It’s an awesome thing to have a content marketing campaign humming along. Your ranks are climbing, your conversions are going up. Life is good.
But once you reach a certain level of optimization you might find that making one part of your campaign better makes another part worse. The balance between CRO and SEO is a good example of this. Copy that works great for SEO might not convert, and well-converting copy may not look good to a search engine.Let’s take a look at how to balance CRO and SEO in your campaigns so you can get the most out of your campaigns.
What's The Goal?
If your campaign has come to a point where you need to balance CRO and SEO, chances are that you’re already pulling a nice amount of revenue from the campaign. Thus, the goal isn’t to get a higher SERP placement or more conversions. It’s to increase the amount of revenue you’re receiving from your funnel.
It’s the classic top vs. bottom funnel debate. On the SEO side, the more traffic the better, right? If you convert 5 people out of every 100 visitors, boosting your visitor count should increase the overall amount of revenue.
However, on the CRO side, once you get enough traffic why worry about getting more people when you can focus on making your funnel and offer more attractive to the audience that’s already there? Conversion is where the real money is made, right?
Both sides are valid, which means that both need to be accounted for. If you make a CRO change that shows increased revenue but it lowers your SEO, your revenue might be dropping far more than the data suggests. The same is true in the other direction.
One thing you do want to avoid is clinging too hard to one side or the other. A site owner might not want to improve their pages for SEO if it converts really well. An SEO professional might love that their pages get a high ranking and don’t want to mess with things in case the ranking drops.
To get the most revenue out of your funnels, both SEO and CRO have to be optimized. Here’s how you can do that without blowing things up.
Dealing with the Tricky Middle
Not every CRO or SEO change will affect the balance. Technical SEO changes that are invisible to your visitors aren’t going to mess with your CRO. Changes to copy that are on pages invisible to search engines won’t affect your SEO.
It’s the intersection between the two that must be addressed. The assumption that can trip you up is that whatever is good for one is necessarily good for the other. Yes, there are some things that do provide uplift for both, including:
User-friendly navigation on your pages
Clear and interesting headlines
Including relevant keywords
Content that isn’t too long or too short
A focus on a single topic per page
But there are plenty of other changes that could cause a dip. This means you have to measure both the CRO and SEO improvements and their impact on revenue before you add those changes permanently to the campaign. Split testing is crucial and it’s only getting harder because of the increase in artificial intelligence technologies for search engines. What is best practice now may change quickly. What is good for search and what is good for users should hopefully match over time, but there’s no guarantee of this. You absolutely have to test.
A successful test is one that provides an uptick in revenue when the fluctuations of both SEO and CRO are taken into account. If a 30% increase in conversions comes along with a 10% drop in organic traffic, is that a net improvement in revenue or not? The answers for these will be different for each company, but they are well worth digging into to so you can test your entire funnel. Optimizing just one or the other could introduce hidden inefficiencies.
Things to Watch For
When you’re trying to balance your CRO and SEO, here’s what you need to be careful of changing.
The first is your keywords. If you’re trying to rank for a keyword and you remove it from the page, that’s obviously a problem. But if your audience doesn’t want that keyword front and center, where do you put it? The title of the page and the URL are a great place because those areas rarely affect CRO (seriously, when was the last time you truly studied a URL or a title beyond the little bit that shows up on your browser tab?)
Your header tags might also have keywords you want to keep and headlines definitely have a CRO impact. But if you’ve chosen keywords that align with your visitor’s interests, then there shouldn’t be an SEO impact.
The second is content quality. Google loves content quality signals. Thankfully, today’s SEO best practices are a great start for building quality content. And if you’ve got good CRO on your pages and getting conversions, Google is going to notice and reward you. Ask you make your tweaks for testing ask yourself “does this tweak reduce the quality of the page or not?” Unfortunately, this is really hard to measure without getting some data under your belt. Google’s constantly changing how they weigh quality signals and much of it is now AI-driven. It’s not as simple as it used to be!
The last is user behavior. This we can measure. Anything that avoids pogo-sticking and gets people to stick around, convert, or otherwise engage with your content is a good SEO and a good CRO signal. So if you’re seeing poor engagement, it’s time to look at both your SEO and your CRO for that page and see what can be done better.
Balancing CRO and SEO isn’t easy, but if you have good testing data and know how changes in one or the other affect how much revenue you receive, you can make smart decisions on how to optimize your funnel from both sides.