SEO, CRO And UX: How To Converge The Three

All three must be present and the whole is, by far, sweeter than the sum of its parts


Many designers are familiar with that one client who always yells something like, 'I don’t care what the {expletive} site looks like; I care about how quickly it {same expletive} converts!'

Perhaps you, too, have experienced a similar client mentality – either outright or covertly. In our data driven times, savvy clients have been conditioned to benchmark analytics dashboards: they want traffic, they want conversions, and they want sales.

They will pay attention to SEO, CRO, and any methodologies that promise a quantifiable increase in 'trafficonversionsales'; and sidetrack user experience, online behavior studies, and any explorative endeavors that may not be obviously linkable directly to a sale.

Designers know that this is both counterintuitive and counter-productive. Counter-intuitive because user experience is a critical element that should never be discounted; counter-productive because whenever it is disregarded in favor of SEO and CRO, the KPIs suffer (not to mention the users).

User experience is not the cherry on top; in fact, in the great Neapolitan sundae metaphor, it could be said that UX is vanilla, CRO is chocolate, and SEO is strawberry. All three must be present and the whole is, by far, sweeter than the sum of its parts.

A successful site (and, let’s face it – a successful development team) combines the optimizations and the experience in a symbiotic relationship. The interdependence and interconnectedness is the foundation of success.

User-centric optimizations

Search Engine Optimization without a focus on usability, à la turn-of-the-(21st)-century link exchanges and un-newsworthy press releases, has gone by the wayside (where it belongs). Panda, Penguin, Phantom, and all Google updates are no longer looking for a keyword mosh pit.

This brings us to think about the greatest question of our time, which is: what does Google want?

And the answer can be easily found on the blog of Google: 'Our goal is to get [users] to the answer [they’re] looking for faster, creating a nearly seamless connection between [them] and the knowledge [they] seek.'

It is even states the first of their 10 philosophies: 'Focus on the user and all else will follow.'

There it is – the secret of ranking first on Google – create a site that is truly the best for the search term. Or, in other words – give users who are searching for {insert keyword here} exactly what they want.

The same is true for optimizing conversion rates – ultimately, doing what is best for the user, improves conversions.

When visitors search for a query on Google and land on your site, if they find exactly what they looked for, they will stay longer, begin a trusting relationship with your brand, and eventually convert, buy, and evangelize.

3 user-centric optimizations

1. Improve page speed:

1-second delay in page load time results in 11% fewer page views, 16% drop in customer satisfaction, and 7% loss in conversions. Google uses speed as one of the algorithm’s signals for page rank.

2. Test your value proposition:

Offering content that is easy to read and understand and clearly defines benefits in a way that speaks to predefined buyer personas is good for user conversions and good for SERP rankings.

3. Build content hierarchy through design:

An organized site map and clear navigation has a dual purpose: it makes it easier for search engines to crawl your site, and it makes it easier for users to progress through your conversion funnel.

Optimized usability

The interdependent relationship between usability and optimization is a two-way street. While optimizations work best when they focus on the user, so does the user experience work best when it is optimized.

4 optimizations of usability

1. Take a step back:

UI and UX professionals can preach about optimizing a site for the buyer’s journey ad nauseam. However, the truth is that the journey of web visitors starts before they even land on the page. Forrester reports that 93% of journeys start with a search. Understanding that the first step on a website is actually the second step in the buyer’s journey is a giant leap for designer-kind.

2. Focus on data:

In the great debates of our times (nature vs. nurture; science vs. art; work vs. play), often the best is to find a balance of the two. The same could be said of data-based optimization vs. visual-based design. By basing design, for example, on keywords that users are searching, a user experience is created that serves the needs of the user and guides the bots to the right content for each keyword.

3. Be responsive:

The mobile update of 2015 ensured that sites that are optimized for mobile get rewarded with better SERP ranking. In the United States, Japan, and eight other countries, more people search Google on their mobile phones than on desktop computers. Offering a responsive website that works well on all devices, platforms, and screen sizes is not only Usability 101, it is now also SEO 101.

4. Google second:

Google is #1 on Forbes’ list of Best Employers, it is #1 on Alexa’s list of top websites, and its founders are the #1 richest internet billionaires. When it comes to the experience on websites though, Google wants to be #2. On its Webmaster Guidelines, Google lists these three principles first:

Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.

Don't deceive your users.

Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.

In fact, Google spends considerable resources creating bots that imitate the human experience. So, while you should never cease to optimize, you should never even think of ceasing to satisfy users.

The layers of optimization

There are two kinds of optimizing: for Google in SEO and for conversions in CRO.

And while many clients may think that the combination of the two is a magic formula that leads to countless 'trafficonversionsales', they are mistaken.

To enhance the optimizations is to add the element of user experience.

In the miraculous meeting point of SEO, CRO, and UX, a foundation of trust and authority is built and a relationship begins to progress down the conversion funnel.

Only when we optimize our usability and user-centricize our optimizations can we truly master the KPIs that drive our 'trafficonversionsales'.


Written by:

Yael Tolub is the VP of Marketing at Clicktale, leading the company’s worldwide marketing initiatives and drives awareness and adoption targeting global fortune 500 companies. Yael has a global perspective to Marketing, having lived and worked on three different continents (and counting!). Previous to Clicktale, Yael held product and strategy roles in various companies, including MediaMind (today called Sizmek). Yael holds a LLB from Hebrew University, and an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management

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