Search marketing is about more than just attracting traffic – you also need to optimise for search conversions so all that hard-earned traffic doesn’t go to waste.
Building a search presence that generates plenty of traffic takes a lot of time, effort and money. If your SEO strategy isn’t converting web visitors into paying customers, you’ve got a problem.
Search typically starts the customer journey and this makes it difficult to prove your SEO strategy is generating revenue. In this article, we explain how you can optimise each step of the search experience to convert SEO traffic into paying customers – and prove it in your reports.
Many marketers think of SEO as an acquisition strategy for generating traffic, but this is only one of its roles. Yes, search marketing is most active during the acquisition stage of your strategy but it’s heavily involved in the engagement stage, too. Crucially, it also lays all of the foundations for the conversion stage.
If you’re putting all of your SEO resources into acquisitions and neglecting the latter stages of the search experience, you need to reconsider. Sure, you might be generating plenty of traffic but what’s happening to visitors after they land on your page?
Without optimising for engagement and, ultimately, conversions, your SEO traffic – and most of your budget – is going to waste.
To maximise ROI from your SEO traffic, you need a complete strategy that optimises for the three key stages of the search experience:
So let’s see how you can develop a strategy for each stage of the search experience and guide your SEO traffic towards conversions.
At the acquisition stage, your SEO strategy focuses on bringing traffic to your website. However, even at this early point in the search experience, you need to be thinking ahead to the engagement and conversion stages.
You don’t want to waste time, money and other resources on visitors who have little chance of converting. Instead, you want to capture relevant traffic with a genuine need for what you’re promoting.
In terms of specific actions, your SEO acquisition goals are relatively simple:
Above all, you want relevant traffic to visit your website. If you’re a local business, you might want users to view your Google Business Profile. With mobile users, you might also target phone calls through your Business Profile and call assets in your Google Search Ads.
Google also ranks content and pages from certain social networks in the SERPs, too – namely YouTube and Twitter.
Relevance is the key to developing an SEO acquisition strategy that makes full use of your traffic. You need to attract the right visitors – those with the potential to engage with your website and, eventually, convert.
This starts with knowing who you want to capture as SEO traffic.
Once you know who you’re targeting and what you want them to do, you can develop an acquisition strategy. You can identify the right keywords and put together a content strategy that’s relevant to your target audience. By understanding their needs, you can address their interests and provide meaningful answers at each stage of the funnel.
You’re not going to convert SEO traffic on the first visit – this is an ongoing strategy of continuous value, guiding prospects to the conversion.
Irrelevant SEO traffic is of no value to you. You don’t want to rank for irrelevant keywords or waste money on content that misses the mark. You want the right people to see your content, in the right place and at the right moment.
High-intent keywords often produce multiple opportunities on the SERPs for different content formats and user actions – you may need to optimise for several.
So, you need to know where they are, what they care about and which kind of content they engage with. From here, you can optimise for keywords that build visibility in the right places. You can craft titles that capture the attention of the right people and produce the content they really care about.
At the engagement stage of the search journey, your SEO strategy wants to keep visitors on your website. You want them to read your content, watch your videos and take the message in before clicking through to other pages for more info.
In your SEO acquisition strategy, you specified each target audience and their interests. Now, you need to make sure you’re delivering what they’re looking for and providing a user experience that keeps them moving along the funnel.
In simple terms, you have to do two key things to keep SEO traffic engaged on your website.
First, you have to deliver quality content that speaks to their interests. Next, you need to provide a user experience that removes all unnecessary friction points or barriers that could interrupt the session.
Your target actions for this stage of the search experience are more intricate.
To track all of these actions, you’ll need the right analytics setup. For example, in Google Analytics 4, you can create events to track interactions like button clicks to measure how many visitors click the play button on your video. Analyse metrics like Avg. time on page and use tools like heatmaps for a more holistic analysis.
To keep users on your website, you need to deliver the right content, in the right format and place clear follow-up actions in front of them.
You don’t want visitors to finish an article and click back to search. You want them to click through to the next page of your site and one step closer to your conversion goals.
To achieve meaningful engagement – the kind that leads to conversions – you need a solid mix of quality, relevant content and a positive user experience. Obviously, UX is important to the end user (and your conversion goals) but Google and other search engines are increasingly looking at UX signals in their algorithms. The line between SEO and UX design is getting thinner all the time.
Loading times are the obvious example but Core Web Vitals has introduced new UX signals for interactivity and visual stability.
This means, when users click on interactive elements, they need to respond quickly. It also means elements shouldn’t jump around on the page after they’ve loaded – you need stable page structures and layouts.
By delivering quality user experiences, you strip away any distractions and put your content centre stage. This is great – as long as your content also knows how to perform. You have to maintain the relevance in your acquisition strategy, show users that you understand their interests and point them towards next steps that will give them what they want.
All that’s left now is to make sure you have solid on-page and technical SEO strategies in place to maximise the performance of each page. Then, we can move on to the conversion stage of the search experience.
At the conversion end of the search experience, most of your SEO work should be done. You’re bringing relevant traffic to your website, delivering a strong user experience and engaging visitors with compelling messages.
With all of this in place, you should be in a pretty good position to convert search traffic into qualified leads and/or paying customers.
Now, you need to make sure your content is giving visitors what they want. You need to make sure it’s building incentive to push them along the funnel. And you need to attribute conversions to each step of your SEO strategy to measure ROI and improve results.
If your SEO traffic isn’t converting, your search marketing spend is in negative ROI – it’s as simple as that. By extension, maximising growth through SEO relies on maximising conversions at the end of the search experience.
With effective SEO acquisition and engagement strategies, you should have plenty of relevant traffic, quality content and a solid user experience. Now, it’s time to prove all of this converts visitors into paying customers and optimise results to improve performance even further.
At this stage of the search experience, most target actions are conversion goals.
Before you can optimise for these, you need a robust analytics system. You need to know how users are interacting with your website and attribute events like conversion goals to early SEO actions.
We already saw how SEO overlaps with UX design during the engagement stage and this continues at the conversion end. Except, now, we’re venturing heavily into conversion rate optimisation (CRO), powered by constant experimentation.
Many companies have a CRO strategy in place but results are limited if you’re not attributing conversion events to the search experience. You can test CTAs into oblivion but what is this going to achieve if you’re not delivering the right content to the right audience?
Your SEO conversion strategy ties everything into the acquisition and engagement stages of the search experience. In other words, it proves you’re attracting the right traffic and achieving meaningful engagement that results in conversions.
By this point, you should have most of the answers you need about your SEO traffic. We still need to clarify a few things at the conversion end, though.
At the conversion stage of the search experience, you want to identify what works and what doesn’t. From here, you can replicate the best of your SEO strategy and test fixes for anything that underperforms.
Again, this is a long-term strategy where you’re constantly building up insights from user data and experiments. The longer you do this, the more informative your data becomes and more confidently you can make high-impact changes.
Obviously, CRO plays a key role in this and you want to optimise loading times, CTAs, signup forms and other conversion essentials. Likewise, you want to optimise the broader aspects of the user experience and identify friction points getting in the way of conversions.
It doesn’t end here, though.
You want to prove that every stage of your SEO strategy is driving revenue and adding to business growth. You want to know that the content you produce is making a profit and the engagement you optimise for leads to purchase and other conversion goals.
In the past, reliable attribution has always been tricky with SEO but Google Analytics 4 makes this a lot easier.
Its multichannel attribution system makes it easier to see where your SEO strategy and content is contributing to conversions.
If you haven’t migrated to Google Analytics 4 yet, you’re running out of time – get in touch if you need us to help.
You also need to optimise your content to maximise conversions. First, you can identify any content that’s falling short of expectations and experiments with different approaches. You can test different content formats, try alternative angles or increase/decrease incentivisation to find the right balance.
Make sure you implement regular content audits into your conversion optimisation strategy, too.
Content ages over time, losing that all-important relevance we’ve based this entire strategy around. At the same, you’ll find pages start to compete with each other, target the same keywords or fail to gain any traction.
Regular SEO audits give you the chance to keep your best content up-to-date and identify competing or underperforming pages. You can merge competing pages into one, better-ranking page and address underperforming pages to try and improve results.
This two-pronged approach to content optimisation will help you maximise conversions – and keep them high.
If you think your SEO traffic might be going to waste, we have a wide range of SEO services that will help. Call us on 02392 830 281 or send us your details and we can develop a strategy to optimise each stage of the search experience and ensure that your SEO traffic converts.
Chris is Managing Director at Vertical Leap and has over 25 years' experience in sales and marketing. He is a keynote speaker and frequent blogger, with a particular interest in intelligent automation and data analytics. In his spare time, he enjoys playing the guitar and is a stage manager at the Victorious Festival.
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