Conversion Optimization is the new Black

Early on in my SEO life, I would focus exclusively on optimizing client sites with high rankings in the SERPs as the singular goal.  From there, I slowly began getting more involved in caring more about the user experience.  Both to strengthen SEO and because it also benefits the site visitor and the site owner.

Eventually I realized I was sick and tired of helping clients achieve great click-through ratios and lower bounce rates but where I knew instinctively that what matters more than that is conversion.

Except I struggled with how to convey HOW important that is because I couldn’t put it into words very well.  Sure, I’d say things like “For us to know how well we’re doing we really need to measure conversions.” Or “We need to measure the entire visitor experience.”  Then I’d go on to explain that I needed to know these things so that I could offer guidance on the next round of SEO.  Which are both true, yet neither one is really focused on the bottom line.

Making Clients More Money

As Joe Hall recently said in when talking about how his face builds links :

Brands, whether personal or corporate, exist to make money, not get free drinks at the next conference.

That’s really what our mission is or should be in the search industry.  To make clients more money.  Whether they monetize leads after someone fills out a lead generation form, they monetize leads after someone signs up to attend an event, or they sell products directly on their site,  the more people they get taking those actions, the more money they’ll make.  That’s why, in addition to offering SEO Analysis and Audits, I jumped on the Conversion Optimization bandwagon.

When it comes to SEO, Conversion Optimization is the New Black

It may be that someone else is in charge of the on-site user experience.  Or it’s somebody else’s purview to coordinate social media campaigns.  After all, we can’t wear all the hats in the online experience.  Which makes sense.  Because I have no desire to build sites, let alone be the lead graphic designer. Well, actually I do – except I suck at those things 🙂

Yet since I already need to be involved in the click-to-client life cycle, and because I have experience in UX, I’ve found that it only makes sense that I offer guidance in not just the ranking goals but also that very UX that will lead to more conversions.

And since I already understand and let clients know that they need citations and mentions across the web including within social media, and we already understand that social media is now a legitimate alternate place to find and engage customers, it also makes sense that I communicate this to my clients even for SEO purposes.  So I might as well also, at the very least, communicate that there’s a right way and a wrong way to engage.

How Much Involvement Is Appropriate?

Depending on what area of the click-to-client process you’re focusing on, it could be a lot easier than you realize.  Kim Krause Berg just wrote a great article entitled “How to Rescue Poorly Converting Web Sites“.  In that article, she helps show that some aspects of Conversion Optimization don’t have to be rocket science.

Sometimes it can get a lot more complicated.  When it does, you may want to pay attention to Brian Massey, the Conversion Scientist.

How far you take your involvement in the Conversion Optimization process is going to really depend on what your own skill-set is.  If you have no experience determining product pricing, or writing product copy, or if you really aren’t an online social butterfly in your own business, those are areas you should leave to experts.  If you can’t draw a square box without getting laughed at, you shouldn’t offer too much advice on the visual experience.

Check Your Motives

Before you decide you need to speak up about things related more to User Experience, Reputation Management, Facebook Engagement, or especially Customer Sales Psychology,  than SEO, check your motives before you open your mouth and embarrass yourself.

Yet even if you don’t have experience in other fields, you sure as heck can explain that clients could benefit from focusing on the entire click-to-client life cycle in a more proactive manner than they do.  And at the very least, you can help them learn about A/B split testing, multivariate testing, and the general principles of Conversion Optimization.

And you can collaborate with others to offer a complete solution.  As long as the people you bring on board are, themselves, real experts in various disciplines.

Remember To Get Buy-In

Since I hadn’t incorporated Conversion Optimization into my marketing and sales cycle so directly, it used to be near impossible to get clients to anything but begrudgingly allow a contact form or a sign-up form on every page of their site.  Yet I’ve been promoting A/B split tested dedicated landing pages for PPC campaigns for about 2 and a half years now.  Without push-back from clients.

So what I took away from that was you need to get client or employer buy-in if you’re going to stick your neck out on what is really a much more vulnerable level.

It’s just about how you approach the message.

It’s A Team Effort

True Conversion Optimization means every aspect of the online footprint needs to be considered, reviewed, and continually evolve.  And that means anyone who has a hand in any single aspect of that online footprint is going to need to be brought on board.

So when you approach this work, remember to consider who the person is / people are that will be tasked with implementing those very changes needed. Depending on the size of the site, or the scale of the social media effort, people who I might also need buy-in from include:

  • Graphic Designers
  • Marketing Managers
  • Engineers
  • Product Managers
  • Account Managers
  • Company Owners
  • Advisory Boards

Graphic Designers

If the look of the site is going to change or new digital assets are needed, a corporate Twitter background is needed, or a Facebook Fan page has to be set up, you’ll need buy-in from graphic designers.

Marketing Managers

If you’re going to need to change the message being conveyed, or come up with a new message to convey on the site, in the Twitter stream, on Facebook or LinkedIn, it’s the person in charge of marketing that will be your ally.

Engineers

Somebody’s got to code the functionality, and you don’t want the engineers on the project without coordinating SEO aspects if they’re needed.

Product Managers

This one might be a surprise to some people.  Yet to me, it’s the Product Manager who’s going to either put up an impassable wall or hopefully, open their mind to talking about why the product photos they selected suck or worse, why they need to seriously consider discounts, promotions, and more importantly, coming up with more than 3 words to use on those product detail pages.

Account Managers

If you don’t include Account Managers in the Conversion Optimization discussion, they will not be prepared to handle the increase in conversions, which could cause a serious reputation management nightmare for the company.  And even if you think you already have everything else figured out, sometimes it’s the Account Manager who will provide insights into prospective client minds that was missing from the equation in the first place.

Company Owners

If you can get company ownership to buy into this early on, everyone else becomes much easier to convince.  But don’t take that to mean that once you get the head cheese to agree with you, that somebody might not come along and just to prove they’re worth the high salary they make, do all they can to prove you’re way off base…

Advisory Boards

Sometimes the client is a startup.  And if they are, and I come along and say “based on my review of the landscape, and given my own previous experience in this market as a business manager, it’s my suggestion that your price-point might need to be reviewed…”  the people I usually deal with might freak out.  That’s okay – especially if they’ve got an Advisory Board made up of more seasoned professionals.

That’s the kind of people I can win over a lot more readily than someone who’s blinded by their own beliefs or worse, frozen in fear…  I just need to be able to prove why my recommendation is valid.  And if I’ve done my footwork, and know what I’m talking about, that’s an achievable goal.


Why You Should Care

If you have any experience in PPC campaigns, you’re already involved in Conversion Optimization to a certain degree.  If you’re already coordinating efforts when it comes to site content organization, navigation changes, content development, you already are involved in and play a role in the Conversion process.  And if you’ve told them they have to be involved with social media, you can bet they’re going to ask you what that should look like.

So you better wake up if you don’t think those things that you’re doing have an impact on Conversion Optimization.  Because everything you do, even if it’s choosing the keywords to optimize for, is directly related to it whether you’ve realized that before or not.

And given that you are already involved, why not show your employer or your client that you don’t just care about higher ranking or clicks?  Why not offer more value?  If you don’t at least offer the basics and introduce the concepts, somebody else just might come along and bump you right out of that opportunity.

Just remember that you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.  Nor should you.

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Black Dress Photo By Dunikowski

“Not My Job” comic from Onefte.com follow them on Twitter

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

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