Yesterday I talked about how SEO and CRO should work together. While conversion rate optimisation and A/B testing grow in popularity, CRO is still not considered an essential part of an organisation’s digital marketing strategy. Crazy when you realise that ‘good practice’ in terms of usability echoes ‘good practice’ for SEO.

Build a case for CRO with SEO in mind

Luckily, SEO and CRO are BFFs, and here’s why that’s a good thing…

Analytics for SEO, analytics for CRO

Before I go to make any testing recommendations for my CRO clients, I conduct some in-depth, structured analysis, starting with their website’s visitor data. Without this valuable data, you’re merely assuming how your visitors are engaging with your website, and therefore guessing how best to optimise your audience(s)’s user experience – a big no-no.

Average session duration is the length of time your visitors are spending on your site before exiting. It may or may not be used by Google as a ranking factor – it’s not listed in their Search Quality Evaluation Guidelines – but defining a ‘good’ session duration varies depending on website type, industry, and search query. Also the time of day and device used will impact duration, as will the visitor type (new versus returning, for example).

Bounce rate is the percentage of users who exit your website after viewing one page only. There are so many factors that can influence bounce rate, it’s unlikely that it’s a ranking factor. Consider these scenarios: A new visitor arriving on one of your product pages and leaving because they don’t want to buy versus a returning visitor coming to your site to read a blog post and leaving when they’re done. Both bounces, but entirely different circumstances.

Speaking of returning visitors, Google ‘sees’ pages with a high number of returning visitors,  or a high number of visitors arriving directly (as opposed to through a search query) as high quality. The content on the page is drawing attention, being engaged with, and so is favoured in SERPs.

Good UX goes beyond the landing page

A user journey is just that: multiple steps to get to a desired destination. Artificially inflating pageviews per visit in an effort to reduce bounce rate isn’t a great idea, and so you need to weigh-up breaking the user journey into clear steps against grouping relevant information together for SEO.

Using a sitemap to inform search engines of the structure of your website is definitely a good idea as it encourages indexing in search. Your intuitive navigation that encourages users to move around your site isn’t enough for Google.

Consider also that Google uses https as a ranking signal and that an SSL Certificate is a great way to reassure visitors that your site is legit. Your visitors will certainly be happier to enter their payment details into a secure site.

Content, content, content

The content on your site will make or break the user experience. Telling your brand story, writing interesting product descriptions and optimising your content for users all work together encourage conversions. That same engaging, well written and compelling content is what will encourage third party links to your site – the SEO dream.

Including keywords in your copy is essential in terms of ranking in search, but also help inform visitors. Including search terms in a landing page’s url, page title, meta description, headers and body copy is SEO 101, and has usability at its heart. A longer detailed article on a well-laid-out page offers a positive user experience, meaning your visitors are more likely to engage and return to your site for more, which search engines lurve.

Social media for SEO and CRO

A decent social media presence helps show the world that your organisation, is made of actual real human beings. With the yes/no argument on Google using social signals as a ranking factor rolling on, you’d be forgiven for thinking that social media for brands is simply customer service, PR and simple #bantz… but it’s so much more.

Just like your potential customers, Google digs real people and real offices. It’s why there are so many hoops to jump through for local SEO! Haul ass over to G+ and get that business listing up-to-date for your visitors as well as for Google. Other channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn could also be considered brand signals, and so could impact visibility in search as well as help inform the rest of the world you exist.

Our dear Ashleigh Brown wrote us a little something about the connection between social media and SEO. Both have a strong focus on content, earn your brand attention,  encourage sharing and communicate authority, all of which point to a positive user experience as much as ‘good SEO’.

Will 2016 be the year of conversion rate optimisation? Will we all eventually be singing from the same user-friendly hymn sheet? While usability is still the relative new kid on the block, Google’s ranking algorithms shifting toward more user-centric and user experience-centric measures surely means digital marketers will find it easier to make a case for CRO. Users first, search engines second.