CRO: The Partridge In Your SEO Tree

December 8, 2011
By Emily Cote in SEO

You’re checking your client’s analytics and you see traffic has increased steadily. You’ve pushed some of their key pages up in the Google SERPs, you’ve optimized their content for both readability and keyword usage, and you’ve built up their social profiles. It’s great and you couldn’t be more proud of the work you’ve accomplished. But, then you have your monthly call with your client, and s/he doesn’t want to hear about keywords, or traffic, or Facebook… the client just wants to know why they haven’t seen an increase in sales. Why are they paying you?

It’s time to talk conversion optimization.

Whether they realized it or not, your client hired you for one reason – to increase profitability.  So while it’s nice that ranks are increasing, if their conversions don’t increase along with it, nothing else really matters to them. As we’ve stated before, CRO (conversion rate optimization) has become an important part of SEO. With search engine algorithms becoming more and more personalized, it’s increasingly difficult to drive consistent traffic to target pages. Naturally, since we can only focus on the things that we can actually control, we as an industry are being forced to try and squeeze every last drop of value out of all possible on-page factors. And in a way, that isn’t a bad thing because it is forcing us to help create a better Internet. Usability, design, and quality content are more important than ever- and really, why shouldn’t those be a priority?

Increasing conversion rate should be a primary goal for your on-page optimization strategy. And luckily, CRO doesn’t really take a lot of money. But, it can get very technical and it can take time (testing) – and that’s something you should definitely explain to your clients ahead of time, to help manage expectations.

Below is a quick and dirty Conversion Optimization checklist to help you get started if you haven’t already.

Start by researching the customer. Who is your client’s target audience? How are they most likely going to use the website? Click through the website yourself and try to see it through a customer’s eyes. How easy is it to find the information you are looking for? How easy is it to make a purchase? Does the website appear trustworthy? These questions all point to:

  • Ease of site navigation
  • A simple website design with a clear, logical path to making a purchase
  • Strong, consistent branding signals throughout the website
  • Informative, easy-to-digest content
  • Seals, logos or other supporting evidence of a verified-safe online POS system

It may be difficult for you to be objective in your assessment of the site. If that is the case, ask a friend who is unfamiliar with the client’s website and brand to visit the site while you sit behind them (try not to be creepy and get permission so you don’t risk breaking NDAs!) giving them a task to accomplish. Watch how they interact with it. Take notes. Where do they click? Where do they get hung up? Are they able to accomplish the task or do they get hung up in the process? Where did they get lost?

If you’re looking for a free tool to help, check out Google’s Website Optimizer. If you are willing to spend a little money, check into heat mapping or usability studies, which can offer great insight as to how average users are interacting with the client’s website.

Once you have isolated the portions of the website that may need work, it’s time to start brainstorming ways to improve them – and testing those improvements. Make changes to the website, set up a control, and perform some A/B testing (try Visual Website Optimizer) to see how your audience responds to different site elements or calls to action. Test usability in the same way as before, and watch your analytics to see how your traffic changes. You can set up goals or funnels to track conversions.

As you find things that work: adopt them.

As you find things that don’t: learn from them.

Keep track of the results whether they work or not, so others can learn from those experiences. Conversion rate optimization is an ongoing process. As the Internet continues to evolve, CRO will become an even larger part of the SEO process as a whole.

For additional resources, you may want to check out this great CRO Guide from SEOmoz, or read up on the best tactics in landing page optimization covered by our own Michelle Lowery at PubCon.


[This post is part of our 12 Days of SEO series where we’ll be publishing a different nugget of knowledge related to the sounds of the season. We’ll be updating the 12 Days of SEO page as new posts are published.

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