How is SEO different from CRO?
Although they are different digital marketing disciplines, SEO and CRO go together like mashed potatoes and gravy. You can have them alone, but they are far better together. Before we dive into how they differ, let’s talk about how you can use both to build profits.
SEO or search engine optimization has one primary purpose: to achieve rankings that drive a higher quantity (and quality) of organic traffic to your website from organic search. More traffic equals more leads & sales.
CRO or conversion rate optimization is a process designed to increase the percentage of traffic who take the desired action on your website. The action could be an online sale, submitting a lead form, newsletter signup, or any action that has value to your business and decreases your bounce rate.
Small Steps Lead to Big Success
In both cases, CRO and SEO work to increase the performance and profitability of your website. Each can have a significant effect on your revenue but combining the two strategies magnifies performance.
Suppose your website’s visit-to-lead conversion rate is 2%. This means that for every 1000 visitors, you are getting 20 leads. Your boss is screaming to increase leads, so you invest in SEO, wait 9 months, and “voila” – you go from 5,000 visitors a month to 9,000. Wow, that’s great! Your boss thinks you are a magician.
The problem is you will still have the same 2% conversion rate. Yikes! You have more traffic but 98% of it is leaving without taking any action. When the boss screams for more leads again, you are faced with finding more traffic. That probably won’t happen quickly, and it certainly won’t be cheap.
But you come up with an idea. You redesign the lead form, remove some unnecessary fields, improve the call to action and make the page more user-friendly. You notice the conversion rate climbing! After a few months of continual testing and changes, your conversion rate soars to 4%!
While in real life it doesn’t always happen this fast or easily, embracing CRO is certainly a step in the right direction. Where would Amazon be without CRO?
CRO not only improves the visitor experience but also helps you to squeeze every lead out of your existing traffic.
Focusing solely on SEO puts you in a position of always chasing more traffic every time you want to increase leads. This is a costly mistake. Investing in CRO adds value to the traffic you have today as well as the traffic you have yet to acquire.
Where CRO and SEO Differ
We all know building keyword-rich pages is a necessary component of SEO. CRO relies heavily on your content too, but injecting keywords isn’t part of that goal. In SEO, you are optimizing to influence search results and in CRO you are optimizing to influence and persuade human visitors. Sometimes this difference can put the two disciplines at odds with each other. On one hand, you may have a high-ranking page for a particular keyword that is driving tons of traffic. Making any fundamental changes to the content could potentially hurt SEO. However, compromises should be made based on what the data is telling you.
Persuasion is key when it comes to CRO. And one of the biggest improvements you can make is to list your product/service benefits–not features. Apple nailed it in 2001 when they first introduced the iPod. Their headline was “1000 songs in your pocket” rather than “50 Gb of Storage”. While the second phase adds value to SEO, the first was golden for sales.
A good CRO strategy starts with an in-depth analysis of what you are offering and the strength of your offer. Your “unique value proposition” and how you convey that benefit are not usually a part of SEO. These things are very important to your human visitors as they always want to know “Why should I buy from you and not your competitor?”
Unlike SEO, CRO involves A/B testing (using tools like Google Optimize and Optimizely). Creating pages with similar offers, making small changes, and testing one against the other is a proven method to continually improve your conversion rates.
CRO is generally less costly than SEO and companies may only need a fraction of what they typically budget for SEO. However, many companies still do not invest in CRO. Why? It is often hard for companies to visualize the benefit to their bottom line. They haven’t taken the time to figure out how much the lead is worth before it transforms into a sale, so they are not sure what to spend on increasing acquisitions.
SEO directly impacts the volume of traffic from search results, where CRO may only indirectly influence rankings due to improved content, usability, and a higher click-thru rate.
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Both CRO and SEO involve making improvements to your website. Improving load times and providing a better user experience are part of both strategies.
Choose Your Words Wisely
Keyword selection and rankings are a shared aspect of both CRO and SEO. Knowing the searchers’ intent is a key factor in choosing a keyword and creating the best landing page experience for both search engines and human visitors. If the search is transactional (like “bikes for sale”) the CRO strategy for the landing page will be different than if the search query is informational (like “how to change a bike tire”).
Improving your page titles and meta descriptions can impact rankings but they also work to improve CRO. When users see well written titles and descriptions in search results, they know what your page is about, and they are less likely to bounce. Increased engagement leads to higher conversion rates.
In SEO, creating a continuous flow of new content helps you target a wide range of keywords. However, the content should also resonate with human visitors, answer all their questions, and persuade them to take the next step. Depending on whether the search query is transactional or informational, your CRO strategy should lead the user to the desired goal.
What Comes First–CRO, SEO, or Both?
While some experts may say you need a ton of conversions before you consider CRO, I disagree. Just like SEO, it is never too early to consider CRO.
While it’s true that more traffic and conversions give you more data to work with there are some tasks that may be low-hanging fruit. These are the easy and fast wins at any traffic level.
Where the Rubber Meets the Road
A successful SEO strategy will continually feed high-quality traffic to your website. A successful CRO strategy will continually convert more of that traffic into customers. Each discipline has a different process, but the goal is the same.
In the wild, CRO works to help SEO. Google has been giving us the secret formula for some time now by telling webmasters to write for human visitors and not search engines. That’s because Google wants to rank sites that have the most engaging content. CRO keeps your visitors engaged and that will help you boost those rankings.