’t take this step without adding other elements to the product page to ensure that if the product offered wasn’t right, that there were other routes that the customer could take.
Just take a look at an Amazon product page, it’s pretty exhaustive with the amount of information, creating a 'one stop' shop for customers, where the content hopes to answer any potential question they might have, and the content appeals to search terms frequently used.
So whilst the content can improve rankings & benefit conversion rates, it’ll also help cut down on complaints too, as users are given a better picture of what they are purchasing.
A few companies use an enclosed checkout, which simply put, is a basket purchasing process whereby if the customer has instantiated the buying process, they are encouraged not to drop out.
If a drop does occur, re-marketing can take place via email and the details from the previous interaction are saved for the next visit.
Analysing conversion optimisation opportunities
There are many ways which you can start examining the customer journey, but one of the best quick and dirty ways is to use Five Second Test where you can submit a screenshot of your page and gather responses from the fivesecondtest community.
It's free to sign up, and you can even earn credits by acting as a tester on other peoples assets, which can prove really useful if you’re looking for inspiration.
You can ask a variety of questions, SEO Manager at 7thingsmedia, Ewan Stevenson, has tested a wealth of questions and compiled the below list which bring the most insightful responses:
- Do you recognise the brand?
- Can you tell what the brand actually does?
- Can you see the call to action?
- Is the page too cluttered or noisy?
- Is mock-up A better than mock-up B?
Eye tracking technology is another great way to analyse the overall layout and design of your site. Crazyegg.com provides the functionality, and also supplies heat mapping tips and advice taken from their experience with a vast amount of high-profile brands.
If you’re a SME or you can’t justify a more robust package like IMB Analytics (CoreMetrics), then this out of the box solution is a great way to analyse game changing improvements.
Driving longer on-page engagement
One of the key tips for SEO in 2013 is the use of embedded videos to drive higher engagement times and conversion.
We should all know by now that adding explanatory videos can improve conversion by around 20%, Ariat stated that visits where a product video had been viewed had a conversion rate that was 160% higher than visits where no video was viewed.
A slick way of showing the video is to supply auto-play parameters, meaning browsers will see the video upon page load. The SEO benefits are overt, by adding to the view count, you can improve 'social signals' that are so key to getting relevant, fresh content higher in the SERPS.
If you want to add an embedded video to a landing page of your own, then locate the video on YouTube, click share from the navigation, then the embed tab and copy the code snippet.
Just remember to transcribe the contents of the video if it contains useful information!
Content? links? on-page perfection?
Google likes it when browsers can find engaging and easy to use content quickly. It keeps people coming back again and again.
So what if they can find the content easily, but it’s clunky and horribly designed? Drop rates would certainly show the lack of engagement.
For SEO to survive it has to evolve. Black Hat techniques are still prevalent, but if you want to serve future-proof SEO strategies, you need to think about what Google will look for in the future.
With on-page engagement factors becoming more influential over ranking ability, refining the customer journey, whether it’s a route to content, or products, will ultimately improve the perceived value of your website.
- Take inspiration from industry leaders and even from your competitors' websites. Look at what surveys and usability reviews say about your competitor websites; is the feedback constructive for your own offering?
- Use the newly available Attribution Modeling tools in Google Analytics to give credit where credits due.
- Add value, and when you can’t add value, attempt to encourage user behaviour that results in sales, i.e. Enclosed checkouts.
- Test various solutions with large amounts of users to reduce the impact of spurious results.
- Internalise feedback, digest it fully and don’t just listen and react blindly, think about what works for your competitors but more importantly what will work for you.
- Your customers will interpret value in different ways, so think about the target audience, and ensure your improvements benefit real world purchasing activities, such as finding reviews, FAQs and product guides.
- Think about your customers, and what their requirements might be, but also about their behaviour, and how different scenarios can affect demands, i.e. mobile site testing
The next time an algorithm update is released instead of running around screaming 'damage limitation' you can have a smile on your face, knowing that your brand is improving its online offering ahead of Google’s next moves.