SEO is, put simply, the art of making a website get as much relevant organic traffic as possible. We all spend a huge amount of time concentrating on attracting traffic and lifting the numbers of people seeing our pages and for some sites- particularly those that rely on high visitor numbers to attract advertisers- just getting a lot of visitors is enough.
However, most sites want those visitors to actually do something on site- buy an item, sign up to a service, make an enquiry, or leave contact details for a callback. Even websites that rely on advertising revenue do much better if they can get the average visitor to spend more time on site and look at more pages. SEO is all about bringing visitors in, and getting the most out of that pool of arrivals (and any others, for example those coming through paid ad campaigns) is the conversion optimization side.
The right visitors having the right experience
Of course, SEO and conversion optimization work together. If an intensive link building and content campaign attracts visitors who aren’t really interested in the business end of the site, no amount of sleek navigation and clever design will change that. To be really effective an SEO campaign must focus on highly relevant keywords.
Visitors have to like what they see. It’s got to be of interest and it’s got to look good. Standards are high these days, and a site that displays badly on a particular size of screen or uses poor graphics will naturally suffer when there are so many visually stunning competitors.
Visitors have got to be able to find the information they want, and find it quickly. Good navigation will help search engines index a site more effectively and it’ll also help real people get to where they need to be. One quick check is to count the number of clicks it takes a user to convert (e.g. buy something) from the time they arrive on site to the point where they enter the checkout.
Let’s say you run a shoe store online. If they have to click through from the front page to the women’s section, to summer shoes, to sandals, and then to leather sandals to find a particular pair, the path needs to be shortened. If they have to scroll through a hundred choices in any section before coming to the right style, that’s also going to put users off.
Testing and tweaking
Usually, conversion optimization is based on testing and analytics. If one landing page has a 30% bounce rate- i.e. 30% of arrivals click straight back off- and another has a 70% bounce rate, the second page is under performing and needs to be changed. Either the users aren’t finding what they want on the page (unless it’s a telephone number or another very specific piece of information, for example) or they do just don’t like the way the page looks and feels.
Experimentation is key, and over time you’ll find out what works and what doesn’t by examining pages with low and high residence times, differing bounce rates, and low and high conversion rates. Multiple landing pages can be tested and the percentage of viewers who go on to buy something or otherwise make a conversion measured to estimate effectiveness. The process goes like this: test it, tweak it, and then test it again.
The additional design costs of coming up with multiple pages or making changes to poorly-performing ones are usually more than offset by the gains made. On-site conversion optimization won’t replace a full SEO campaign, but it will help you get the best value out of it.