SEO Can't Be Replaced By CRO in Digital Marketing
January 12th 2024
In the dynamic world of digital marketing, two concepts often dominate the conversation: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). Due to some overlap in each specialty, most companies (including SilverServers) typically call both “SEO”. While both may appear similar at first glance, their roles, objectives, and impacts are quite distinct. We often see digital marketers attempt to replace SEO with masterful CRO efforts, but make no mistake, even great CRO is no replacement for SEO.
As small businesses venture into online marketing or seek a professional marketing team, it may help their budget to understand the basic differences between these two strategies. This knowledge will help them make informed decisions and achieve desired results in their digital marketing endeavours. With that in mind, we have listed a few common tips for increasing traffic (SEO) and conversion rates (CRO) to highlight the unique functions of both specialties and to explain some misconceptions about how they work together.
SEO: Driving Traffic to Your Doorstep
SEO (search engine optimization) is the art and science of making your website more appealing to search engines. The primary goal of SEO is to increase the quantity and quality of traffic that sees and visits your website. Here are some common tips business owners might see for enhancing their SEO:
- Keyword Optimization: Identify and incorporate relevant keywords that your target audience uses in their searches.
- Content Quality and Relevance: Regularly publish high-quality, informative content that addresses the needs and interests of your audience.
- Backlink Building: Earn links from other reputable websites to enhance your site's authority and credibility.
- Mobile Optimization: Ensure your website is mobile-friendly, catering to the growing number of users on mobile devices.
- Technical SEO: Improve your website’s technical aspects, like load speed and navigation, to ensure it is easily crawlable by search engines.
Each of these strategies aims to make a website more attractive to search engines by demonstrating that it contains valuable, relevant, and trustworthy information for people. This will, subsequently, make it more visible to potential visitors. When done well, SEO aims to increase a website’s traffic. However, traffic alone does not guarantee business success; this is where CRO comes into play.
CRO: Convincing Visitors to Engage
CRO (conversion rate optimization) is focused on what happens once visitors land on your website. Its goal is to increase the percentage of visitors that convert into customers or leads by encouraging them to take specific actions once they’re on your website. These actions might include buying a product or service, visiting a particular page, or signing up for a newsletter. Here are some common, effective CRO strategies:
- User Experience (UX) Optimization: Ensure your website is intuitive, easy to navigate, and user-friendly.
- Clear Call-to-Actions (CTAs): Use compelling CTAs that guide visitors toward desired actions, like making a purchase or signing up.
- A/B Testing: Experiment with different elements of your website to see which versions lead to higher conversion rates.
- Personalization: Tailor content and offers to individual user preferences and behaviours.
- Trust Signals: Display trust signals like customer testimonials, security badges, and guarantees to build confidence among visitors.
CRO strategies are all about making the most of the traffic brought in by SEO efforts. They focus on converting a higher percentage of your existing visitors, rather than simply bringing in more.
The Interplay and Misconceptions
Understanding the interplay between search engine optimization (SEO) and conversion rate optimization (CRO) is crucial. Good SEO lays the groundwork by bringing more potential customers to your digital doorstep. If “SEO best practices” have been followed, then this new traffic should naturally give you a very basic and expected boost to the number of conversions you see on your site. Since SEO doesn’t directly and intentionally affect the percentage of conversions (conversion rate),that boost may not be dramatic, but it may be noticeable. CRO strategies are required to directly affect conversion rate, which aims to convert a higher percentage of existing traffic.
There’s a common misconception in the industry. Because both specialties are commonly called by the name “SEO”, some professionals inadvertently equate SEO with CRO. This misunderstanding can lead to misaligned strategies, as the two, while complementary, serve different purposes and affect each other differently.
- SEO aims to directly increase traffic. This often organically increases conversions slightly, and if done well, may also indirectly increase your site’s conversion rate.
- CRO aims to directly increase the conversion rate of existing traffic but typically has no noticeable effect on the amount of traffic.
In other words, good SEO can indirectly affect CRO positively in many cases, but even the best CRO will likely not affect SEO. The relationship between the two is one-way.
What do we mean by a one-way relationship? Many common SEO practices overlap with common CRO practices, but not vice-versa. For example, one useful SEO strategy is to find the questions that people type into Google Search, and then write high-quality articles with relevant images to answer those questions. Google may index those articles, which will help the website rank as a response to those Google searches. This is a way to personalize the site to the target audience, which doubles as a good start for a strong CRO strategy. From there, a CRO specialist might format the article’s text and font attractively, select the best possible images, and create noticeable and exciting call-to-action buttons, personalized to the tastes of the target audience. To get the most benefit, that specialist might A/B test two versions of the page to find the most effective layout. These CRO-specific personalization efforts may increase the rate/percentage of visitors reading the text and clicking the buttons. However, no matter how exciting the buttons are, they won’t help the article rank better in a search engine.
Another example might be how technical SEO practices like loading-speed optimization improve user experience on a web page. User experience is a CRO practice that SEO can positively affect. However, no amount or quality of CRO is designed to improve the loading speed of a website.
These examples highlight what we mean by a “one-way relationship”. SEO efforts help a page rank in a search engine. That brings in more traffic and indirectly paves the way for CRO strategies to improve on those efforts. However, CRO can’t turn around and do anything to affect what a web page ranks for in a search engine.
Keep an eye on our blog for more examples!
These two specialties work together so well that they’re commonly called by the same name: SEO. However, while CRO is excellent for enhancing conversions, it's no replacement for good SEO. A marketing specialist who excels in CRO but lacks SEO expertise might not deliver the comprehensive results desired for a website. As small business owners implement marketing strategies, it’s helpful to understand the distinct roles of SEO and CRO. One drives traffic to a website, targets the right audience, and lightly affects conversions, while the other powerfully focuses on converting this traffic into meaningful actions, like sales or sign-ups. Both are essential, but they serve different purposes and have a one-way relationship. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to find a great SEO specialist who can both increase traffic and convert that growing base of traffic.
To see our efforts in action and get to know how our team does SEO, read some of our SEO Showdown articles.