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Boosting Organic Search performance with CRO & UX

05/04/2022
A 7 minute read

As the UK’s Best Large SEO Agency, it’s fair to say we know a thing or two about boosting organic search performance. But, getting good quality traffic to your site is really only half the battle. Once users are onsite, you need to set them up so they are in a prime position to convert with you. How to do this, you ask?

Well, this is where the power of CRO and UX comes into play! Our Head of CRO, Simon Clarke and UX Researcher, Hayley Fothergill, delve into more detail…

Integrating the science of CRO and UX into your SEO strategy

While SEO aims to get quality and qualified traffic to your site, CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation) is the science behind maximising the potential of that traffic – and, ultimately, getting users to convert with you. 

Both are also in action at different stages of the marketing funnel: focusing solely on SEO risks your digital marketing strategy stopping and starting at the first stage – awareness, i.e. users getting to your site. But, by involving CRO and UX in your overall strategy, you will be focused on the other vitally important stages that lead site visitors on the journey to becoming prospects, customers and (ideally) repeat customers, at that.

How UX and CRO can help boost organic search performance - Evolved Search

So, how to integrate the science of CRO and UX into your SEO strategy? Here are a few tips on how to bring together these disciplines and reap rewards at every stage of the user journey.  

Preaching to the choir

An effective SEO approach not only focuses on increasing the volume of visitors to a site but also on ensuring that the site attracts quality visitors.

UX-focused research is absolutely essential for really understanding who is visiting your site so that, once they arrive, they feel the site speaks to them and are encouraged to explore what you offer in more detail. There are a couple of effective UX research tactics that can help you delve into who your visitors are (audience research) and how they perceive and experience your website (brand and proposition research).

Audience research can be done in two ways: by hearing directly from the people who make up your target users, or by hearing from those who know your ideal users/customers extremely well. The latter is a more cost-effective option, as it can be as simple as having an in-depth chat with your sales team who can shed invaluable insight into what customers think and tell them.

A more structured way of doing this would be through an empathy mapping workshop. These interactive sessions bring together everyone within your company who is close to customers; through brainstorming each audience segments’ goals, influences, actions, needs and pain points, you can collate a lot of the existing internal knowledge around users. 

An ideal next step would be interviewing customers, or people who fall within your target customer group, to get an even more authentic view of their needs and problems. Developing this well-rounded understanding of who your users are will then help ensure that the content, wording, design and navigation of the site are aligned with their expectations and needs. 

Brand and proposition research is then another helpful tool for not just looking at your users’ needs, but evaluating how well your current website speaks to those needs. There’s a whole range of UX research methods out there, including five-second tests and preference tests, that can help you gather quick feedback on your brand collateral and what is – and isn’t – resonating with your target audience. 

Know your customers inside out 

As well as in-depth audience research to understand who your audience is, you also want to understand how they behave online. 

Enter user intent:

“User intent, or search intent, states which goal or intention an internet user has when entering a search term into a search engine. User intent is now a central factor in content and search engine optimization and is eclipsing individual keywords as a dominant ranking factor.” Searchmetrics

With Google now recognising the semantic meaning, context and user intent of a search query through its ever-improving semantic search, developing pages that match the user’s search intent are critical for ranking purposes. 

Search intent can be divided into four categories:

How UX and CRO can assist organic search performance - Evolved Search

Tailoring search results and landing pages to a user’s intent is therefore hugely important in appealing to, and engaging, a user from their first interaction with your brand. 

So, if you present a long page full of products to someone who is in the Informational stage, they most likely will not be ready to purchase and will go elsewhere to do their due diligence.

Likewise, if you present a page full of content, with no immediately obvious way to find products to someone who is in the Transactional stage, they’ll likely get confused or annoyed, and head over to one of your competitors. 

There is also another important signal for search: Page Experience. 

Page experience is a set of signals that measure the experience of interacting with a web page, beyond its pure information value, both on mobile and desktop devices. This includes:

  • Core Web Vitals 
  • Mobile-friendliness 
  • Ensuring that you’re not using interstitials in a way that makes content less accessible

Again, each of these signals is closely linked to the instant (and lasting) impression a user has when they initially land on a page. Is it responsive? Does it load quickly? Are there any pop-ups in the user’s way? In cases where there are many pages that may be similar in relevance, page experience can give you the edge in visibility in Search.

“It only takes 0.013 seconds for your brain to identify an image, and 0.05 seconds for visitors to form an opinion about your landing page.” – LiveScience

With the above statistic in mind, make sure you show the user what they are searching for, ensure the page loads quickly and that it is responsive with no distractions. Get this right, and users are ready to explore your site!

Helping users help themselves 

Let’s assume you’ve done a great job of ensuring that landing pages resonate with your users and that they are based on good quality research into your users’ needs and perceptions. Now, to start nudging them on the journey towards conversion, users need to be able to easily find what they’re looking for on the site. Again, UX research can help support this, but this time it will be less focused on your audience’s perceptions and more focused on their actual behaviours while on site. 

To ensure your site is easy to navigate, first-click tests can be extremely useful: these tests involve showing users a landing page and asking them where they would click next to achieve a certain action.

Users whose first click puts them on the correct path towards completing that action are significantly more likely to complete an action correctly – which is hugely influential in converting them. If users start to take a wrong turn, you know that you need to rethink your site navigation so that people can actually progress towards becoming customers.

Revisiting your information architecture may be something you consider: card sort exercises can be useful so your users can show you how they would group different pages and information in your main navigation in a way that makes sense to them.

You might also need to gain greater insight into what actions users are looking to take once onsite: in-depth interviews are a good way of breaking down what jobs and tasks users are wanting to achieve. Onsite pop-up surveys can also be used to ask users why they are visiting the site, what tasks they’re trying to achieve and what might be stopping them – these typically generate a lot of insight that can help you identify any barriers to converting in the user experience. 

Be mobile-friendly 

Google first introduced mobile-first indexing in 2019 and will be rolling it out to all sites in September 2022. This means that Google uses the mobile version of the content for indexing and ranking purposes – making it more urgent than ever that your site is mobile friendly. 

There are a number of points that should be considered, but the most important ones for ensuring a technically sound, yet user-friendly, page are:

  • Use the same clear and meaningful headings on the mobile site as you do on desktop 
  • Make sure that your mobile site contains the same content as your desktop 
  • Check your images – ensure they are high quality, same alt-text etc.

A few other points that are speculated to be ranking factors:

  • The page covers the topic in-depth
  • Bullets and numbered lists
  • User-friendly layout
  • Breadcrumb navigation
  • Site usability
  • Bounce rate
  • Pogo Sticking
  • Ads above-the-fold

As you can see, there are a lot of factors that include reviewing your actual layout, content, usability, user behaviour and more. All things that are incredibly important from a ranking and visibility point of view, but also for the user’s onsite experience. 

Looking at data for 20 Evolved clients, we found that, on average, mobile devices account for 67% of all traffic to their websites. The highest percentage was 88% and the lowest was 51%, showing that mobile traffic accounts for the majority of users across a wide range of businesses and verticals. 

We’re probably all familiar with the old adage of ‘users just research on their mobile phones and then purchase on desktop’ – but, with mobile usage on the rise and the improvement in speed on most sites, mobile is increasingly the place to focus for improving conversions. 

We see this with our own eCommerce clients here at Evolved: mobile accounts for 46% of overall revenue on average, while desktop accounts for 49%. For one client, mobile users account for 65% of overall revenue.

With a large proportion of users buying via mobile, this is the biggest area of revenue opportunity and growth. If a user can do their research and narrow down what they want on your website, why shouldn’t they then have the ability to then purchase at the same time? 

Organically acquired, qualified traffic with purchase intent is considered by most as the best type of visitor, but not everyone is in that phase of their purchase journey. Those in research/discovery are equally important. If your SEO content helps answer a question or solve a problem, your audience is going to trust you as the expert.

CRO & UX can help you understand your audience in much more detail to be able to answer those questions and write the content in the first place. It’s an integrated approach that will ultimately aid your business growth over a 1, 2 or 5 year period. 

Like the sound of boosting your organic search performance with CRO & UX, but are unsure where to start?

Get in touch with our expert team who can help you better leverage CRO & UX to get into the minds of your potential customers and help boost your Organic (& Paid!) Search strategies.

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