D&C Episode 049 – Episode Feature Image (WP Featured Image)

Drive and Convert (Ep. 049): How Do CRO And SEO Exist Together?

In this episode, Ryan and Jon talk about the relationship between SEO and CRO, including how to make the most of the traffic that you're working hard to attract.

Listen to this episode:

About This Episode:

The name of this show is Drive and Convert for a reason. At its core, online business is about driving traffic to your site and then converting that traffic into customers using an outstanding product, engaging copy, and intuitive design.

In this episode, Ryan and Jon talk about the relationship between SEO and CRO, including how business owners should be thinking about balancing their efforts between attracting websites visitors and converting those visitors into buyers.

Listen to the full episode if you want to learn:

  1. The “Chicken or The Egg” challenge for SEO and CRO
  2. How active CRO tests might impact SEO efforts (& vice versa)
  3. What are the risks of running these campaigns in parallel?
  4. What most people are really worried about when they ask this question

If you have questions, ideas, or feedback to share, hit us up on Twitter. We’re @jonmacdonald and @ryangarrow.

Subscribe To The Show:

Episode Transcript:

Announcer:
You’re listening to Drive and Convert, a podcast about helping online brands to build a better e-commerce growth engine with Jon MacDonald and Ryan Garrow.

Ryan:
Well, hello, Jon. Good to see you again. I get to see you, everybody listening doesn’t to get to. They get to hear your wonderful, deep, baritone voice and my high pitched excited voice. But we are, I believe, right at the beginning of a new year and fresh starts abound. Everybody’s excited, because anything is possible in 2022, which is where we’re at now and the years before. So we haven’t done anything to screw anything up yet, well, hopefully not. It has started. So by the time this comes out, there has been a few days in 22.

Jon:
You had a couple of opportunities.

Ryan:
A couple opportunities, but hopefully we’re all healthy and well. As we’re starting a new year and we have blank slates in front of us, I wanted to almost make some things very clear to people that it seems to be something that comes up more and more often about this perceived tension between marketing and CRO and specifically the SEO and CRO. They should, and in my mind, you and I have conversations all the time and it seems like these things work well together, but we’re hearing more and more often from clients that they won’t work well together and we need to be really careful. And so I’ll give you a statement that I hear from our SEO team or our account managers.
“Hey, we’ve been talking to these clients about CRO. They need to improve the conversion rates on the site because they really want to grow and that’s an important piece of growth.” But their pushback to getting an introduction to your team over at the good is, “Oh my gosh, no, we’re not ready for CRO. We’ve just got the SEO going in the right direction. We don’t want to screw it up.” Because I’ve worked with you or talked to you a lot. It doesn’t make sense to me, but I know there’s something out there that’s causing this to come up in business owners or marketing teams heads.
So I really wanted to take some time, you and I can talk through this together and hopefully put some people at ease that there’s a lot of potential with working together, SEO, CRO. But from your perspective, you’ve probably heard this before as well, why would somebody think that or where does that come from?

Jon:
Well, you’re right. And I do hear this a lot and it’s interesting that you are hearing it from your account managers and I’m hearing it from clients when we first start working with them and kick off engagements. My team gets this question all the time. “Hey, we’ve been working with logical position doing SEO efforts and I don’t want to mess up anything there. And I know you’re going to be making changes to our site.” So they’re fearful of this for some reason. And I get the hesitation on surface level, but at the same point, I also wish that people were a little more open to this. And so I think it’s a great topic. At a high level, I’ll just start by saying unequivocally that, yes, if somebody doesn’t know what they’re doing, they can undo all the SEO good that’s been done. And so that’s why I get why people could be fearful of this, right. But you would almost have to try to do that, right? It’s not something that’s going to happen easily.
Now there’s two reasons why that is. And there’s two reasons why this should not be a concern as much as it is or we’re at all even. Maybe it’s a point of conversation just, “Hey, I just want to make sure you’re not going to have these issues.” But number one is that when we do AB testing, which is the site changes that most people are concerned about, is making changes via testing. It is a Google sanction. Google wants you to run testing on your site. They even offer a tool, Google optimize. And the reason is really self-serving for Google, believe it or not, like most things probably. But the goal there for them is to have the best onsite experience out of their search results, right?
So somebody goes and searches for a term and gets to a website that has a great consumer experience. That looks better because it started at Google, right? That’s why Google’s so concerned about things like core web vitals and site speed and mobile performance. And all of these items that they decide are ranking factors besides just the content that’s on your site. So all of those, no SEO person would argue, go into that play. So what I actually think here and what Google has said, and Google actually even endorses, considering that they have a full tool set that works with this, is that improving your consumer experience is in a large part of the ranking factors for just in the search engine, right? So how high you’re going to rank on that page is going to, in large part, be determined by your consumer experience, the user experience on your site.
So that’s the first thing. The second thing is that it is very rare when we’re doing a test that we’re just going to completely change copy on a page, right? We are doing small tests, iterative tests, we’re making small changes. We’re not taking vast, on a product detail page, PDP. We’re not going to go in and just completely wipe the slate clean and start over. That is not optimization. That’s just burning the house down and starting over, rebuilding it, right. That’s not the iterative optimization that we’re going to do. If you want to do that, just go hire a design firm to build you a brand new site. With that in mind, and those two things in mind, one that Google sanctions this, and actually encourages it. And two, the changes aren’t going to be large enough to your content anyways, that it would have a profound effect on your SEO rankings.

Ryan:
Yeah. And I would say, the content on your pay, in e-commerce space. So I guess I’m speaking e-commerce SEO at this point, because that’s where I live most of my days. That content that goes on category pages, for example, that are very important pages on the site, arguably from an SEO perspective, the most important. That content is, I would have to assume 99% of the time, not even part of the conversion conversation. I don’t read it. I look at images, I clicked on something, I knew what I was going to get. And I’m like, “Hey, here’s my options on this category page.” And for most brands I tell them, “Put that SEO content below the products.” Let them get what they want as quick as possible on the site, whether it’s a phone or a desktop. The chances of, I mean, I got to assume the chances of even… If you had to change the content, it would be minimal if anything, but what’s your estimate for how many times you’ve even changed category level content for conversion rate?

Jon:
I would say, when we change the content, there’s a lot more of moving it around on the page. The example that you provided is a really brilliant one because normally what we’re doing is we’re looking at how consumers are engaging with the site, what content they’re seeing and not seeing and paying attention to. And that allows us to really focus. And we can say, “Hey, further down on the page, about midway down, there’s this content on the category page that when people see that content, it makes something click for them.” And then they go into that next phase feeling more equipped and they convert better. So we want to bring that content up on the page. Now, how’s Google going to look at that. Well, some folks might say that the lower on the page the content is, the less it impacts your SEO, right?
The less of an impact it has, which may or may not be true. Google doesn’t really tell you these things, but if it is, it’s very small in comparison to a great consumer experience, right? Because if Google recognizes that somebody gets to your category page and then doesn’t scroll, doesn’t do a whole lot, and just bounces, that to them is a bad site experience. But if we can get somebody to click and take that next step in the funnel, which is your category page, a 100% of the goal, get to the next step in the funnel, right? Go to that PDP, someplace that can actually order or get more details. So now we’re looking at things like overall time on site, how many clicks and pages people view, those are much more meaningful metrics for SEO than just where is content on a page?

Ryan:
I would say in that space, the chances of an e-commerce brand on a valuable, what I would call head term or mid funnel term, ranking number one is not awesome. I mean, Amazon, Walmart, if they’re the topless categories for you, that overtaking them is a long time out for most companies. So you’re probably not in those top spots where you’re getting traffic anyway. So it changed that page to increase overall conversion rate where most of the traffic is probably coming from paid search anyway. I would say there’s arguably very low risk.

Jon:
That’s a great point.

Ryan:
But if you happen to be number one on a category page for a term, maybe don’t test that one. Test on another page that’s ranked on page two, get the traffic to it, decide if it works better or worse. And if the conversion rate increases by 50% by modifying the page based on CRO, move it to the new page and see what happens. You’ve got 30 days to go back and Google to reindex it. But the increase in conversion rate may even make up for you moving from position one to position two, temporarily.

Jon:
Well, let’s say that happens, now it’s a math problem. Okay. How much traffic were you getting from that SEO term? And it’s debatable whether or not you can get very accurate numbers there. They might be [crosstalk 00:09:37] but you can get some numbers. And then what’s the conversion rate of that specific traffic source? So let’s say we know somebody used to click on a category page ad that was number one. And you got 10 people to convert a day based on that channel. Great. And then you went down to number two and maybe it was six people converted instead of 10. So you lost four sales, but you were able to improve the conversion rate by, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10%. And now you’re doing, let’s just say 10%. You’re doing 16 orders a day. So now you’re up six orders over from where you were when you were in spot one.
And so it’s a simple math problem of, are you better off being in slot two with a much better conversion funnel and a better experience that will eventually come back to overtake number one. Because Google’s going to look at that and say, “Well, actually people who come to the number two site tend to stick around longer. They tend to visit more pages and they tend to convert.” So that’s likely a better, more relevant result for this search than it is the number one. So we should flip them back, right.

Ryan:
Yeah. And if you’re just moving content on a category page that causes your ranking to go from one to two, you and that other company were so close from an SEO perspective, that that minute change caused a hiccup that maybe just a couple months of more aggressive SEO for that term, that page, would probably jump you up over them while your site overall increase in conversion rate anyway, because it’s not like that change executed across all category pages only helped one category page. You’ve actually helped all of them.

Jon:
That’s a great point. And again, it goes back to the math that you really need to look at the numbers and being able to compare apples to apples here. But what I find really, really interesting is that even if you are that close, that likely means that you’re not number one in a lot of locales. You might be number one because it’s a term you’ve searched for on your computer before and clicked on it. And Google’s like, “Oh, we’ll give them that result again.” So you really don’t know, maybe in east coast of the United States, you’re coming up as number two and to you on your computer, it comes up number one. We have this problem all the time doing SEO on our site at the good, because I’ll go in and I’ll search.
And of course, I search the good and Google’s giving me thegood.com, and then someone else’s. You talk to a client and I’m like, “Hey, where’d you find us?” And they’re like, “Well, somebody said I needed to contact The Good.” And I just Googled The Good and I got a TV show that was on ABC years ago. I got, blah, blah, blah. And on page two, I finally found you guys and I was like, cool, but it shows up for page one for everybody here. But of course, because Google is doing it based on our preferences and search history and knows everything about me. And they know I work at The Good and have been here forever and blah, blah, blah, right.
So yeah, that’s what they’re going to give me, right? They’re not going to give me a TV show about a lawyer or The Good Wife or whatever it is that I don’t have interest in. I think that it’s really contextual as well. And a lot of our clients miss that. And they just assume because for them, it’s not showing up number one, that it’s not showing up number one for everybody or vice versa. That they do have number one, and now everybody must see that result and that’s not accurate. That’s not how SEO works.

Announcer:
You’re listening to Drive and Convert, the podcast focused on e-commerce growth. Your hosts are Jon MacDonald, founder of The Good, a conversion rate optimization agency that works with e-commerce brands to help convert more of their visitors into buyers and Ryan Garrow of Logical Position. The digital marketing agency offering pay-per-click click management, search engine optimization, and website design services to brands of all sizes. If you find this podcast helpful, please help us out by leaving a review on Apple Podcasts and sharing it with a friend or colleague. Thank you.

Ryan:
And there’s a lot of factors on SEO which I think the onsite appeal or look of it is only a small piece. If you’re not building domain authority by increasing back links and putting good content out on the internet as a whole, changing your site’s not going to have that much effect anyway. So I mean, it’s a foundation that we talk to most brands about, that if you’re not executing onsite SEO content on your category pages, you’re better off doing that than you are going out and building a bunch of content back links, offsite. But I think way too much credit is being given to somebody in the SEO space like yourself of improving or ruining the SEO on a page.

Jon:
Yeah. And I know folks invest a ton of cash into SEO. I get it. They want to maintain that return and get that return, or they’ve worked so hard for so long to get some results out of SEO because it is a long play, right? It’s nothing you’re going to do every night that’s going to propel you that will keep you there. I mean, there’s some stuff you can do, but let’s just put that under the category of [inaudible 00:14:52] right, where you’re going to be hacking your way there and end up with some issues. So all in all, I guess my point here is that a lot of clients are fearful about this, but they don’t really need to be. And it’s right that you’re asking the questions, it’s right that you are thinking about this and expressing that concern. But I do think it gets overblown in people’s heads before they even ask the question. And it’s something that I encounter enough and I know our team doesn’t. It sounds like your team does that it makes for a worthwhile conversation.

Ryan:
Yeah. I’m guessing there’s some Yelp review somewhere about CRO that’s causing people to see something like, oh my gosh, it’s terrible for SEO. Don’t do it. But as a business owner myself, the way I look at it is if you’ve got that channel on analytics that says organic, if that channel converts at a higher rate, that output on the right side, talking about revenue is probably going to be higher. And the chances of it impacting the users and sessions to the left of that conversion rate number are probably going to be so minimal. If anything, that the concerns are not valid. They both go together well. It would be dumb to be investing just in CRO with no SEO and SEO with no CRO at the end of the day. If your businesses is at a point where you’re trying to scale it, the answer is yes, you need all of it. [crosstalk 00:16:17].

Jon:
And I tell people this all the time, which is a little bit from the point today, but look, if you’re going to work with The Good, it needs to be in addition to your traffic generation spend. Moving budget over from traffic generation to CRO is not a sustainable practice. And I see that a lot. And we I’ve worked with people that have done that. And now it’s one of the questions that I ask in an initial good mutual fit meeting. I say, “Hey, let’s find out if there’s a good fit today.” And do you spend money to drive traffic, is one of those questions. And if they say no, I’ll say, “Well, where’s your traffic coming from, and are you able to maintain that traffic level?”
Assuming that they’re at a level that even makes sense for CRO, which you’re not spending money to drive traffic, probably not. Same thing goes with SEO where you should still be engaging that SEO firm. Don’t stop engaging with them because you’re doing CRO. And this is another point I wanted to make on this topic, which is we can work with those SEO folks, as long as we know what the game plan is, we’ll make sure we’re not adjusting or moving anything that they’re working on. We can work around those folks. So it’s worth having the conversation and getting everybody in the room.

Ryan:
So being a CRO nerd that you are, have you heard a horror story in CRO lore where Bob’s CRO company did something and just totally tanked a site and got them blacklisted on Google or something?

Jon:
I have never heard of that, not once, actually.

Ryan:
Oh that’s actually [inaudible 00:17:56].

Jon:
Yeah, no, Bob is safe.

Ryan:
But yeah, it would be great if Bob did the JCPenney CRO and that’s what caused it. Have to go to jcp.com years ago, like, “Oh yeah. That was the CRO guy, that was too bad.”

Jon:
You know what’s really interesting, is most of the CRO folklore that is out there is complete BS, just complete BS. I changed my button color.

Ryan:
Oh yeah. That’s what’s up.

Jon:
I got $50 million. You’re like, “Let’s talk about the data behind that because I don’t think you’re reading that chart right.” And there’s a whole bunch of those types of things. So honestly, I don’t think it’s a concern, but I understand why people bring it up.

Ryan:
That’s good. So we’ve established moving forward in 22. You don’t need to be worried. Everything’s going to be fine. At least in the CRO, SEO working together space, they can coexist and should coexist together. And if you’re not doing it now, call Jon or myself and we’ll help show you the picture of how they work together. But thanks for helping me think through this and set the table for 22, Jon.

Jon:
Yeah. Love it. Thanks for the chat. It’s been fun.

Ryan:
Thank you.

Announcer:
Thanks for listening to Drive and Convert with Jon MacDonald and Ryan Garrow. To keep up to date with new episodes, you could subscribe at www.driveandconvert.com.

About the Author

James Sowers

James Sowers is the Director of Marketing at The Good. He has more than a decade of experience helping software and ecommerce companies accelerate their growth and improve their customer experience.