A Taxonomy of Optimization: From SEO to CRO
When explaining our search engine optimization services to a potential client, there inevitably comes a point in the conversation where we have to inform them that search engine optimization isn’t enough. As SEO is usually the reason we’re talking in the first place, what typically follows is an awkward pause and a quizzical look. That’s when we have to tell them The Truth.
The Truth is SEO is only the beginning. Occasionally we work on a project where the client has developed such an awesome sales funnel that increased visibility is truly all they need. The upside is it makes a job easier – build some links, improve the ranking on key terms, and voilà – happy client. The downside is that pure link building tends to be perceived as a commodity. Eventually the conversation devolves into questions of volume and cost rather than quality and effectiveness.
We have seen examples of high rankings and increased traffic having little to no effect on a client’s bottom line. The problem may be traced back to flaws or gaps in branding, marketing or sales strategies, but it’s a piss-poor agency that takes the stance of “not my problem”. Contract or no, professionals take on some measure of accountability for their client’s success (assuming the client is willing to get out of their own way!).
Over the last year the popularity of conversion rate optimization has infected the world of SEO. CRO gurus like Tim Ash have made us aware that conversions are where the money is. This is the metric that matters to most clients. If rankings and traffic are the definitions of our success, even the smallest dip prompts a phone call. When we help our client increase actual sales or leads, they are only mildly interested rankings and traffic.
The silver lining in some of our less-than-successful experiences is that unhappy clients turned out to be a good thing. We started looking at projects through a wider lens. We learned more about their business strategies, goals and processes. We looked to a user interface design company to learn more about personas and user engagement. We dabbled in A/B testing. We sought to understand the underlying psychology of search. The goal wasn’t to become experts in everything as much as it was to become more conscientious about why we were doing SEO in the first place. We started thinking about the people, not just the search engines. We realized SEO and CRO are bookends to online success. All we had to do was figure out what was in the middle.
The infographic below is our attempt to create a more elegant visual model of what optimization really is (or at least what it is to us). It is an effort to represent the process by which we can produce real, meaningful results. The pairing of profiles and metrics keeps us focused on the people as well as the data. By observing a broader range of data we began to make sense out of the process from a user’s perspective (Google’s Webmaster Tools and Google Analytics provide valuable data about click-through rates, visitor engagement, and goal conversions.
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