Skip to Content
Mark Preston, SEO Strategist

The author

Mark Preston

SEO Strategist

It’s no secret that in businesses and marketing agencies across the country, a daily tug of war is pitched between departments and disciplines, all jostling for superintendence over a specific project, campaign or even strategy - each team demanding that their recommendations take priority without compromise or concession.

But marketing - or at least successful marketing - should not operate inside these kinds of silos because the people to whom our carefully crafted messaging is designed to communicate do not. The business's goals should predicate and lead any marketing activity and in turn, these business goals are dictated by people - by our target audience - because without the market there is no marketing.

SEO and CRO are two disciplines in particular that, apart from sharing a titular ‘O’ in their acronyms, many marketers have long regarded as mutually exclusive or even disruptive to one another.

Integrating CRO sympathetically and within the context of SEM practices is key to maximising the potential of any search strategy. While generally PPC with its formulaic and iterative processes has been a much more comfortable bedfellow to CRO, often there remains an unnecessary kind of friction between search engine and conversion rate optimisation.

Joining up the dots

Like any other marketing channel, SEO is measured against a set of KPIs, which invariably include revenue or at a more granular level, profit. While the many tactics that make up an on-page and off-page SEO strategy will work to drive greater numbers of visitors to a site, without the ability to turn these visitors into leads or converting customers - or at least increase their propensity to become such - then greater, often untenable pressures are put on the channel to generate a large enough net increase in new visitors to meet the growth projections of the business.

If your car is leaking oil, what will cost you less in the long run - to keep filling it with more and more oil to get you where you need to go, or to fix the leak? As a starting point, maximising the potential of visitors already arriving on-site is much more cost-effective than having to battle for a greater proportion of the market share. And when you’ve got both down to a fine art, well that’s when you’re really cooking on gas!

SEO can help to bring a horse to water, but beyond that it has limited control. That’s not to say SEO practitioners don’t care what happens to visitors once they enter the site - it’s a daily preoccupation of most - but often a frustrating exercise that provides more questions than answers.

Yes, we can tailor our content and landing pages to try to best satisfy the needs of prospective visitors and try to ensure that the visibility of these pages is maximised within search results. But even with a top place-ranking, if the experience the user meets when landing on-site and the journey they take beyond that towards conversion is a poor one, then we’re still not going to see an increase in leads, sales, applications, donations or whatever desired goals we have set out.

In the worst instances we even have SEO recommendations that are guilty of actually compromising user experience - like dropping a large block of keyword-stuffed copy into the middle of a product listing page in an effort to nudge up those one or two rankings.

And what about click to expand content? We know from recent Google Webmaster Hangouts with the likes of John Mueller that Google isn’t a big fan of information that sits as a default out of view of visitors, and can even choose not to index the text. As SEOs do, we immediately go out and start expanding all of our landing pages into long form. But is there a better way to test a format that satisfies both users and search engines? After all, what are search engines trying to do when crawling a site, if not trying to replicate human behaviour?

We also know - or like most things in organic search marketing, have strong intimations - that Google uses engagement metrics like the rate at which visitors bounce back in order to search results from a given page as part of its algorithm (note this is different from bounce rate), therefore ensuring our site is geared up to not only address the informational needs our visitors have, but do so in a clear, engaging and timely way is fundamental; and which coalition is better suited to do this than SEO and CRO?

SEO and CRO practitioners will invariably spend more time on-site than marketers working across a majority of other digital channels, and are therefore likely to know the site much more intimately: how it performs across different devices, how fast the pages load, where visitors are coming from and what content greets them when they land there are all fixations of both specialisms. Learnings and experiences from both sides could therefore prove invaluable to the overall success of the campaign, and longer-term growth.

Ultimately, it’s not to say that these two disciplines should go from historically fractious opponents to exclusive bedfellows - there we just end up in another scenario of the problematic silo in which we first found ourselves - but more that along with other marketing channels and internal teams, today a philosophy of knowledge-sharing and open-mindedness should supersede the one-upmanship that still unfortunately seems to linger in and between many organisations.