CRO and SEO: You Can’t Have One Without the Other

Written by Sarah Quezada on January 26, 2015

Posted in Lead Generation

Search engine rankings are high. Traffic is up. Life is good, right?

Not so fast. Without a conversion rate optimization (CRO) strategy, your traffic from SEO may not lead to signups, shares, clicks, or sales.

We all know to avoid outdated SEO tactics like keyword density and link farming that now get penalized by search engines. But all the recent changes mean new misunderstandings about search engines, usability and optimizing for conversions. Companies get confused. Budgets are misallocated. Marketing becomes siloed and no one seems to know what’s really working.

Sound familiar? Time to clear up some common misconceptions about SEO and CRO—and why you can’t have one without the other.

Misconception #1: SEO Happens Naturally

Many companies have stopped optimizing their websites altogether. They’ve heard about updates and believe search engines will automatically “get” what their naturally-written website’s about.

It’s true that today’s sophisticated algorithms can distinguish user intent. Google knows to look for synonyms like “funny” and “weird” when someone searches for “silly baby names.” But the bots can’t discover the exact phrases people are using to find your services or products. You have to do that yourself.

CRO can add valuable ammunition to your keyword research arsenal. Testing different headlines, button copy, and content will make clear which keywords and phrases resonate most with customers.

Misconception #2: CRO is the New SEO

Conversion rate optimization improves your website’s performance. It doesn’t help people discover your webpages in the first place. That’s what SEO fundamentals—title tags, meta descriptions, keywords, and so on—are for.

CRO can help turn these essential SEO elements into conversions. Have you identified the call to action that leads to the most form submissions? Put it in your home page title tag! What benefit statements resonate with your ideal customers? Rephrase and add them to meta descriptions, subheads, and page content.

These “snippets” and sound bites of compelling copy can increase your chances of showing up in relevant search engine results. And they’ll generate profitable clicks at the same time.

Misconception #3: CRO Won’t Drive Traffic

If you’ve ever been confused by a homepage headline, you’ve seen this mistake in action. It happens when a business puts all marketing resources toward generating website traffic. Decision-makers get so focused on search engine rankings that there’s little left in the budget for campaigns that focus on converting customers once they land.

The result? Keyword-stuffed content that does nothing to convince users to click or convert. Ultimately, this mistake can even cause a drop in rankings.

The great irony in this example is that search engine algorithms now factor in everything from content quality to site load times to the presence of “https” in a URL when ranking websites. In other words, Google and Bing are paying attention to the very same things you’d test and tweak in the process of optimizing for conversions.

Misconception #4: You Have to Rank to Convert

Are you still tracking your web page’s rankings on a daily basis? Nope? Good. You’d be placing too much emphasis on an unreliable metric.

Personalized ranking factors make it virtually impossible to anticipate exactly where and how your webpages will appear in individual search engine results. Different users often get different results based on their physical locations and past queries. This happens even when they’re typing the exact same keyphrase.

You can’t (and shouldn’t) rank for everyone. It’s simply not possible. And it’ll do little to improve your bottom line. But identify your ideal customers through CRO, and your chances of showing up in their search engine results increases significantly.

Why Every Element Of SEO Should Include A Measure Of CRO

Here’s the real kicker: Google changes its algorithm a whopping 500+ times a year. Your customers don’t evolve that fast. An ongoing conversion rate optimization strategy makes it much easier (and more profitable) to capture high quality leads month after month and year after year.

A comprehensive lead capture tool can make it easy to find out which benefits, calls to action, and other elements drive conversions. Start a free trial of Formstack to start testing (and SEOing!) them out for yourself.