SEO vs CRO: How to Ensure You Get the Best of Both Worlds

alarm 5 Minute Read
today Posted Mar 13th, 2018

Read any article on conversion rate optimisation (CRO), and you’re going to read something about popups – those forms that appear out of nowhere when you’re browsing a website and ask for your email address in return for something of value like a free report.

Popups are everywhere right now, and the reason for this is that they work. They have become a CRO mainstay. They encourage more website visitors to sign up to email lists, which are then valuable for targeting prospects and making more sales.

But the problem with popups is that they can be annoying – and Google knows it.

In August 2016, Google started to punish mobile websites that made content ‘less accessible’, which included the use of intrusive popups.

This sent shockwaves through the SEO industry because many websites rely on popups to convert more visitors. How, they asked, could SEO and CRO work side-by-side in harmony?

You might be asking the same question. You want to use popups for the conversion benefits, but you don’t want this to harm your SEO efforts.

Here’s a look at how CRO and SEO can be used together to complement one another without either suffering.

Avoid Making Your Popups Intrusive

It seems that Google’s main beef is with intrusive popups (or ‘interstitials’, which covers popups and other overlays).

These could include entry popups, which are where you throw up a large popup as soon as someone lands on your page. Or it could be a popup that covers all the content and is difficult to get rid of.

So what would a less-intrusive popup look like? One that Google has confirmed is okay to use (for now at least) is an exit popup.

These are triggered when the visitor is leaving the page. As such, the reader has made a decision to leave, and they can either continue to close the page or fill in their information as they please. As such, it is not considered intrusive (and they can be very effective!)

One thing to do is consider the amount of screen space your popups take up. If it takes up more than 15% of the screen, you should consider it intrusive. An alternative would be to use something like a top banner that continues to allow users to access the content and does not get in the way so much.

Another option could be to use timed popups. With these, you could set your popups to only appear after the visitor has been on your page for a few minutes or when they have reached the end of the content. That way, you are not getting in the way of their experience.

Experiment with Content Upgrades

If you’d rather not use a popup at all, another option is to opt for something completely different to increase conversions: content upgrades.

These are becoming increasingly popular (again, because they work). They involve creating a piece of gated content that is only available via signing up to your list, and then linking to this in a related blog post.

For example, you could publish a blog discussing 5 strategies for using your products to benefit the user, and then provide a bonus 3 strategies to anyone who signs up to your list. The user would then click on a button, triggering a small popup, fill in their email, and receive access to the gated content.

This obviously takes more work because you have to create something relevant for each blog post you write. One option, however, is to simply offer the blog post in PDF format to download. If the blog is long, this might encourage users to sign up to your list to get the download.

There are many benefits to using content upgrades. The fact that you are offering something directly relevant to the blog post might encourage more readers to convert. On top of that, content upgrades are not intrusive – the popup for the user to fill in their details is triggered when they click a link (i.e. it’s their choice), and you are providing them with added value, improving their experience.

Restrict Popups to Desktops

It should be reiterated that the penalty that Google has introduced only applies to mobile sites – so you can still use popups on your desktop. Depending on the CRO tool you are using, you can set them to only show up on your desktop version, getting around the problem that way.

However, Google has made it clear that it is not keen on intrusive popups, so it could very well start to penalise desktop sites as well and that’s worth keeping in mind.

A Sign of Things to Come

The truth is, many mobile websites have not actually been affected by all of this, even after it rolled out in January 2017. It did not have a big impact on search results – leading many SEOs to breathe a sigh of relief.

However … it does give us some insight into what Google values. And this, above all, is a good user experience. Google does not want to deliver up pages in its search results that provide a bad user experience, so this is something to keep in mind with all of your website activities.

Now could be a good time to look over your website and determine how user-friendly it is. Google will almost certainly introduce new rules in the future that target sites that are not user-friendly, so it’s best to be ready.

SEO and CRO Are Both Essential

As a business, you should be focusing on both SEO and CRO. There’s no point driving traffic to your website if it doesn’t convert, and there’s no point optimising for conversions if you’re not getting any traffic.

In short, you need to find the right balance. But beyond the whole issue surrounding popups, there is another way to improve your conversions while following SEO best practices.

Rank for the Right Keywords

Increasing conversions is part of good SEO practice. If you get a page ranking high in the search engines for a misleading phrase, this is not going to help you convert. If people are searching for one thing when they come across your unrelated page, you won’t get conversions.

And if that happens, you will quickly lose your ranking.

You are more likely to convert visitors when you provide what they want. If they are searching for specific information, you stand a better chance of encouraging them to sign up to your email list if you provide them with high-quality content on a specific topic that answers their questions (and increases trust).

Target Commercial Keywords Too

One thing you might be doing wrong is targeting only informational keywords – the ‘how to’ keywords that bring in traffic for people looking for information.

While these are great, and they have a high search volume, you should also make sure you target commercial keywords alongside them.

These keywords (typically focusing on a variation of ‘buy [your product]’), are powerful because people using them are usually further down the sales funnel. They are looking for something specific, and they have got their credit cards at the ready.

If sales are what you want, it’s important to target commercial keywords alongside informational keywords.

Create Amazing Content

The best way to focus on both CRO and SEO is to create great content, and that way you optimise your SEO and provide visitors with a good reason to convert.

When people arrive and they find what they want, they will want even more. That’s the best thing you can do if you want to encourage them to sign up to your list or buy from you.

As digital marketing consultants, we provide clients with a wide range of complimentary digital marketing service and solutions, from conversion rate optimisation (to increase sales and enquiries from client websites) to PPC management and from SEO consultancy to social media marketing – talk to us to find out how we help organisations like yours improve site traffic and, most importantly, revenue!

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