The purpose of search engine optimization is to help your website rank highly in organic search, with the ultimate goal of gaining qualified traffic from search queries related to your business. It’s about improving visibility and attracting visitors, all without having to pay for clicks.
Most people think that’s all SEO can do, but actually there’s a pretty powerful interplay between conversion optimization and SEO. Search engine optimization, when done properly, can have the added benefit of improving site conversions. The opposite is also true: when your site is properly optimized for conversions, it’s in a better position to perform well in organic search. Increasingly, search engines value usability and truly outstanding content. And as it happens, users value those same things (even if they wouldn’t necessarily articulate it that way).
Below we explore how search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization can work in tandem to improve site performance.
Attracting qualified traffic through strategic keyword targeting
If your SEO strategy is focused on search terms and phrases that are appropriate and relevant to your brand, then you should be pretty successful in attracting not only traffic, but specifically qualified traffic to your website through search. Unless you’re a major national brand, your SEO efforts are probably (hopefully) less focused on ranking for popular and competitive head terms that convert at very low rates, and more concerned with targeting longer tail phrases that are highly relevant to your brand and services. Users who enter through these terms are more likely to find what they were looking for, and are more likely to convert as a result. In this way, having a strategic SEO strategy can help you attract traffic that is primed to convert.
Developing landing pages that match user intent
The goal of the search engine is to provide the user with the most relevant possible result. That means if the user searches for “red Nikes”, Google won’t return a shoe retailer’s homepage as the first result, it will return a category landing page populated with red Nikes. Why? Because that page contains the content the user was most likely looking for. What this means is that SEO naturally helps you better match user intent by serving up the most relevant page of your site as an entry point for the user.
If you don’t have a good landing page to match a certain set of search terms, then you won’t be able to rank for those terms. Thus an important part of SEO is creating the landing pages you need to house the content the search engines will crawl, index, and hopefully rank highly. But relevant category pages and content are good for the user too — they help him find what he needs more efficiently, increasing the odds that he’ll convert.
Creating relevant, content rich landing pages helps with search visibility, and your website’s ability to convert traffic.
Improving load times to impact rankings and conversions
Google wants to deliver the best possible user experience to its searchers, and as far back as 2010 it has been telling us that it takes load times into account when determining rankings. That’s because if there’s one thing we can all be sure of, it’s that users hate slow load times. There’s tons of research to suggest that slow load times increase bounce rates and have adverse affects on overall conversion rates.
The interplay between SEO and CRO here is clear: Google penalizes sites with slow load times and users are less likely to convert when they encounter a slow site. Delivering a fast site means delivering a positive user experience, which is beneficial both to your site’s ability to convert and to its ability to rank.
Offering better mobile experiences to please algorithms and users
Modern SEO requires that you provide users with exceptional mobile user experiences. As of 2015, more Google searches are carried out on mobile than on desktop. This means that mobile is generating more search traffic than desktop is, and you can bet your bottom dollar that Google is invested in making sure those mobile searches return positive experiences for users. It’s no secret: Google has been clear in stating that content that isn’t perceived to be mobile-friendly will not rank as highly as content that is.
So, it’s obvious that to maintain strong organic visibility in search, companies need to invest in making their web content mobile-friendly. Of course, there’s another good reason to make your website mobile-friendly: it means an improved user experience, which means more conversions for you. Whether you endeavor to improve your mobile experiences to please Google or to please your users, the net result will be positive for your rankings and your conversions.
Search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization are tactics used in pursuit of separate goals. One, to improve rankings and acquire organic visitors. The other, to improve user experience on a website in order to encourage more conversions. What’s brilliant about pursuing these two goals at the same time, however, is that each has the power to positively impact the other. Search engines value usability now more than ever, so that means by following SEO best practices, you’ll be improving user experience on your site. And, in the opposite, direction, if you’re focused on usability for the sake of conversions, you’ll still be helping to bring your site up to date with the most modern and effective SEO practices.