User-Centered Search Conversion

“Without visibility, there can be no conversion; without conversion, there can be no growth”

I want to talk to you about the intricate relationship between SEO and CRO, or Conversion Rate Optimization, and why we have come to a breaking point in how we look at these two optimization techniques. I believe that the time has come to start looking at SEO and digital marketing in a new light. That’s also why I named this talk “the death of SEO”. In the end, we will emerge with a new concept that is called SCO. More about that later.

So, why do I say that two such different methods are closely tied together, and why do I believe that only by utilizing the strength of both these methods together, will we be able to reach the ultimate results for our company, brand, client or whatever it may be.

We all want to reach those magical numbers where our product and its reputation becomes self-sustaining. We want everyone to know that our product is the best, especially in high-competition niches, and talk about our product so that more visitors will arrive at our website. But we also want to get the most out of it. We want it to convert as much as possible because without conversion there can be no growth.

So, what we’re going to do from here on out, is take the rulebook that we know, and we’re going to put it on fire!

From now on we are going to look at optimization, and customer conversion with a brand-new pair of eyes. But before we can do that, we need to look at them separately, and understand why we need to combine them with one another.

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, has been around for a long time. One can argue that it started when Google came in to existence on September 4, 1998, however, it started much earlier than that. Already when we were searching in AltaVista in the mid 90’s there was SEO. Agreed, you could fill a page with the keyword “Car” and rank for car, and in between you could put whatever you wanted, and AltaVista would have no idea that it was there, but it was a very primitive version of SEO. This is for instance what later would become black hat SEO.

And since it first started developing, everything in optimization has changed, except for the name, and through the name, the way we look at the methods with which we work. But more about that later

Conversion Rate Optimization isn’t actually about increasing the conversions on the website. Well, not directly. Conversion optimization is about making sure that your company has growth by use of your website. However, as I previously stated, without conversion, you can’t have growth, so inadvertently you will raise your conversion rate. But it might just as well mean that visitors convert at a bigger value than before. So, it’s not all about quantity, it is actually most about quality!

Now here is where we stop looking at these two practices as separate, and start looking at them as one entity.

Google Algorithms

 

Over the last few years, Google has released a string of algorithmic changes and new implementation all aiming at user intent, which has become the new buzzword in the optimization community. Panda, penguin, Rank-brain and Hummingbird are a few of the names that we have had to get used to take in to account when optimizing. These have always been seen as SEO inhibiting algorithmic changes. A way for Google to make life more difficult for the SEO’s out there trying to optimize their website and attract visitors to their websites.

I believe that Google is trying to get us to do something else. I believe that Google is trying to force us to think about the user first and foremost, and they will follow.

So, in short. To evolve our organic digital marketing, we need to start optimizing for users instead of crawlers.

It’s a “build it and they will come” scenario.

Let’s have a look at what I’m basing this on:

 

Content – All content MUST be unique on a website and bring a unique value to your visitors. This means that you need to have a value proposition for your USERS first and foremost. Search Engines will then read your page, and follow your lead and give you better rankings. The content must we well written, without spelling errors and grammatically well written in order to have a chance on the higher rankings.

Accessibility – All websites must be accessible to handicapped visitors. Google has said that it’s important and will help your rankings. To explain it further, let’s look at it this way. The success of your organic rankings is dependent on user friendliness of your website. By not having an accessible website, you could potentially be shutting out valuable visitors, and therefore lose out on your rankings in the end. One example of accessibility is for instance presenting a transcript of a video that you have pasted on your website.

Website structure – The structure of your website should be intuitive and easy to understand. As Google “crawls” your website and tries to understand how it is built, it will also analyse it and compare it with your user statistics to see what people thought of it by how they acted while on your site.

Links Signals – In this instance we’re talking about internal links. If they are placed correctly on your website, they can help show your visitors in the right direction, and lower bounce and exit rates as well as optimizing your sales funnel, and therefore contribute to your overall goal of optimizing the conversions on your website. Google will understand that this is your sales funnel, and will cross reference the visitor statistics with the links clicks and bounce/exit rates and decide if it’s a link that helps the user, or if it dissuades the user from continuing on.

 

So, what is user intent? And how do we use it to our own advantage?

 

The question that we today need to ask ourselves is “what does a user intend when he or she searches for that”? or “why did they search for that?”

User intent has always been categorized as either informational searches or transactional searches. Meaning, either to find information, or to buy something. By modifying this to finding information and then buying something we have taken a step towards our end goal, namely optimizing our site so that the user will find our website through organic search, feel as at home as possible, and will stay there to complete the purchase.

Here comes the important part, how do we analyse, to make sure that we have optimized our website for user intent successfully?
Data-driven search conversion – SCO

The “new” optimization that we are talking about is much more data driven than the former optimization techniques that we have been dealing with up until now. Given, that good solid SEO should ALWAYS be based on cold numbers, and not hunches, gut feelings or the favourite “because this is what I believe will work”.

But from now on we will have to focus on other metrics that show us what our users do on our website, and where they do it. Do you have a contact form on all pages of your site? If so, is there one page that is used more than the others? If so, why? Does that page have something the others don’t? How do they get there, and where do they leave to when they leave the page?

This is what I mean when I’m talking about data driven optimization.

For obvious reasons, I am going to skip session statistics and pages visited and instead focus on some of the other metrics that will become important to us in the future. It’s important for me to note that these aren’t individual metrics that we can look at, but they only give us valid information when we use them together with one another as well as the traditional analytics metrics:

Time on page/site: Long time on page can be good, but also bad. A visitor can be highly engaged with your content, but they can also go away and do something else while still on your page. Is the time on page logical to the content that you have, and where do they leave to? Do they exit the site, or do they move on to another page?
Pages per visit: How many pages do they visit while on your site? 1? In that case you will want to check your bounce rate. 2? What page do they exit from?
Deep Links: Refers to contextual hyperlinks that directs traffic beyond a business’ home page and other entry pages. This is used to guide visitors to where they need to go. Do we have purchase pages? Where do we want to convert? With deep linking we guide our visitors to our end goal. This ties in with pages per visit. For every user action we demand we lose a certain percentage of our visitors.
Bounce rate vs Exit rate: Know the metrics of your site. Know your bounce-rate rich pages, and see what you can do to keep visitors from bouncing. If people are exiting from a certain page, you will want to look at why they’re exiting from there. How far on the page do they scroll? What are they looking at while on your page? In addition, Google measures where users click on the SERP, and what they do, so if a user clicks on your search result, go back to google and enter another search result, the algorithm automatically knows that your search result didn’t help the user and you can, in the long run loose out on your rankings.
Events tracking: To track user behaviour on your site, every element should have events tracking. That way, when we reach an adequate number of visitors we will be able to see how many percent of your visitors clicked on a certain button, and which button wasn’t clicked at all.
A/B tests: Always run a test on your website. There are always things to improve, and you should always be testing your visitors. This is one of the largest points of conversion optimization. By running A/B tests or A/B/C tests on your site you will be able to quicker and more accurately judge the behaviour of your visitors, and make sure that your website fits the needs of your intended target group.

Another recommendation to receive user feedback, is to actually talk to your visitors. Give them the opportunity to let you know what they think, to pitch in to improve the user experience. This can be done through a questionnaire a form or allowing them to vote in specific issues on your website. To get people to take the desired action, offer them something. 40% on their next purchase, a pink teddy bear in a colour of his or her choosing, or something else. You get the point.

I want to wrap this presentation up with a quote that I found a few days ago and that I thought would suit pretty well. I feel that it illustrated my point rather well. I don’t remember where I got it from:

“Data-driven marketing refers to strategies built on insights pulled from the analysis of big data, collected through consumer interactions and engagements, to form predictions about future behaviours. This involves understanding the data you already have, the data you can get, and how to organize, analyse, and apply that data to better marketing efforts.”

***Please note that the video is spontaneously recorded from the audience, hence the quality. Thanks for your understanding***

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