What SEOs Can Learn from CROs

SEO is a complex discipline. In 2017 it’s set to become even more of a broad skillset, with SEOs wearing multiple hats. You’ll see SEOs switching from being a content marketer one minute, to a technical ninja the next. An SEO is increasingly also a CRO (conversion rate optimizer) and an UX (user experience) specialist.

By optimizing websites for conversions and users; and not just chasing after more web traffic, you’ll have a more lasting impact on your digital profile. Here are some key lessons that all SEOs can take from CROs. (Because let’s face it – we all need to learn how to do better SEO with people and sales at its heart).

Religious user testing

CROs are great at:

  1. Testing their assumptions rigorously &
  2. Analyzing data.

If you want to succeed at SEO, you’ll need to adopt the same approach. Get comfortable with user data and learn how to draw accurate conclusions from what it’s telling you.

Data analysis and user testing can tell you what parts of the site are letting the side down, and what content topics users are engaging with the most.

  • Learn how to love data and user analytics – this should be your first port of call when you’re looking for any SEO improvements. Train yourself up with a Google Analytics IQ to get the most out of your web analytics dashboard.
  • When making content changes to the site, analyze their effect on search engine rankings and user engagement. SEO changes can be hard to accurately attribute (thanks to a fluctuating algorithm), but you’ll be able see whether search engines like what you’re doing through ranking and indexing. Users will tell you how they feel with their navigational behavior and by spending less (or more) time on your site.
  • Usability testing and UX considerations should always be part of any SEO audits – UX is central to any business that wants to succeed online.

  • Converting leads is more cost-effective

    Driving after new traffic is less cost-effective than making the most of what you’ve already got.

    SEOs need to switch some of their traffic generation efforts to lead generation in order to maximize SEO return on investment.

    • Shift the focus away from the curious SEO’s “what’s out there”, to “what we can do with what we’ve got”? Work with the existing site and business infrastructure to maximize lead generation. Is there a contact list that needs resurrecting with an email blast? Content downloads not being followed up well? Core keywords being neglected on category pages? Low social media referrals caused by unclear messaging? Optimize what’s in front of you before running off into the SEO sunset.
    • Use SEO-friendly and sales-oriented landing pages to better capture search traffic (and convert paid traffic). Here is how to build effective and converting landing pages.

    Putting the users first

    We’re all learning how to better put users first.

    Instead of ‘forcing’ people to behave in a certain way, it’s now all about creating an integrated sales and search funnel.

    • Be clear, but don’t talk down to your audience. Never treat customers like unruly children who need to be forcibly funnelled down a certain path. Move away from more manipulative search tactics like keyword repetition, and drop the annoying salesy pop-ups. Focus on providing users with information that they are going to find valuable instead.
    • Think about what users really want – what questions are they asking (and why)? What problems do they have? A keyword research tool like AnswerThePublic can really help you get under people’s skin.
    • Conduct in-depth market research to help you understand the market you’re operating in. You can’t put people first if you don’t even know who they are!

    Integration with design, development & content teams

    For the best digital results, there needs to be integration and buy-in at the highest level.

    CROs know that they need design and development time in order to meet their targets. To do their jobs well, SEOs need equal access to designers, developers and writers.

  • By working with the whole digital team, SEOs can put together more daring, and more effective, promotional campaigns. SEO projects like niche microsites, user resource libraries, and other epic content marketing assets need design and development time in order to succeed. (Here are some more content marketing assets you might be sitting on).
  • SEOs need access to social media and content teams in order to have a lasting search (and brand) impact. Keywords must be understood and diffused at all levels – SEOs need to be at the heart of content planning and production in order to provide strategic input.

  • Don’t rush in and change everything at once

    CROs are very good at isolating out individual tactics and focusing on them one by one. SEOs could also benefit from a more systematic approach to web improvements. Learn how to prioritize well.

  • The best SEO is strategic – focus on one thing at a time, instead of trying to do it all at once. New site? Focus on the technical SEO and web elements first in order to build a solid foundation for future content.
  • Don’t get overwhelmed by a huge audit or to-do list – focus on what’s the most important. Not sure how to prioritize? Always start with what is going to most impact users & site speed.
  • Combine discrete SEO projects in order to reach a final, strategic goal. Add some link building to a content plan to boost results, or combine a technical SEO audit with a sales plan. Mix and match tactics when you need to.

  • Focus on the journey

    To get to the goal, you need to first understand the journey.

    SEOs need to approach the on-site user journey with the same enthusiasm they reserve for the search journey. Not sure where to start? Here is how to map a customer journey.

  • Don’t get keyword blind – what language is being used around the keywords? Is it both keyword specific and compelling? Does it meet the user at the right time? Are you moving too fast (or too slow) for their needs?
  • Look at your site’s silo structure again – does it flow? Have you got enough category and landing pages to keep the user engaged? It’s important to help people navigate through the site and keep them clicking (a key engagement metric).

  • Tie it to ROI (return on investment)

    CROs may have the luxury of being able to point to a percentage lift in conversion rates, but a lack of clear metrics shouldn’t stop SEOs from also thinking in terms of ROI.

    • Look at how a rankings lift will impact projected traffic, and how that would then increase the number of potential leads and sales. It’s important to try to estimate the commercial value of SEO tactics in order to justify an investment.
    • SEO is a long game – this needs to be made clear from day one. KPIs (key performance indicators) should reflect that, and never mislead people into expecting immediate results. Clear KPIs mean no nasty surprises

    Online results are always better when they involve smart integration of different tactics, disciplines, and teams. Integration helps you meet targets and build a brand, rather than just a business. What online goals are you setting yourself in 2017?

    Do you do your own SEO or do you use a different company?

    Please leave me a comment and let me know which way you go on this.  

    Ashley Burnett

    Web Ninja

    One of my first jobs was running a cash register in my grandmothers diner. My job was to talk to customers and and to keep everything in my area neat and organized. Now years later those lessons I learned help me in managing client files and projects. Making sure our team is working to help our clients reach their business goals is what drives me everyday.

    I am a strong believer that to succeed in life you have to work hard and never let roadblocks stand in your way. You have to read and study but you also have to experience life and all that it can teach you.

    My mission is to help clients and our team have the materials and knowledge they need to make every project a success, while making sure to spread some of the information I learn around for others to enjoy.