Is It Time for SEO?! Or Should You Start With Design and CRO?

Is It Time for SEO?! Or Should You Start With Design and CRO?

Of all the questions I’m asked by potential clients, this is near the top of the list. If it isn’t this question directly, it’s something along the lines of a client wanting to start an SEO campaign, but being blissfully unaware of how traffic is currently converting on their site, not having any idea of some of the most important KPIs (key performance indicators), or just generally being the proud owner of a site that… let’s just say… needs some work.

When I see a home or landing page that is lacking any one of these three key items:

  • Call to action
  • Opt-in form or button
  • Contact information

I know that a client isn’t ready for SEO.

So, if a client isn’t ready for SEO, where do we begin? Well, it all starts with design, and conversion rate optimization. If I can make an analogy, starting with SEO when your website needs design and CRO work is the equivalent of building a house without first pouring the foundation. Without structure, the house is nothing more than a pile of building materials that will quickly crumble. The same can be said for the way in which you start your business.

Why Conversion Rate Optimization and Design?

Search engine optimization exists solely to improve search engine rankings. The only reason to improve these rankings is to send additional traffic to your website. This is where the problem exists. Why would you want to send additional traffic to a website that hasn’t been optimized to convert this traffic?

Traffic for the sake of traffic is completely meaningless. It’s like throwing darts with a blindfold on. Sure, you’ll occasionally get lucky and nail a bullseye, but more often than not, you’re simply wasting your time and putting holes in the wall.

The impact of design and proper optimization on landing pages that are set to receive this traffic can’t be understated. Successful SEO is more science than art. There are predictable and repeatable methods in which to deliver successful campaigns. However, what’s lost on your average SEO client is that a successful campaign isn’t about ranking in the number one spot on Google, it’s about bringing in more conversions through sales, leads, or subscribers as opposed to focusing solely on where you fall in a list.

To put this into perspective, being number 3, with a 50-percent conversion rate of 1,000 visitors a month (500 conversions) is going to be significantly more valuable than being number 1, converting 25-percent of 1,500 visitors (375 conversions).

How Do Design and CRO Work To Improve Revenue?

While SEO brings new traffic to a website, design and CRO are all about optimizing your existing traffic through smarter use of design and strategy. CRO uses data in the form of analytic information in order to make smarter decisions about ways in which to convert your traffic. For example, testing copy variations, landing pages, layout, colors, and upsells for your “thank you” pages all lead us to finding solutions that make the site more money.

Money – in the online marketing world – comes from testing real world data in an attempt to constantly strive for better results. Once you find the best of three variations, you use it, but at the same time you’re testing it against additional variations.

This is the nature of CRO, and design when it comes to determining everything from UX and UI elements, all the way down to seemingly meaningless things like text size, fonts, colors, styling, and more.

How do Design and CRO Work Together?

Modern online marketing relies on design not just to tell a story, but to capture the attention (in a non-invasive way) of an audience who typically has an attention span of just a few seconds. In UX design, the initial second or two where a new visitor views your site for the first time before deciding whether to continue on to a new site or dig deeper into yours is called “the blink test.” While design has to capture attention, CRO has to do just about everything else in order to funnel a user into the correct location of the site while attempting to convert him.

In CRO, every design element is crucial. Each font choice, color, and piece of sales copy serves to pass the blink test, all while maintaining the goal of converting each visitor that makes his way to your webpage. Without CRO, conversions would rarely happen. Without design, CRO would be utterly useless. The two can’t work independently, and must instead take a synergistic approach to captivating, and converting a user.

So, if you ask whether SEO or design and CRO offer the greatest potential for return in the initial stages of a campaign, the answer is always going to be – without fail – the latter.

Remember, conversions can happen by accident, but it’s only when they happen on purpose that we can begin patting ourselves on the back for a job well done.