How to Do Conversion Optimization without Ruining Your SEO

by 19 08/07/2014

For too long, conversion optimization and SEO have been viewed as enemies — like rival college football teams or industry competitors.

They’re not enemies.

In fact, taken together, conversion optimization and SEO are a force that can lead to insane levels of success and prosperity. Bringing these two together can create a cascade of conversions and traffic. You just need to change your view, then implement a practice that leverages the two to create a fire hydrant output of conversions.

Let me just lay some definition ground rules so we know that we’re talking about the same thing:

1.  What’s conversion optimization?

Conversion optimization is making changes on a website that cause a greater percentage of visitors to convert into customers.

2.  What’s SEO?

Search engine optimization is the practice of improving a website’s appearance in unpaid search results.

3.  How do they go together?

You want you website to have SEO and conversion optimization. It’s like a one-two punch:

Punch One:  SEO

Bring in the leads!

  • Brings in targeted leads
  • Boosts your SERPs
  • Improves keyword rankings
  • Enhances brand awareness
  • Produces higher traffic
  • Creates viral potential
  • Grows social following
  • Builds mailing list
  • Establishes site trust and authority
  • Increases linkbacks and recognition
  • Provides niche domination

Punch Two:  Conversion Optimization

Convert the leads!

  • Higher amounts of paying customers
  • Improved marketing ROI
  • Greater profitability
  • Faster business growth
  • Better customer appeal
  • Defeating the competition
  • Exponential improvements
  • Elimination of conversion loss points
  • Elimination of conversion barriers
  • Improved lifetime customer value (LCV)
  • Lower relative cost than generating new leads

So that’s how it works. You bring the traffic through SEO, then you convert the traffic through conversion optimization.

I’m not alone in my assertion.

Here’s Bruce Clay:

“Conversion optimization and SEO are two pillars of an overall marketing strategy. Without conversions, there is only traffic, which is no bottom line at all.”

Here’s Brian Massey:

“When you get a lot of bad traffic, your conversion rate drops, as would be expected. However, if you get traffic that is well qualified, you generate more sales, more leads for less effort.”

(In other words, SEO equals better leads.)

Here’s Rand Fishkin, veritable demigod of SEO:

If I were doing another startup today, it would focus on software for conversion rate optimization. I think this is still the most under-utilized and highest ROI activities in the marketing department,

Sadly, some CROs just don’t get it. They think, “Gah! SEO? Dude that’s dead. No, no, you need conversion optimization!”

Um. No. You need both.

Some CROs have a grievous disconnect in their mind between SEO and CRO.

For example:

“CRO needs some superhero love to be more popular than SEO.”

It’s not a competition! It’s a coherence. SEO and CRO are supposed to go together. Like bacon and eggs go together. Like peanut butter goes with jelly. Like strawberries go with shortcake. Like chips go with dip.

I agree with Rich Page’s conclusion — “Any online business who is serious about increasing sales and making more revenue on their website should be doing CRO, not just SEO.”

Yes. So let’s bring the two together rather than bash one or the other.

I first wanted to persuade you that conversion optimization and SEO are indeed BFFs. But I also want to show you exactly how these BFFs can make your business better.

Here’s how to make conversion optimization and SEO improve your business.

Put massive effort into content.

If there is one practice that is behind both SEO and conversion optimization, it’s content.

I cannot put it more brilliantly and succinctly than Scott Brinker.

Ultimately, in both SEO and conversion optimization, content is king. Don’t let technicalities overshadow what really matters: compelling value propositions and meaningful brand experiences. In SEO, this wins you links; in conversion optimization, it wins you customers.

Props, Scott. You’re right on.

Here is the SEO + CRO process for doing this:

SEO:  Content brings traffic.

In the first place, content is the primary traffic driver for your Internet biz, bar none. With no content, you have no leads. With no content, you have no audience.

SEO and content marketing are essentially one and the same. The only way to have a successful “SEO strategy,” which includes linkbacks, keyword ranking, etc., is to have content that drives such SEO elements.

Simply stated, if you don’t have any content, you’re gonna die. SEO creates the content that you need in order to have customers.

That’s why I wrote, “The only thing you need to focus on beginning today is content — killer quality content that turns heads, compels clicks, and creates conversions.”

Look at me. I’m a CRO, but I believe in content. It matters. It matters, because it brings to your website the very people that will convert and buy.

I can’t do my main job — conversion optimization — unless I do my other main job of content marketing.

CRO: Content drives conversions.

Content is a driver of conversions.

People don’t convert simply based on your sweet responsive site, A/B tested button color, or 800 pixel-wide lightbox popup.

Those are really important. But conversion optimization is about more than those.

Conversion optimization is about content.

Think with me…

  • Customers convert through call to actions. Call to actions are composed of words, content. What is a conversion optimized site without call to actions? It’s a waste of internet space. It’s crap. No one converts without call to actions. And those call to actions are made up of words and content.

Here is how Akismet did their call to action. It’s right up there with some sweet content — a counter. How awesome is that?

 Akismet call to action button

  • Customers convert because of value propositions. Value propositions are formed by words, content. A compelling value proposition is what shows customers that they need and want your product or service. You’re not going to provide that unless you prove it with content.

 The value proposition of CampaignMonitor comes through loud and clear. Even in this screen shot, you can find out exactly what they’re doing and what their value is. Value proposition content for the win.

 Campaign Monitor call to action button

Image from conversionxl.com

  • Customers convert through emotional appeal. Emotional appeal is crafted by words, content. Emotion is a conversion driver. But there’s no emotion unless there is first content that produces such emotion. You need some form of content — video, infographic, articles, etc. — to generate the emotional status that turns visitors into buyers.

Groopic’s landing page implements emotion in a powerful way. Using content about “friends” and a touching video, they effectively score emotional points:

Groopic emotional contetn

Image from blog.usabilla.com

  • Customers convert when you can help them relate to your brand and experience a need. This is only possible through dialogue and content. The way that you catch a potential customer in the buy cycle at the right moment is by gaining their traffic, relating to their need or position in the buy cycle, and then pulling them into the conversion funnel. You need content in order to do any of this.

I’m done trying to prove to you that content is the nexus of SEO and conversion optimization.

Now, I want to compel you to focus on content marketing.

If your brand or business lacks a content marketing strategy, begin now. Simply add a page to your website, call it “blog,” and start publishing relevant, high quality, consistent content

Seriously, it’s that easy.

Conversion optimization doesn’t ruin your SEO. It enhances it. Both are built on content.

Test traffic from keywords.

Conversion optimization is all about testing. Many CROs test color, size, images, placement, fonts, etc.

I also want you to test traffic from keywords.

A major source of your conversions is the keywords that you use to bring the targeted traffic.

Find out which of your keywords on blog posts, landing pages, or organic searches  is bringing the greatest amount of traffic. Based on these tests, you can further enhance the presence for that keyword, and improve the conversion funnel.

You’ve probably heard about the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80-20 Rule. I would suggest that 80% of your conversions come from 20% of your keywords.

Based on this theory, you should test keywords to provide conversion optimization. Here’s how.

  • Once you know those keywords, you can improve the conversion process for those 20% of keywords. You can enhance the funnel, reduce bounce, batten down the abandonments, and improve conversions.
  • Once you know those keywords, you can further open up the SEO floodgates by creating content using that longtail keyword, along with other semantically related content. If you know “beaver skin hats for little boys” drives tons of conversions for your beaverskin hat products, then you probably want to write several articles for your blog like “19 Reasons Why Kids Love Beaverksin Hats,” or “The Fascinating History of Beaverskin Hats in the United States.” Those content-rich pages will help to drive targeted search traffic, warm leads, and more conversions.

You will not ruin your conversion optimization when you implement SEO in this way. In reality, SEO is the driver for conversion optimization. You use SEO keyword strategy to optimize your conversions.

And that’s how it should be.

Add call to action on your content.

Another great way to improve your conversion optimization without ruining your SEO is to leverage your SEO content to gain conversions.

All too often, as I’ve lamented in this article, CROs think of SEO and conversion optimization as existing in different boxes. In their small minds, the twain are never mixed.

But the content that you create in an SEO strategy can actually be a source of massive amounts of conversion, if only you ask for the conversion.

The picture of a fatal mistake — Disconnecting conversion optimization from SEO.

Here’s what happens when SEO is disconnected from conversion optimization.

A business realize they need SEO. So, they consult with a content marketing firm. The content marketing firm starts writing articles, and the company posts them on awesomecompany.com/blog.

The blog starts generating traffic, and there are a few extra leads and conversions. Nice. People smile at each other.

But, unfortunately, it’s not really working out. There’s not much of an ROI. People frown. The CMO decides to can the content marketing, archive the blog, and try a different approach.

Sound familiar? It happens. A lot.

So, now let’s bring in the secret sauce of conversion optimization plus SEO, and see how it changes things.

The picture of a success story — Conversion optimization and SEO get married.

Here’s the beauty of bringing conversion optimization and SEO together.

A business realize they need SEO. Along comes the content marketing firm. They sit down with the company, talk through goals and come up with a plan — a blog.

But it’s not just a blog. This blog is directly tied to the goals and objectives of the company. What are the goals and objectives of the company? Conversions, of course.

Thus, when the content marketing company produces content, they also consult with the business’s CRO firm.

The content marketers say, “Here’s the killer content.”

The CROs say, “Here’s some sweet CTAs.”

Then, when the content goes up on the blog, it contains call to actions within the content, popup lightboxes, calls to action on a persistent header bar, calls to action on a sidebar, and calls to action at the end. Plus, there are social share buttons and internal deep linking.

Within a few weeks, the blog is generating traffic. That was a given. But the traffic is converting like crazy!

Conversion testers start examining heat maps, and find out which calls to action are converting. They analyze the success of the headers, compare it with the placement of the sidebar ads, and reconfigure the wording on the lightbox popup. They also analyze which keywords brought about the highest rates of conversion, and share these with the content marketing firm.

The content marketers get the data, and work up some wizardry in their own labs. With the data of high-conversion keywords, they mine more related keywords, and start producing even more targeted data which fetches even stronger conversion rates.

The CMO is ecstatic. Not only has traffic quadrupled, but conversion rates are through the roof.

He receives a $109 dollar bonus that year, and takes a two-month vacation to a private island.

That’s how it works. It sounds so simple. Just add a call to action to your conversion!

Yeah, it’s simple. When the traffic superhighway of SEO merges with the conversion flood of conversion optimization, you have sheer brilliance.

Simple? Yeah. Effective. Oh, yes.

Bring it together!

These three enhancements are just the start.

SEO and conversion optimization are kindred spirits, not brutal enemies. When you shift your view to see the two as supporting elements to an overall strategy, it changes everything,

You’ll start to view both with the same pulse-quickening level of excitement. You’ll start to view both with joyful approval.

Conversion optimization, done right, will not ruin your SEO.

SEO, done strategically, will not ruin your conversions.

Let’s bring the two together.

Read more Crazy Egg articles by Jeremy Smith.

About 

Jeremy Smith is a serial entrepreneur, trainer and conversion consultant, helping businesses like IBM, Dow Chemical, American Express, Panera Bread, and Wendys improve conversions and strategically grow their businesses. Jeremy’s experience as the CMO and CEO of technology firms has given him a powerful understanding of human behavior and profit-boosting techniques. Join thousands of in-house marketers by downloading a copy of his latest ebook: A/B Testing for In-House Marketers.

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19 COMMENTS

Geoffrey

Hey Jeremy. Great article. How do you figure out what keywords your SEO traffic is coming from with (not provided) in effect? Maybe you have some secret method that I don’t know about :)

August 7, 2014 Reply

    Jeremy Smith

    Hey Geoffrey, great question. I am not sure it’s a secret method I use, however I now rely more heavily on Google Web Master tools. I also try to associate a single page on a site with a topic or theme regarding the content. The more specific I am with that, the easier it is to identify what keywords I should be going after in terms of ranking and optimization. There is a great post on KISSmetrics on this very subject. Check it out. https://blog.kissmetrics.com/unlock-keyword-not-provided/ Also, when you are done reading that, the first line has a link to another post that Sean Ellis wrote. I highly recommend reading both of these posts to help you attack this issue. Thanks for the question.

    August 12, 2014 Reply

karma

Very nice writeup , sometimes conversion rate optimization ends up with irritating pop-ups and misleading clicks . You outlined the correct points

August 9, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Karma, glad we could help :)

    August 10, 2014 Reply

    Jeremy Smith

    Hi Karma. Yes, I agree those can be annoying, especially for advanced users like yourself. However, in all of my testing, those are great ways for better engagement and list building techniques. Thanks for the comments.

    August 12, 2014 Reply

Sudarto

Nice to meet your blog. Your article is very interesting. I am happy to read several times to be able to understand and apply in practice. This is a very essential thing for the development of the blog. Thank you.

August 9, 2014 Reply

Christopher Soule

I’ve just bought the domain name for my blog and now I’m trying to figure out my SEO strategy. I have a list with over 1k keywords but I don’t know on which to focus first. Because I can’t afford to pay for a deluxe service, I used the Google keyword tool but I don’t know how to sort them; should I go for the ones that have less competition or for the ones with most searches?

August 9, 2014 Reply

    Kathryn Aragon

    Hi Christopher. I generally take a balanced approach. I highlight the keywords that have the highest search rates, plus the terms that have good traffic and medium to low competition. In that second group I usually find some winners. But I don’t shy away from the high-competition terms. If there’s a term that a lot of people are looking for and it fits your business, go for it. Just create a high-quality page specifically for that keyword, and make it as useful to readers as you possibly can.

    August 9, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    I think you should go after keywords that are most reflective of your target audience. You ideally want people from your niche market to visit your site because they are most likely to convert.

    August 10, 2014 Reply

    Jeremy Smith

    Hi Christopher, great question. It’s a question I see often. I completely agree with Kathryn and Neil both on this one. As a general rule, I typically try and theme a page and assign one main topic to each page. From there, I can see what keyword phrases present opportunities for both ranking, but more importantly conversion. As you set your goals and see people converting, you can start to weed out those keywords that aren’t converting for you and only focus on the ones that are producing revenue in the end.

    August 12, 2014 Reply

Tim

Great article Neil

Would you suggest having a contact form or at least a call to action to a contact page on each page within a website or do you think site browsers are becoming desensitized to these basic calls to action? Is it better to stick to a specific kind of desired journey for the user and use calls to action to encourage a user to make this journey?

August 13, 2014 Reply

    Neil Patel

    Tim,
    Thanks for the support.
    To answer your question, I would avoid overdoing contact forms. Place them on specific landing pages that are relevant. You’ll see the best results that way.

    August 13, 2014 Reply

Jeremy Smith

Hi Tim, great question. I tend to agree with Neil on this. Avoiding overdoing contact forms on all pages is probably a “good best practice”. That said, I have customers who do have contact forms on every page and we continually analyze the submission page per page. We also noticed that the main content pages have the highest form submissions. We were considering removing them from some pages, but the data told us not to.

The other point here is, there may be pages that are part of a convesion funnel, where the user isn’t quite ready to give all of their information. We have to create emotional points throughout the page and increase trust so that when we push them through the funnel and they land on a page where we do have a conversion form, they are more than happy about giving the information that we desire. All in all, to answer you question, I think it greatly depends on the type of site, as well as the intent of the user and the segment that they came from (new vs returning, etc). Hope this helps. Thanks for sharing.

August 13, 2014 Reply

    Tim

    Thanks Jeremy, and great article! Got the wrong person before :S

    August 13, 2014 Reply

amansharma

I agree with the article Jeremy. You are absolutely right that these two aspects are not enemy but if combied together will boost up the business altogether which is good for the business. If our SEO work brings us the customer then its just a good job performed combining SEO with Conversion Optimization.

September 8, 2014 Reply


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