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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.

Take CRO inspiration from Interflora

Why CRO?

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. 

'For every $92 spent on acquiring customers in the US, only 1$ is spent on conversion'

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

Product page

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. 

Checkout process

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. 

Seven takeaways

  1. 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?
  2. Use the newly available Attribution Modeling tools in Google Analytics to give credit where credits due.
  3. Add value, and when you can’t add value, attempt to encourage user behaviour that results in sales, i.e. Enclosed checkouts.
  4. Test various solutions with large amounts of users to reduce the impact of spurious results.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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

Desert

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. 

Chris Bishop

Published 21 August, 2013 by Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop is Founder & CEO of 7thingsmedia and a contributor to Econsultancy. He can also be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.

17 more posts from this author

Comments (20)

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Ian

Totally agree with the fact that many agencies focus on content marketing to build links etc but totally ignore CRO/Usability which if anything is just as important.

After all if you are sending quality traffic to your website you want the visitor to convert into a sale or lead otherwise you are not getting the ROI from the marketing strategy put in place by the agency.

about 3 years ago

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Kieron Hughes

Hi Chris,

A few points to make here.

Firslty, the future of SEO wasn't PR, and isn't CRO. SEO is evolving, there is no question about that, but that doesn't mean it's going to be replaced by anything. While there are still search engines and people searching online, there will still be a need for search engine optimisation - just not the tactics or methods that are clearly geared towards quick wins and gaming the algorithm(s). Where there is a clear pattern, there is a way for Google and others to take action.

As SEO evolves it simply means people have to be smarter, and focus on the activities that are going to yield results (read 'results', not 'rankings'). It's much more important to have a greater focus on holistic online marketing, as opposed to old school SEO (links+content). This means engaging with the right audiences online, and getting in front of potential customers (be it through great content, PR-led outreach, social media, etc).

CRO is certainly a part of that, but you can't just do a bunch of usability tests and improve your site, then expect Google and others to reward that with more visibility for your pages.

I'd highly recommend reading this:
http://www.jonathoncolman.org/2012/11/26/we-can-do-better-than-this/

Thanks,
Kieron

about 3 years ago

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Michelle Carvill, Marketing Director at Made Simple Group

We want consumers to convert.
The end goal for most of us is to get consumers to ultimately convert. Surely it's more about an effective integrated approach - SEO, CRO, Content Marketing, Social.

Ensure our content and sites are 'findable' - optimising (SEO)
Once on our sites we need users to have a great experience - steering and signposting and encouraging conversion - testing, learning (CRO)
Not only does that great experience encourage them to convert but it also creates advocacy (Social proof / signals).

There isn't one thing we should be doing more than others - but rather focusing on optimising all of these facets.

about 3 years ago

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David Quaid

Well fair dues to Econsultancy for keeping up the SEO bashing! At least its consistent.

Almost all "visionary" statements can be put into 3 bundles - and this applies to all forecasting now available on blogs, twitter, Google+.

1. What I want it to be
From the Content Marketing Myth to the Social Media will replace SEO to SEO is dead. This suits somebody's world view. Rand Fishkin - hated being a peddlar of links, ultimately destroyed the idea and value of links by being a link spy (look into any Google video, blog post - they show you a snapshot of YOUR links and small subset of other domain links). seoMoz gamed the system and killed itself. "Great Content"

Journalists, Copywriters, Web designers hate the constraints they perceive in SEO and when they ignore it and subsequently don't do as well, they choose instead to rejoice in it's untimely and potentially fortuitous demise

2.Camp Ludicrous

How was PR supposed to be the future of SEO? Headline capturing, maybe but accuracy: zero. Press releases were a lazy way of doing SEO.

Here's the test. From any Google ccTLD or TLD do a search for "SEO". Select News. Setup an Alert. The fact that it only dawned on anybody in 2013 instead of 2007 is beyond me.

PR is, for the most part advertising. The link between PR's and Journo's (for decades, the only link to Media for most businesses) is one that is and should be, highly questionable

3. Camp Reality
Attended by less than 1% - it seems even when Google debunk things like G+1 ranking capability, its just not enough for Camp 1 and 2 to deny it and continue to seek causation and correlation.

Terrible content but it'll probably rank well.

about 3 years ago

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Giorgio cattaneo

Connective technologies devices, media and algorithmics are the best KPI of a successful PR activities. I'm really sorry for those who are going to define themself as social media and SEO or CRO guru: you are too many!!! Technology is a real base to profile people and their habits and to connect eachother in the best way known till now.

We cannot engage people with continuity, without contents, emotions and rewarding them so PR and communications pros are still the more qualified pros to drive engaging strategies.

We obviously have to delve even from the technical point of view all the characteristics of new media and social media. I think we should learn a lot from the real gurus of social media what it means continuing education instead of feeling the top of the class.

about 3 years ago

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Daniel Austin

I give up!

about 3 years ago

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David

If you've been doing 'SEO' for the last several years WITHOUT considering the conversion rate, or having pre-defined goals for success other than 'ranking', then you're probably not even in the business anymore - or won't be for much longer. (Though I guess there are still plenty of suckers out there who will hand over some money thinking that achieving top position for some poor converting keyword will end their woes.)

Most good SEO firms see the writing on the wall - Google continues to encroach on the organic results with paid ads, visual product listing ads, etc. so that even ranking in the first or second position doesn't guarantee the volume of traffic that it did even a few years ago. Getting mass traffic from high ranking keyword phrases could boost sales of even a poor converting website back then, but times are changing.

SEO should be integrated into a company's marketing department, it's just another tool to improve visibility and reach customers. CRO and generating leads/ sales should be responsibilities of the entire marketing team, not just the 'SEO'.

about 3 years ago

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anglina crown, accounts at textile

my classmate's mom makes $84/hour on the internet. She has been laid off for eight months but last month her pay was $18870 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more here.....WWW.ℛush64.COℳ

about 3 years ago

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karam

The future of SEO was PR, is it CRO now? is a great post.......

Examples of proven/employed CRO techniques will helps in my business.I agreed with you in SEO an Ideal content pages should be very specific—usually a product or an object—and be hyper-relevant.you can also visit on this website www.ucanedu.in

about 3 years ago

Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop, Founder & CEO at 7thingsmedia

@Ian - Thanks for your comment.

@Kieron - I'm glad the headline got you in.

I couldn't agree more with your points on holistic and joined up marketing. The blog just states the need for focus on a more specific area.

It would have been a rather long piece to include all - but I maybe should have caveated that at the beginning.

Thank you for your comments and the link.

@Howard - Hi Howard, again thank you for your reply and agree with your response.

As SEO's we need to be mindful that content is produced for a number of reasons - engagement, interest, debate, conversion, aiding wider marketing etc.

@David - Morning David, certainly not SEO bashing. I worked with our SEO team on this piece.

I'm glad the blog created the positive reaction. PR, content, WAP "being the future" are all common headlines.

The article is asking the question? What is next? What would Google do? And what is on the mind of SEO Managers, globally.

@Giorgio - I couldn't agree more the importance of technology within Ecommerce as a whole. From a marketing point of view it is joining up paid, owned and earned media with relevant KPI's driven from individual objectives.

@Daniel - Keep you head up champ ;)

@David - Hi David, again thank you for your comments. The key here is still we feel the common focus remains on ranking and we are highlighting your point with the wider factors.

Elements like content, conversion need to be prioritised accordingly.

@Anglina - We are recruiting at 7thingsmedia at the minute, please feel free to refer potential candidates ;)

@Karam - Positive SPAM comment, thank you!

about 3 years ago

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Sydney Fleming-Gale

This is a hot topic argument to add to the SEO saga we are encountering at the moment. The focus on attracting leads, and optimising your business with PR and SEO is the first leg of the race. The second is maintaing those leads with a focus on CRO.

Very interesting to learn about 5 second test. We will no doubt be using that to review our CRO status and advise our registered marketing agencies on how to improve their own CRO.

about 3 years ago

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Nick Stamoulis

I think Howard makes a great point. You have to get people to the site in order to convert them, so both SEO and CRO have their place. One isn't necessarily more important/valuable than the other.

about 3 years ago

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Martin Pezet

It is somewhat ironic Interflora is used as an example in relation to CRO and SEO since they were famously (albeit temporarily) booted off the organic rankings in Google a few months back. I can be pretty sure that their conversions plummeted when that happened so I hardly think that is a sound example to use in an article such as this!

Also I'd love further explanation on this statement: "the algorithm still pays attention to drop rates, engagement (time spent on page), page-views"

Really? How on Earth would Google have access to that data? Not every site out there runs Google Analytics you know.

"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."

Poppycock. I'm sorry, but you can't make statements such as this when you have no evidence for it whatsoever. It is what we should strive for, and what Google say they strive for, but we are not even close to that being a true reality at the moment.

about 3 years ago

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Robyn Seider

@ Nick - I agree with you, you still need SEO and CRO. You need to drive people to your site and then convert them over. You can't do the one without the other!

I also think you still need PR too using both social media sites and traditional pr using the media. This helps to generate brand awareness and build ones company name/profile.

about 3 years ago

Chris Bishop

Chris Bishop, Founder & CEO at 7thingsmedia

@Sydney - Thank you for contribution, agree it is a good topic to debate/discuss

@Nick - Completely agree - each website is unique therefore the owner will determine priorities across the board and then specifically within marketing and operations.

@Martin - Thanks for your contribution. The Interflora example specifically references the enclosed checkout and it's conversion benefits, not their SEO techniques taken which resulted in the temporary penalisation. I also doubt their conversion rate would have decreased during this period, just maybe the volume of actual traffic to the website.

My take on this article is that it looks forward to the next elements that potentially could be included into the algorithm. It could be naive of SEO's to assume that if Google Analytics data isn't already sampled and utilised where available, that it wont be in the future, given Google's ability and propensity to analyse big data.

Also, human reviews are more common than ever, so regardless of whether the algorithm takes heed of usability refinements, the directive to improve usability should certainly be incorporated into any holistic SEO strategy and wider Ecommerce plan.

It is certainly good to debate and discuss different opinions or viewpoints.

@121mcv - Shame on those search engines indeed!

@Robyn - Agree again, it is all part the wider mix.

about 3 years ago

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Al Gomez

Totally agree with this one, the future of SEO is not all about PR but it has something to do with Conversion Rate Optimization wherein it is the ultimate goal of a website to gain prospects that can convert to leads.

about 3 years ago

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Harsh

SEO will never loose its importance and its impact as people will search things via search engines and here search engine optimization comes in picture and its very true that its a fast changing industry,every now and then you heard about new updates and algorithm so lot of efforts are going on to improve more and more in Internet Marketing Industry.....

about 3 years ago

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Rahis

Wonderful article! This is the type of is great and shared around the internet. Shame on the search engines for now not positioning it higher! Thanks : ) Similar topics can be found at 121mcv and SEO will always play a very important in world of Blogging no one change and take its place.

about 3 years ago

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sampath

Thank you for the great information on SEO, a nice and amazing post,very helpful in boosting my SEO skills and lot to learn from you.

almost 3 years ago

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Robert

Gotta disagree with your first paragraph…webmasters/SEOs aren't "sculpting keywords and orchestrating anchor text" to make Google's job easier…they do it to make money by leveraging Google. Otherwise, spot on!

almost 3 years ago

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