It’s a common misconception that the sole purpose of search engine optimization (SEO) is to drive traffic to a website. Traffic in and of itself doesn’t have intrinsic value. To create value, the traffic that comes to your website has to convert.
The essential question for an online business is how to increase the percentage of traffic that converts on your website. By combining SEO with conversion rate optimization (CRO), you can elevate your website from a traffic magnet to a conversion machine.
Before I detail how to implement SEO conversion practices, let’s set the foundation with some definitions.
What Is a Conversion?
At its most basic level, a conversion is any predefined action a visitor makes on your website. By “pre-defined,” I mean something you’ve determined will move them through your sales funnel.
Different types of conversions happen at various junctures of the user journey. For instance, a top of funnel prospect converts to the middle of the funnel when they subscribe to your blog or sign up for your email list. At the bottom of the funnel, a prospect buys or signs up to convert to a customer.
Although it’s easier to calculate the value of purchase conversions, every type of conversion has revenue-generating potential.
What Is Conversion Optimization?
Whether you call it CRO, conversion optimization, or conversion rate optimization, CRO is a strategic discipline focused on increasing the percentage of visitors to a website that transitions into customers. In essence, conversion optimization streamlines a prospect’s journey from search to purchase.
Rather than generating traffic, conversion optimization is about generating more sales from the traffic your website already has.
CRO practices incorporate user feedback, analytics, and A/B testing to spot and repair potential roadblocks in the customer journey, simplifying the transition from prospect to paying customer.
Why Does CRO Matter?
Simply put, conversion optimization is the most direct method to improve revenue generation on your website. Think of it this way — you put considerable resources into bringing visitors to your website. Those visitors are valuable because they represent potential revenue. Every visitor who leaves your site without taking action (whether it’s completing a form fill or making a purchase) is a missed opportunity to make a sale.
Conversion optimization investigates and addresses why someone abandons your site without transitioning to the next stage of their customer journey.
The Benefits of Conversion Rate Optimization
Optimizing conversions on your website helps you funnel visitors to a specific goal — whether it’s physically or psychologically. CRO makes your marketing strategy more effective by generating the most value from your website traffic.
Without a formalized optimization plan, you might be taking action based on what you think or feel is the right thing to do. A rigorous conversion rate improvement strategy creates the structure for testing your theories and evaluating your results.
I’m an ardent proponent of the idea that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. If all marketing roads lead to conversion, optimizing the pivot points for revenue generation removes potential roadblocks that impact the success of your marketing plan.
By improving the efficiency of your marketing funnel, you’ll be able to reclaim leads or sales that you’ve been missing out on. Over time, you’ll increase your revenue without expanding your marketing budget, which means bigger profits for your business.
Improved Search Visibility
Conversion optimization tactics, like creating better content, improving site functionality, and speeding up page load times, align with Google’s Core Web Vitals update. Improvements in these areas will be rewarded with improved ranking in search results.
Learn More About Visitors
The continual A/B testing of a robust conversion optimization program will reveal details about customer preferences that you can use to refine both online and offline marketing strategies.
The Human Side of Conversion Optimization
There’s no doubt that CRO is a metrics-based discipline, but an exclusive focus on metrics, such as conversion percentages, averages, and benchmarks, comes with a downside.
The more fixated you are on conversion data points and actions, the less you think of the human beings behind those numbers.
At its core, conversion rate optimization is about understanding what drives your users and which barriers get in their way, so you can create the best possible user experience for them, making it effortless for them to move through your marketing funnel.
That kind of understanding requires more than data. It requires empathy.
Focusing on the final desired action — the conversion — is important, but the truth is there’s a lot that happens before that point. Rigorous CRO requires understanding what drives people to your website, what makes them leave and how to engage them in a way that leads them to convert.
How Engagement Drives Conversions
Improving your conversion rate depends on engaging prospective customers on your site and encouraging them to take the next step on their customer journey.
Understanding Google Analytics engagement metrics can help you identify how to improve your conversion rate.
Google measures bounce rate as a percentage of people who leave the page they land on without taking any further action on your site. Contrary to popular belief, a high bounce rate doesn’t necessarily mean that people aren’t finding what they’re looking for on a landing page. They might discover precisely what they’re looking for, happily consume the content you’ve provided, and move on with their lives.
A high bounce rate means that you’re not providing people with 1) the inspiration to action or 2) an obvious next step they should take.
As an engagement metric, bounce rate is less about engagement with your content than with your user journey.
GA calculates exit rate as the percentage of people who leave your website from a particular page. Like with bounce rate, many people believe that a high exit rate is a red flag for content that doesn’t provide what users want. Instead, a high exit rate can represent missed conversion opportunities. If you have a page with a high exit rate, ask yourself if you’re providing a clear set of next steps for your users.
Average Time on Site
At the most superficial level, average time on site is just like it sounds — it’s an average of how long users spend on your website. Only, it’s not that simple.
Because GA measures the time spent on a page by calculating the time between page views, it cannot measure the time spent on an exit page (because there is no next pageview).
As a result, if someone spends 20 minutes reading an in-depth article on your site, then exits, that time isn’t calculated into the average time on site.
That’s not to say average time on site can’t be a helpful metric to measure engagement, but it needs to be taken with a grain of salt when you’re looking at pages with a high exit rate.
Pages Per Session
The average number of pages a visitor clicks through on your site could indicate their engagement with the experience you’ve created for them. But, it might also be a red flag for poor navigation and internal linking if users click around trying to find what they need.
You’ll want to dig into this metric for more context before using it to identify areas for conversion improvements.
What is a Good Conversion Rate?
There is no reliable benchmark to compare yourself against with 100% confidence. Every business is unique, so a good conversion rate for your business shouldn’t be based on a good conversion rate for another company. In short, a good conversion rate is whatever helps you meet your business objectives.
You’re better off setting benchmarks aside and focusing on developing an in-depth understanding of what matters to your users so that you can give it to them—and then, conversions will naturally follow.
Conversion Optimization Best Practices
While standard practices come to mind when you talk about conversion rate improvement, I can’t help but ask…
Best Practices for Who?
By definition, a best practice is a past practice. Just because something worked in the past for someone else doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you, your industry, or the current online landscape.
One best practice for conversion optimization that I can wholeheartedly recommend is this: Spend time understanding your users and customers.
Invest in understanding your users and using what you learn to build an optimization strategy to help your business thrive.
The Best Tools for Optimizing Conversion Rates
Rather than providing a list of apps that will help improve your conversion rate (those lists are easy enough to find somewhere else), I’m going to recommend you start with a low-tech approach.
Let go of your assumptions and approach your conversion data with curiosity. Approach the customer journey with empathy for the human beings on it and walk a mile in their shoes.
Top Four Tools for Conversion Rate Optimization
- Your eyes,
- and mind.
Pay attention to people.
Do you understand what they need and why they need it? Start there.
Then, if you need a new app or service, have at it. But remember to lift your head out of the heatmaps and line graphs now and then to challenge what you think you know about your prospects.
What Does SEO Have to Do with CRO?
The goal of SEO is to improve the quantity and quality of organic traffic to a website. Unfortunately, even search strategists often forget the “quality” part of the organic traffic they drive with search optimization.
What do I mean when I say, “quality traffic?”
High-quality website traffic aligns with clearly defined marketing goals, and since marketing goals center around conversions, it follows that high-quality traffic converts visitors into customers.
How Can SEO Deliver Converting Traffic?
One of the core activities in a search optimization campaign is creating valuable content that ranks in Google results. But, something magical happens when content is optimized with long-tail keywords that target specific points on the customer journey.
Say, for instance, someone is looking for the best organic food for babies. And they land on an organic food website with a product page that has optimized content explaining why their organic food is the best for babies. The search intent and long-tail keywords targeted by that content have created the shortest path from search to purchase, and…
delivered high-quality, high-converting traffic.
Search optimized, content-rich pages are a valuable source for conversions. In that sense, SEO content isn’t merely a traffic generator. It’s also a conversion generator.
CRO & SEO Content
Combine the disciplines of optimizing conversions and optimizing traffic, and you have a match made in heaven.
Implemented together, CRO and SEO complement each other, bringing in qualified traffic that converts. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.
SEO That Optimizes Conversions
Partner with an SEO agency to build a search optimization campaign that leverages high intent keywords and drives traffic directly to your highest converting pages. Pairing a targeted SEO approach with conversion rate optimization creates a virtuous cycle where increased traffic and improved conversion fuels profits that help your company thrive.
Victorious approaches our SEO partnerships with a long-term approach based on your business goals and focused on helping your company grow. Get in touch with one of our SEO consultants and learn how SEO can maximize your conversion rate optimization efforts.