Many Internet marketers get caught up in arguments over the most important strategy to improve conversion rates: search engine optimization (SEO) or conversion rate optimization (CRO). They talk about them as if one must be chosen over the other when, in practice, they are anything but mutually exclusive. SEO and CRO go hand in hand and must work together for a website to be successful.
And what ultimately defines success? Conversions. Whether converting a casual browser on the SERPs to a visitor on your website through SEO or converting that visitor into a customer through CRO, it's clear that these strategies are tightly linked.
Let's begin by defining the most basic goals of SEO and CRO. The goal of SEO is to achieve high rankings in search engines for keywords that most closely match a user's query, and the goal of CRO is to increase the number of visitors that are converted into customers. These are obviously simplified definitions, but they demonstrate the close connection between SEO and CRO and the role each plays to improve conversion rates.
Both SEO and CRO focus on website visitors. SEO wants to find prospects based on what and where they are searching and provide them with a reason to visit a website, and CRO wants to create the best possible user experience when they arrive. To succeed in both requires an understanding of the user's intent, which will also help determine the quality of the visitors. Qualified visitors are far more likely to be ready to make a buying decision than unqualified visitors who may only be searching for information or even be unaware of why they ended up on a particular landing page in the first place.
Now let's take a look at how and why SEO and CRO can and must work together to improve conversion rates. Effectively integrating SEO with CRO includes:
When beginning an online marketing campaign, CRO should come first (unless your site isn't receiving enough traffic to run valid tests). Once the landing page is optimized to improve conversion rates, you can develop a targeted SEO program that continuously finds and drives qualified visitors to the site. Think of CRO as plugging the holes in your leaky bucket (website) before pouring in more water (targeted traffic).
Ultimately, without CRO, painstaking SEO work can be performed in vain if visitors have a negative experience when they land on a page. But without SEO, CRO just has an optimized page with no visitors. They must work together in harmony to maximize visitors, improve conversion rates, and increase revenues.
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Tim Ash is CEO of SiteTuners.com, a landing page optimization firm that offers conversion consulting, full-service guaranteed-improvement tests, and software tools to improve conversion rates. SiteTuners' AttentionWizard.com visual attention prediction tool can be used on a landing page screenshot or mock-up to quickly identify major conversion issues. He has worked with Google, Facebook, American Express, CBS, Sony Music, Universal Studios, Verizon Wireless, Texas Instruments, and Coach.
Tim is a highly-regarded presenter at SES, eMetrics, PPC Summit, Affiliate Summit, PubCon, Affiliate Conference, and LeadsCon. He is the chairperson of ConversionConference.com, the first conference focused on improving online conversions. A columnist for several publications including ClickZ, he's host of the weekly Landing Page Optimization show and podcast on WebmasterRadio.fm. His columns can be found in the Search Engine Watch archive.
He received his B.S. and M.S. during his Ph.D. studies at UC San Diego. Tim is the author of the bestselling book, "Landing Page Optimization."
Connect with Tim on Google+.
March 19, 2014