Conversion Rates Matter More than Visits

Year over Year Organic Visit Improvements from SEOSure, it’s helpful quite often, to get increases to site visits through better SEO. (And this post doesn’t advocate to NOT want that.…) More visits are what everyone initially thinks of SEO as being about most of the time when they first get past higher rankings…

What if I told you it’s worthless in many instances, if increased visits don’t lead to increased sales or revenue?

Whether that revenue is from “here’s display ads, we need you to click on these to keep our site going” or “here’s stuff for sale, we need you to buy this stuff” or “here’s our services, we need you to fill out the contact form or call us, to hire us”, that’s what having a business site is all about, after all.

Unless you have a business built on page views for advertisers. In that case, you need a lot more help than this post can offer. Because that 20th century business model is on the way out the door and on its way into “this was never a real, sustainable business model anyhow, but now the publishing industry is finally forced to admit it” realm…

[ Note — Before we continue, Moosa Hemani just went live a few days ago with an excellent post on improving your conversion rates on an eCommerce site.  It’s a great write-up and I encourage you to read that because it covers critical aspects of CRO beyond what I’m covering here… ]

Moar Ads Moar Pop-Ups Moar Moar Moar…

And no, the answer to increasing revenue is also not “More ads, bigger ads, more obnoxious ads”.  That’s just downright visitor abuse.  It breaks the unwritten contract between publishers and visitors covering the concept of respect, trust and value.

So what if I then told you that more visitors isn’t even necessarily worth the effort?

Instead, what if it’s “better”, “more qualified” visitors?  And what if I told you that once those visitors arrive, it’s “better User Experience”?

If User Experience is strong, getting fewer, more accurate visitors can increase ecommerce conversion rates

As a forensic SEO consultant, a good amount of my work involves conversion rate optimization, because it’s not good enough to just get more visitors to a web site if you can’t also increase conversions. So where do I begin?

Start with Existing SERPs

When a new client comes to me for an audit, one of the data points I look at is a click-through rate from organic search. It’s a quick way to see if there might be weakness in page Titles and Meta descriptions. If there is, then the site is likely missing out on tremendous existing opportunities. Opportunities that, with the proper effort, can be tapped with a one-time change.  And where that can be sustainable.

Search Results with low click-through rates can be improved to increase conversion rates

Some people talk about “quick wins” or “low hanging fruit” in our industry.  Except many focus on other concepts around that — lower volume search phrases that might have less competition, for example.  That’s okay — those can be beneficial as well.  Here however, I’m talking about not being afraid to focus on even high value phrases.  Heavy competition phrases.

[ Side Note — in my audit work, I do my best to encourage clients to avoid the pitfall of only focusing on the lower competition scenario.  Sure, sometimes given very limited resources, or extremely heavy competition, that makes sense as a primary need.  Yet quite often, I find that with higher emphasis on the 5 Super Signals of SEO — QUART - smaller sites can, often, compete in the big leagues.  So where it makes sense, I encourage clients to think bigger! ]

Start with Most Important SERPs

Since my work is strategic in nature, and not tactical, and needs to cover a vast range of SEO rather than any one aspect, I don’t just look at “all the phrases”, and I don’t look at 2nd tier or 3rd tier phrases (phrases that relate to secondary or support type content).  Instead, I focus on a sampling of those phrases the site is already showing up for somewhere in search results where those phrases are most aligned with conversion point value.

Looking at those results, where are there opportunities for increased clicks that better align with conversion rate goals? Not just “move up in rankings, more than that — improve existing rankings right where they are, as its own effort.

Conversion Point Value

When I talk about “conversion point value”, I’m referring to the notion that people psychologically and emotionally go through phases in a purchase decision process.

If you can help someone get past the notion (good luck!) that “we have to rank for all the things”, or “but all we care about is showing up for our name” or “we need more visitors!”, you can work on or guide the process of improving revenue in ways that have the most impact based on the most efficient use of resources.

To evaluate this, I will often start with conversion improvements by looking at existing organic search results.  What is a site showing up for in organic results?  Within that, what are the phrases people are using where those phrases are most relevant to the products a site offers?

Looking at those, when we examine the page Title and meta description that show up for a given phrase, it’s important to ask several questions:

“Is this the best page on the site for this phrase?”

Right SERP, Wrong Page

Sometimes a blog post shows up in a result set that’s more of the “ready to buy” type in regard to searcher intent.  If that’s the case, the 1st opportunity is to figure out why a more direct sales type page isn’t ranking on your site.  Work to correct that.

Do you even have a proper “sales” specific page (product category or product purchase details page) set up on the site for that topic?

If you do, consider what you can change to reorient the focus from the blog post or FAQ page or information page over to that sales funnel specific page.

[ NOTE — if you have a sales page that’s more appropriate for the ‘buy now’ searcher need, a stop-gap task to consider as you work on moving the ranking signals over, is adding a paragraph at the top of the main content area of that non-sales-specific page or blog post that links to the better destination.

By doing this, people who are expecting a sales oriented page won’t be as likely to completely abandon the site when they don’t immediately get to the “right” page for their current goals. ]

The Buyer Mindset Multi-Step Life Cycle

Focus on understanding that people looking to make a purchase go through a multi-step psychological/intellectual process. Sometimes that’s all in one day, and sometimes that’s over an extended period.

Primary points in that process include

  • “I’m thinking about buying, just not sure, so let me explore”
  • “I’m looking to buy, just not sure who or where to buy from”
  • “I’m looking to buy, and have narrowed down some likely sources, just not sure what the exact thing is that I want or need”
  • “I want to buy today”

Match Target Pages To Buying Life Cycle Needs

Crafting content and user experience within a site & across social channels to align with the right point in the decision process is essential to strong conversion rates. Don’t try and get all of that done on one page. Don’t attempt to rank for “all the stages” at once, for “all the things”.  Take it manageable steps. Ask the important questions at each step.

“Is the Title of that page in this search result one that reinforces relevance properly, while reinforcing trust? For that stage in the buying life cycle?”

“Is the Meta description that shows up in the search result strong in further reinforcing relevance specific to searcher intent, and does it convey authority and trust?”

Weak / Irrelevant / Confusing Page Titles & Descriptions

Quite often I see cases where the page Title is too generic and confuses relevance; and where meta descriptions are keyword stuffed or fail to be motivational to click-through opportunity.

In many cases, Google will “decide” through algorithmic processes, that the provided description is not ideal for this search result.

When that happens, you can end up getting junk for a description, though sometimes you will see something that’s at least “somewhat” more helpful for invoking relevance, authority or trust signals.


Search Phrase: Mazda Tail Light Replacement Parts

Current Page Title: OEM Replacement Auto Parts — Mazda, Mitsubishi, & Toyota

Current Meta Description: Mazda — Miata, 626, Mazda3, Mazda 6 — 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015! engine components, transmission parts, body repair…

Even if the page that’s linked to is an actual “Mazda Tail Light Replacement Parts” page, that page Title is not helpful to communicate “this is a page you’re looking for”. And the description is trying to “be all things to all the people!” and in no way conveys “this site has what you’re looking for right here” or “we are a highly trusted supplier” or “we’re the best site with the best prices” or anything else that matches to the psychology of buying decisions…

So that’s a great starting point – working with people who are already finding the site in search results, yet where you can get more clicks from people ready to buy.

That can help take very low click-through rates and not just increase visits to the site but where those lead to higher conversions.

A/B Testing Titles & Descriptions

While you can use many different methods to figure out how to improve page Titles and Meta descriptions, one way is to rely on existing data you already have if you invest in AdWords or other pay per click advertising.

If you do, and if the person/team responsible for that channel knows what they’re doing, they may very well have done extensive A/B testing on those.  In that case, leverage that data and knowledge. It can go a long way to providing real world value to better organic Title and description writing.

Competitor Evaluations

Another way to come up with improvements, when done properly, is to take a sampling of phrases you show up for, and look at what competitors are doing where those competitors consistently outrank you.  How are they seeding page Titles and Meta descriptions?

Within that, is there anything you can do in writing your Descriptions to show a value-add, or a competitive strength? Don’t just copy competitors — look for something that sets YOUR brand, YOUR site, YOUR pricing, YOUR return policies, YOUR inventory selection apart from the competition.

Matching On-Site Signals to SERP Signals

From there, it’s working on site – and especially on those pages, to reinforce the five super-signals of SEO all around, and more specifically, confidence in site visitor minds that “this is exactly what I want” or, alternately, “this site makes it effortless for me to refine exactly what it is I am looking for”. Focus on that, and you go a long way toward strong conversions.

So using the example above where a “right page” matters, use the QUART concept to evaluate what’s going on:

  • Is the page this SERP links to the best page for the search queries people click through to come to the site?
  • Is the site designed aesthetically to convey a high level of quality overall, and trust?
  • Is the section this page resides within supportive of reinforcing additional value?
  • Is this page set up to quickly confirm the visitor came to the right place?
  • Is the information provided easy to read, evaluate and understand?
  • Does the page overall make it effortless for the visitor to achieve the goal they came here for?

If the answer to ANY of those questions is “sort of” or “not really”, you have work to do!

Remember — it’s not about YOUR opinion from YOUR perspective. It’s about the VISITOR point of view.

Mobile is The Same, Mobile is Different!

When you’re working on these issues, realize that mobile SEO involves a lot of the same considerations I’ve described already. What applies to desktop/laptop search and on-site, applies to mobile.

Except it’s not 100% parity.  Mobile searches involve different kinds of search words quite often — different language. Especially as we now move more into a world of asking Siri or Google (or yes, even Amazon Echo — oh wow…).  And mobile user experience is different, by leaps and bounds.

Don't ignore mobile site visitors as a separate evaluation point.

[Note: sometimes mobile visitors will come to a site on an initial phase of the buying decision process, and then come back to complete the purchase from a desktop or laptop computer.  Because of this, at least some transaction rates / conversion rates may legitimately be lower for mobile visits. However when the transaction % is so dramatically off compared to desktop/laptop rates, it’s critical to confirm that is the case, or discover where that’s not the case…]

More More More…

Everything I’ve covered here is valid and based on sustainable success in SEO. There’s always more to do, more to consider, both for overall SEO and for conversion rate optimization. However these are strong starting points. So I encourage you to get to work with these.  You can always circle around later to go deeper, or build on this work.

Follow-Up Resources

If you think you need help in figuring all of this out, I highly encourage you to consider hiring us for a proper, forensic level audit. Because these issues can become nuanced, and they’re never the only thing to consider — you don’t want to do all this work only to find out you have sixteen other problems that are equally or even more important for SEO.

Check out “Why Accessibility Will Matter More in 2016 & Beyond” by Kim Krause Berg to help better understand how and why User Experience is critical from that perspective.

Want to understand more about influencing consumers?  Check out “Brainfluence: 100 Ways to Persuade and Convince Consumers with Neuromarketing” — by Roger Dooley — one of the world’s top experts in this “advanced” aspect of mareting…


Thoughts? Opinions? Additional Recommendations?

If you’ve made it this far, and you want to add anything, please leave a comment. — I greatly appreciate the collective mind value in our industry and on these topics! Don’t be afraid to challenge what I share either! If you have a different opinion, let me know!


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Alan Bleiweiss

Alan Bleiweiss is a professional SEO consultant specializing in forensic audits, related consulting, client and agency training, and speaking to audiences of all sizes on all things SEO.

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