Conversion is a Ranking Factor – Stephen Kenwright Explains Why to SEO Jo Blogs

I was pleased to interview Branded3’s Stephen Kenwright. Stephen will be speaking about Conversion Being a Ranking Factor. I wanted to find out a little more about his experience:

1) What Examples have you seen where Conversion has increased a website’s ranking positions?

“There are lots of ranking factors but we spend most of our time optimising for just a few of these – we obviously worry about link profile and relevant content and so on, but the thing that keeps us up at night is return to search.

There is a strong correlation between recent Google algorithm updates (“Phantom” and core updates – particularly those that look like an evolution of Panda) and pogosticking behaviour (bounce rate, time on site, exit % etc.) – the most effective way to protect against this is to make the sale so the customer stops looking.

This means making the most of CRO tactics – anything from exit popups to the proper application of CTAs.

Ultimately though it means prioritising conversion over awareness. When we’re creating content for SEO we need to think first about whether that content is going to serve our current users better – if the answer is no then we’re definitely not getting the best ROI from our SEO activities and the truth is we’re probably just creating content for search engines. Our work with clients like bathstore has been heavily product focused over the past 2-3 years with very little link acquisition. Until bathstore.com is the go-to website for bathrooms and furniture, links won’t have the biggest impact they possibly could.

2) How many sales do websites lose by customers leaving the sales funnel? e.g. not finishing their check out process?

If the average conversion rate is 3%…97%.

As soon as someone hits your homepage they’re in your sales funnel. Most decisions to leave a checkout process are made before entering it – customers have a need and they’re taking a leap of faith buying your product online. Before clicking basket, a customer should know:

  • It’s the right size – or it’s easy to return if not
  • The price she’s going to pay for it – nobody should have to start a checkout process to see the shipping costs
  • Obviously, you can be trusted with the details you’re asking for – if this is intended to be a one-off purchase you’re more likely to be trusted with credit card details than a phone number

It makes total sense for businesses to prioritise customers who’ve found their way into a checkout process over those who haven’t yet found the website because there is an established need – but it’s totally unnecessary to optimise for conversion at the expense of awareness and vice versa.

3) Have You Seen an Increase in the Number of Search Professionals Moving into Conversion Rate Optimisation in 2017?

No. CRO still exists in a silo of its own for most of our clients (if it exists at all) – sometimes under UX; sometimes media; rarely under SEO.

That’s a good thing – search professionals need to understand CRO (what can be done, how it works and how to get things done in their own organisations) but, just like when SEO became UX, or when SEO became PR, or content, search professionals aren’t best placed to deliver the work. It’s a full-time job and it should stay that way.

I would say, however, that a higher percentage of companies seem to invest in SEO than CRO – and it seems that an increasing number of SEO companies are starting to offer a CRO service. Both are in the business of incremental gains so it makes total sense that keeping both channels “under one roof” (with one agency and/or team) seems to be the best way to make both look good (and work better).

4) How would you recommend the Conversion and Search Team work together to improve conversions and visibility?

SEO needs to base its strategy around CRO and CRM. Our answer to everything is “more traffic” when our answer should be “more traffic that looks like this”. Knowing what the people who converted look like and what drove them to complete the purchase will help us:

  • Generate more relevant content – we need to plug the gaps in the sales funnel (as in question 1) and that presents us with the opportunity to pull more lookalike customers into that sales funnel
  • Target our PR better – what does our current customer read? Where do they live online?
  • Build a better URL structure – what information are we not surfacing by the time potential customers enter the checkout process? How do we get that content in front of them earlier on?

Likewise, SEO, PR and media need to keep CRO up to date with target audiences and new demographics that are on the horizon – it’s not going to happen overnight, but if a test went one way last year, that doesn’t mean the result is gospel – especially when thousands of new users are thrown into the mix.

5) Where do you think Conversion Rate Optimisation is heading in 2017? E.g. will more people from search move into Conversion or will there be more of an integrated search/CRO strategy?

I think that there is generally less public evolution in the CRO industry than in SEO. CRO is so personal – to each brand, demographic and customer – that “best practice” is generally agreed to be a starting point and everyone gets on with testing something different.

The SEO industry seems much more willing to share its ideas (desperate even). More thought leadership in CRO is inevitable – but actually very welcome. If we’re going to increase investment (financial and personal) in CRO generally we need to raise awareness of what can be achieved and counteract any misconceptions.

I’m not seeing an increase in integration. Clients naturally align CRO elsewhere and they’re not natural bedfellows – it only makes the siloing big businesses experience worse. It takes a truly proactive in-house team to get the best out of every channel.”

Some excellent tips there Stephen, thank you for sharing and we look forward to seeing you in person next month !

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