Go back 10 years. If you wanted search engines to rank your website highly, it was relatively straightforward. Stuff your pages with keywords for your industry. Link to other websites in return for them linking to you. Comment on lots of blogs, with your website address in the signature. All highly effective Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) techniques… but effective for who?
Users? Many were tricked into clicking on poor-quality websites.
Search engines? Their primitive algorithms were easily manipulated, resulting in advertisers taking business elsewhere.
Professional content-creators? They were caught in a race to the bottom. Forced to complete with content farms churning out poor-quality blogs by the hour.
Legitimate marketers? Their campaigns stood little chance. Unscrupulous (known as “black hat”) SEO techniques were winning the race every time.
Nowadays, the SEO landscape is very different… thankfully.
Try these techniques today and your website will soon be penalised by the search engines. The algorithms are too smart. And they’re only going to get smarter. That means your website – and your content – needs to get smarter.
What does that mean? Everyone knows “content is king”. But there’s more to SEO than just creating better content. It means making your content convert.
This isn’t another “SEO is dead” article. But SEO requires an evolution from optimising for search engines – to optimising for conversions. Here’s why.
This phrase used to be the usual yardstick of any successful campaign. But here’s the thing: There’s no longer such a thing as #1. Advances in CRM, data insight, and general connectivity of devices mean that browsers deliver personalised content to individual users. Which means search engines will reassess a users’ search based on what they’ve previously searched for, and return results accordingly.
Chrome makes it easy to show how this works. On the right-hand side of the Google’s homepage, you’ll see two buttons. These let you switch between viewing search results tailored to you (private results), or general results.
Here’s a search for “B2B marketing research”, made from a Chief Nation computer, with private results enabled. The results are more industry-focused, returning links to resources, white papers, and companies who conduct research. At the top, there are links to scholarly articles, rather than ads.
Turn off private results and the results are very different. Ads are at the top, there are a couple of “what is B2B content” guides, plus a Wikipedia entry for “marketing research”. These are more suitable for B2B marketing buyers, students, and professionals.
So if search engines are returning results based on individuals’ behaviour, rather than the signals from websites, what does this mean for SEO? And how can you get ahead of the competition? It’s time to move the focus away from “traditional” SEO and the race for rankings.
Of course, you still need to insert keywords. And a goal of “increasing traffic” is going to part of most digital strategies. But there should be more of a focus on improving the experience of your existing visitors, so more of them convert. Because that’s easier than attracting more visitors.
Imagine you have 100,000 visitors each week, and on average 1,000 of them complete your online “contact us” form. That gives you a conversion rate of 1%. Let’s say you want to double the number of people who contact you each week. To get 2,000 completed forms, you have two choices:
1) The lengthy, costly, and resource-hungry way. Attract another 100,000 people to your website each week. To do this organically might involve boosting your content output, holding an industry conference, or launching a new service.
2) The short, cost-effective, and efficient way. Double your conversion rate, by getting 2,000 people to complete a contact us form. This is Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO).
CRO is still a relatively new concept, at least when compared to SEO. But when applied successfully it will have a major impact on your online success. Here are some ways to get started:
Hang on, you might think. SEO is also about technical expertise. Faster sites get ranked higher by Google. You still get an advantage if you know how to implement schema and write powerful meta descriptions. And a mobile-optimised website will outperform a non-mobile optimised website.
But look at the “out-of-the-box” website solutions such as WordPress. These are already search engine optimised (to a basic extent), or come with plugins that make it easy. Themes usually work on mobile as standard. All this goes some way to levelling the SEO playing field.
Which makes focusing on CRO even more important.