To an outside observer it’s a bit like a tennis match. On one side, you have your SEO needs, a quick, content rich and finely optimised site. On the other, conversion rate optimisation (CRO), a great user experience that encourages your visitors to buy, read or get in touch. Depending on the needs of the business the focus shifts from one to the other and back again. “We need more traffic to the website!” your SEO cries, “what use is traffic if no-one can use the site?” your CRO argues. The tension is subtle. Your SEO suggests your product descriptions should be descriptive and comprehensive in order to drive keyword targeted traffic to that page. CRO suggests too many words and your audience drifts away, unwilling to spend time wading through a sea of words to find the information they’re after. Great SEO will get the traffic to the site but will it convert? CRO will cause your visitors to act but what use is it if you can’t get eyes on the page?
This Wimbledon season, I don’t want SEO and CRO in a match against each other, but rather working as a team. Doubles champions. So here are my three wins for improving your site’s SEO and CRO in one hit.
Back in April 2015 Google released a new algorithm that was designed to reward mobile-friendly pages with a ranking boost. Since then, we’ve seen the search engine giant release a further update that penalised websites that show those annoying pop-up ads (interstitials) to their mobile users when landing on the site straight from the search results. And in their biggest move towards ensuring mobile users are getting a good experience, Google announced at the end of 2016 that they will begin to rank sites based on their mobile website version rather than the desktop version. All of this culminates into a stark picture – how pleasant your website is for users on mobile devices cannot be an afterthought, it has a huge impact on the ranking of your site. How close together your touch points are, the legibility of the text and the use of viewports can all affect whether Google deems your website “mobile friendly” and if it doesn’t, you will suffer compared to your mobile focused competitors. These are also key considerations for encouraging conversion on your site. If visitors can’t read the text or touch buttons on your site, it will quickly lead to frustration and ultimately block those all-important transactions and sign-ups from occurring.
Back in 2010 Google started using page speed as a ranking factor. In our fast-paced world, user expectations for load speed continue to rise and the search engines are responding to that need.
Not only is page load speed an important ranking factor but more importantly it plays a huge part in how well visitors interact with your website. According to the Aberdeen Group for every additional second it takes for a page to load conversions drop by 7% and page views decrease by 11%. This is a stunning statistic if you consider I frequently encounter websites in the wild that take upwards of ten seconds to load the homepage.
Google has recently released a new tool that allows users to understand how the load speed of their website on mobile devices can be losing them visitors and also how it compares to competitors’ sites. The speed at which a site can load on a mobile isn’t as black and white as with a desktop site. The quality of signal and network connection can vary depending on the users’ location and phone model. Reflect’s very own Chris Parker gives a handy guide to testing mobile load speed times over different network connections using Dev Tools.
Your internal linking structure plays any important part in both ranking and conversion on your site because of this simple fact; links enable discovery. Internal linking describes the way pages on a domain are navigable to from other pages on the same domain. They serve to enable users to move through the site, inform search engines of the site hierarchy and spread ranking power throughout the website. There are times when pages need to be standalone, for instance if they are serving as a landing page for an email competition, otherwise it is highly advisable for all pages on a site to be accessible from multiple other pages. A hyperlink in the text, a navigational item in the menu or a jump point on the homepage, these are the ways pages on your site get found.
Not only is it important that your content can be found by the search engine bots, but you need your human visitors to easily get to the content that is most important to them. This can mean working out potential user journeys through the site and designing your link structure to enable a succinct route to their end goal.
The removal of internal links to 301 redirecting pages can seem pedantic as it is unlikely that the untrained user will even notice the URL is redirecting once they’ve clicked on a link. For search engine optimisation however, a high volume of links to redirecting pages can take up valuable crawl budget. Conversely, internal links to 404 “dead” pages can be a highly frustrating experience for users. Clicking a button, expecting to be directed to a page, to be greeted with “404 – page not found” is annoying. A poorly designed 404 page can also lead to users abandoning the site. As we’ve already ascertained, users are impatient and if they can’t find the information they want easily on your site, they’ll go elsewhere. Internal linking is therefore an important element to consider for getting traffic to your site, and keeping it there.
SEO and CRO working together – game, set, match.