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FutureNow Article
Tuesday, Mar. 13, 2007

The Battle Between Search Engine Optimization and Conversion: Who Wins?

By Melissa Burdon
March 13th, 2007

The Battle of SEO and ConversionMany companies have worked with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) firms or have hired in-house resources to perform Search Engine Optimization. They have improved their organic traffic and may even find themselves within the top results of the search engines for their primary keywords. They are concerned that if they make changes to their websites with intentions of improving their conversion rate, increasing sales or leads, that they will negatively affect their organic traffic and search engine rankings.This is a concern for many companies who have entered into internet marketing and realize the need to continue to improve their online performance.

Of course, it is very important to get great search engine rankings and high organic traffic. Most of the companies who enjoy high organic search engine rankings, unfortunately have very low conversion rates; usually less than 2%.

#1 Search Engine RankingThe real problem lies in the fact that most companies will consider optimization of their website a failure if their traffic decreases or their search engine rankings drop. (You can tell a lot about a company by the metrics they prize.) However, if ranking is more important than sales, we are dealing with an Ego issue. I mean, would you rather have a #1 ranking, with 100,000 visitors and zero sales or would you rather have one visitor and one sale?

The online marketing industry has been in a Search Engine Optimization mind-frame for the past decade. Many companies are so proud of their high search engine rankings, yet they know very little about their analytics and the value that they can get from finding out how their visitors are interacting with their sites. Very few companies even see a problem with their online performance because they’ve worked so hard to get ranked highly on search engines.

But traffic cost inflation is catching up with them quickly.
Do you think it would be a failure if we implemented conversion and persuasion optimization on a client’s website–to increase their overall conversion rate–and their traffic decreased as a result of this, BUT their sales went up?
Leaky BucketIf conversion and persuasion recommendations are implemented according to the stumbling blocks we’ve come across during an analysis of a web site, the conversion rate will go up (read: sales and/or leads will increase). Or is it better to have a conversion funnel that is just a leaky bucket?

On the flip side, although unlikely, it’s possible that during this optimization process that traffic may decrease because the site is only receiving relevant and highly targeted traffic.

  • Do you think it’s a failure to remove those visitors who were coming to a web site by accident?
  • Do you think it’s a failure to speak more effectively to only visitors who are coming to a site and have a direct interest in what the website offers?

That being said, it isn’t generally the case that traffic will decrease or organic search engine rankings will fall once you’ve focused on optimizing for conversion & persuasion, and not just search. A company optimizing their site may be removing a bulk of non relevant visitors, but they will also more effectively increase targeted visitors.

    Serve up meaty content to your visitors and search enginesSearch engine food is really no different than human food. Search Engines provide relevant information to the searcher. By planning your content using the Persuasion Architecture™ framework, you are creating a sales process with content that is completely and solely relevant to the visitor.

    SEO focuses on knowing what keywords people are searching and creating content that uses these keywords effectively by interlinking relevant content to gain the interest of search engine spiders. Conversion & persuasion optimization tells us not only what people are searching for in the search engines but it also examines previously known and unknown variations of these keywords according to the questions people are asking at different stages of their buying process–and how they shop differently according to their personality types. So, with conversion & persuasion optimization, relevant keywords are not only used within the content, but with the site’s entire linking strategy. The site and its click-paths are thus planned out according to how the visitor is searching for and interacting with information while shopping or browsing online.

    When the visitor lands on a page after clicking on a highly ranked search engine result, they will not get stuck at this page that’s been optimized with Persuasion Architecture™. This is why conversion & persuasion optimization with Persuasion Architecture™ is more than just a tool for increasing revenue and/or leads; it should be viewed as the most effective Search Engine Optimization tool around!

    The formula to get better organic traffic is to simply answer the specific questions your visitors have throughout the content on your site. Don’t worry about the algorithms! The search engines are constantly improving, especially in light of some of the personalization techniques taking hold, the ways in which they’re feeding searchers with highly relevant/targeted information.

    Do you want to keep chasing algorithms or focus on delighting your customers with the best content and buying experience the deserve?

Add Your Comments

Comments (107)

  1. [...] GrokDotCom: The Battle Between Search Engine Optimization and Conversion: Who Wins? “The real problem lies in the fact that most companies will consider optimization of their web site a failure if their traffic decreases or their search engine rankings drop. You can tell a lot about a company my the metrics they prize. If ranking is more important than sales; then we are dealing with an Ego issue. I mean would you rather have a #1 ranking, 100,000 visitors and zero sales or would you rather have 1 visitor and 1 sale.” [...]

  2. Is Search Rankings more important than Conversions?…

    GrokDotCom's Melissa Burdon posted on a familiar subject, the dichotomy of Traffic vs. Sales in The Battle Between Search Engine Optimization and Conversion: Who Wins?  According to Melissa:"….Most of the companies who enjoy high o…

  3. What’s the Real Goal of Search Marketing?…

    Great post by Melissa Burdon at grokdotcom on the real goal of search marketing—conversions. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how much I agree…….

  4. [...] FutureNow's Melissa Burdon wrote an outstanding article at GrokDotCom.com titled, "The Battle Between Search Engine Optimization and Conversion: Who Wins?" It was good reading her post because it touches on what many online business owners believe, namely that the key to their success is more traffic. [...]

  5. This is exactly what I feel the situation is. A divide between marketer and designers, with no real blend in between. But, most importantly, it’s not a tough one to crack. The figures speak for themselves.

  6. [...] A successful Internet marketing campaign may drive organic search results to pages, but it also may involve the use of paid advertising on search engines and other pages, building high quality web pages to engage and persuade, addressing technical issues that may keep search engines from crawling and indexing those sites, setting up analytics programs to enable site owners to measure their successes, and, most importantly, improving a site’s conversion rate. [...]

  7. Great article you have here! Hopefully everyone would realize the traffic without sales is totally useless.

  8. Great post by Melissa Burdon at grokdotcom on the real goal of search marketing—conversions. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know how much I agree…….

  9. The Battle Between Search Engine Optimization and Conversion: Who Wins?…

    Many companies have worked with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) firms or have hired in-house resources to perform Search Engine Optimization. They have improved their organic traffic and may even find themselves within the top results of the search en…

  10. Great post! For me, traffic first at least up to a certain level, before optimizing for conversion. After all, no one can test without traffic. But wasting time, energy and money on traffic without optimizing conversion can seriously hurt the bottom line.

  11. I have found that even if your site is optimized for certain keywords and searches find your site via those keywords, your site may not contain what they envisioned when they did the search. 100 people may use the same keyword in their searches but only 1 or 2 may find your site relevant to what they were looking for. That is why optimization is so hard. It takes time and patience.

  12. [...] Sometimes, websites seem to be doing everything right, but the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) just aren’t as high as everyone expects.   Their sites are functional, accessible, usable, and intuitive.  Their look and feel is credible, and their content is high quality.  So why do their visitors not behave as we expect? Why do well-planned and well-executed scenarios (e.g. PPC ad, to landing page, to lead generating form, to thank you page) not always convert? [...]

  13. [...] Burdon (March 13, 2007). “The Battle Between Search Engine Optimization and Conversion: Who Wins?”. Grok.com. [...]

  14. Came here from Wiki Search Engine Optimization article’s to find your SEO Conversion post. Its helpful for us. Thanks.

  15. The main aim of SEO is conversion. The problem comes as whom site are you optimizing? Does the client believes in more traffic or more conversion? I agree that you can optimize for conversion yet you get more traffic. Targeted traffic is what to focus for.

  16. Most people think that more traffic means more sales but i have saw with my own eyes that untargeted traffic is almost useless.

  17. Great article. In my experience, I have seen the same thing in regards to rankings/traffic and conversions. We can drive literally 2X as much traffic from organic search on the very same keywords, but get half the conversions as we do from paid search. I think that PPC is more controlled and b/c of the AD text you can just get a much more targeted visitor and thus conversion. Of course I am always recommending SEO and PPC to clients because of the obvious pros and cons of each. I’m wondering about

  18. i liked reading about traffic cost inflation and overall this post is pointed on seo….

  19. As I was reading this post I kept thinking of the phrase “form over substance.” In other words having traffic numbers that “look” good (lots of traffic) instead of number that deliver sales (substance). In the end (or is it the beginning?) it comes down to what the real goal is Traffic or Conversions/Sales.

  20. Since Search Engine Optimization is so important, i think SEO will win :)

  21. A good seo campaign is crucial to success, but a good conversion is important as well. The nich also …

  22. I agree with you.First i care for my visitors and later the search engine.My primary goal is to retain the visitors and the secondary goal is to get new visitors through search engines.

  23. It really depends. If you are expert at SEO and have significant experience of courses SEO going to win. so there is no one rulle to follow.

  24. Thank you for fighting captioned article. Very useful.

  25. A good seo campaign is crucial to success, but a good conversion is important as well. The nich also …

  26. Great post by Author. The real goal of search marketing—conversions. If you have loads of traffic from SEO it doesn’t mean good CTR. So conversation matters but don’t for get about traffic.

  27. Great information thanks for share with us.

  28. Nice article. Thank you very much!

  29. [...] Battle Between Search Engine Optimization and Conversion: Who Wins?". Grok.com. http://www.grokdotcom.com/2007/03/13/the…. Retrieved 2007-05-09.  ^ Andy Greenberg (April 30, 2007). "Condemned To Google [...]

  30. Great article !!

  31. Yes now SEO farms are getting tough competitions to rank their client’s site in number one or in 1st page of search engines.But accordingly search engine algorithm are also changing continuously,so who update with these issue will serve better to his client.

  32. good.It’s seo article for me.
    Thank you.

  33. Interesting article. I’ve always thought that having a high search engine ranking is equivalent to high sales. Of course, high conversion would only come if your traffic finds what they’re looking for and if you get the right traffic in the first place.

  34. Yeah! I strongly agree with this one. Online business opted to do search engine optimization, since they consider traffic as lifeblood of their business. In that way if proper optimization will be done, traffic will be followed. If that happen it will be a great way to have more profits.

  35. Interesting article i’m agree with this one.

    :)

  36. In that way if proper optimization will be done, traffic will be followed. If that happen it will be a great way to have more profits.Thank you so much..

  37. Great article, very well written and straight to the point, the web needs more good content like this, thanks!

  38. don’t know if we can talk about a real conversion rate on seo, I was wondering myself it that would be correct. Anyway, the 2% conversions is a good rate, seeing that on certain PPC campaigns the rate might be close to that. So far, SEO proved to be the best marketing tool in terms of ROI. Personally, I move slowly toward PPC, which gives a tighter control of CPA. But social media started to change the advertising pie shares, so, who knows, maybe soon will talk about SMO more than SEO :D

  39. Great articel about SEO. Very usefull

  40. Great article you have here! Hopefully everyone would realize the traffic without sales is totally useless.

  41. n that way if proper optimization will be done, traffic will be followed. If that happen it will be a great way to have more profits.Thank you so much..

  42. Search engine optimization is still alive, and for those who say that it’s already dead, well you are wrong. SEO is one way to promoting a site, and the ideal way to make you number one in Google.

  43. Actually we are enjoying some high positions on Google, and recently we needed to change our homepage, and i must say the effect of that change on our rankings has not changed almost at all, we made sure that certain keywords on the page were there and that’s it.

    I guess that this is the fact that google give heavy weight on the off-page factors rather than the onpage factors.
    So i won’t worry too much if i want to change my content.

    _________________
    Mike

  44. For me, one of the important factors to attract potential visitor to coming to our site is applying SEO. So far, it is well done on my site…

  45. [...] [...]

  46. The obvious relation i can see in the SEO:Conversion relation is that they complete each other.
    In fact since SEO is the source of traffic here, it is much more important, the conversion on the other hand can come naturally without any work at all, ofcourse it is a matter of ratio, if you want high conversion then you should know how to do so.

  47. you should focus on delighting your customers with the best content and buying experience the deserve!

  48. I guess the myth is traffics mean business. Organic traffic can bring in non targeted visitors that aren’t looking for what is offering on your site.

  49. To get high conversions, you need the right kind of traffic.

  50. Great article and one that I am particularly keen to monitor. Optmization as part of your marketing strategy is a must, as it forms part of the potential and conversion, well without it, your strategy is void. The real issue is ensuring the traffic is meaningful and can be captured as part of the campaign. This is where the integrity of your SEO is important; junk is easy business, as is scamming, whereas really good links that support your business and satisfies the searcher is what is important and will produce outcomes for supplier and purchaser.

  51. I think and first and foremost, you need traffic. Then work on converting that traffic. Short and long of it, you need a balance of both. If you want to be successful try to find a balance of what works for YOU.

  52. First i care for my visitors and later the search engine.My primary goal is to retain the visitors and the secondary goal is to get new visitors through search engines.

  53. I think organic traffic can bring in non targeted visitors that aren’t looking for what is offering on your site.Thanks.

  54. Great read. I agree that often webmasters focus too much on SEO when they need to be focusing on conversion rates. I could care less if the entire world visits my site if none of them buy anything! Definitely an interesting article. Thank you.

  55. For sure conversions is the most important , personally i play more on conversion rate optimization first

  56. Conversion is king! If you know how to convert, getting qualified traffic is the easy part.

  57. Great post. I guess it has to be a balance between seo and conversions.
    But true, most of my clients try to focus on seo and I have to explain getting the visits is only half the job.

  58. This is where the integrity of your SEO is important; junk is easy business, as is scamming, whereas really good links that support your business. Thanks.

  59. An insightful post. Some people showing off their domination on certain keywords, but I don’t see any value on that (Maybe it has). It’s important to understand well the objective you want to achieve whenever you optimize keywords.

  60. I think it would really depend on the market your in. Sometimes if your getting 1 million visitors and 1 percent in sales. Will be alot better than 10 sales and only 100 visitors. It really depends if you get both going you got something going there. The two can go hand in hand sure you might have the acquire the skill yourself and learn seo but it is well worth it.

  61. Search Engine Optimization is very important but then so is knowing your traffic and how your visitors are interacting with your site.

  62. Hey! Thanks for the Blog post! I’m finding it very fascinating. I’m going to bookmark this psot and return. can you tell me where i can find more information on this? Keep it up!

  63. It’s always the Search Engines that win, at the end of the day if you get caught messing and black hatting your way to the top you’ll get penalized and so you can never win.

  64. Cleverly written, while everybody seems to be racing for #1, so many people neglegt that more visitors won’t magically increase sales if the landing page is bad. Instead of optimizing existing pages, they push more and more links. I don’t care for rankings, it’s the ROI that matters.

  65. For sure conversions is the most important , personally i play more on conversion rate optimization first

  66. conversions and SEO should go hand in hand. If you don´t have any visitors, you don´t have any conversions. You can improve conversions anytime, it just takes time to find out what works for you.

  67. For me having many visitor in your site is better because as long as your product is visible it is more chance you can sell.

  68. The main aim of SEO is conversion.

  69. Great post. It’s all about TARGETTED traffic though. I would rather have 20 music fans come to a music related site than 500 random people.

  70. Great read. I agree that often webmasters focus too much on SEO when they need to be focusing on conversion rates.

  71. but these two can go along at the same time, right? i mean, work on conversion rates and SEO at the same time. wouldn’t it gives a tremendous sales result?

  72. @service truck bodies: YES! :-) Good SEO and CRO should compliment one another.

  73. To be honest, I think that webmaster should concentrate on conversion rate on the first place, as I guess higher the percentage, higher the amount they will sale, or capture emails etc…. When they have conversion rate optimized, they can star working on their traffic.

  74. I think of the SEO vs. Visitors issue as a Venn diagram. There is a way to totally ignore content and optimize for SEO, and there is also a way to do the opposite. But I have found that there is a middle ground, as well.

    You can have extremely good on-page content while still having extremely good SEO. Luckily, off-page factors are much more important than on-page factors, so even if your on-page content is not very SEO-friendly, you can usually make up for it.

  75. I personally think that SEO wins. Search engine food is really no different than human food. Search Engines provide relevant information to the searcher. That’s all from my side.

  76. I think if you have more traffic the chances of sales will increases automatically. So SEO is important , what so ever you are getting the conversion rate or not

  77. I agree that often webmasters focus too much on SEO…..

  78. I guess higher the percentage, higher the amount they will sale, or capture emails etc….

  79. For me having many visitor in your site is better because as long as your product is visible it is more chance you can sell.

  80. I think the myth is traffics mean business

  81. OMG I prefer SEO of course

  82. For sure conversions is the most important , personally i play more on conversion rate optimization first

  83. SEO of course

  84. NO TRAFFIC = NO SALE, NO INCOME
    AND SEO is the best resource of income in online business.

  85. @Cyber Design – BAD TRAFFIC = NO SALE, NO INCOME… so just getting traffic is not the answer. AND, sometimes, even GOOD TRAFFIC = NO SALE, NO INCOME if your site can’t convert those qualified visitors into customers. AND SEO has only a 1:1 correspondence of improvement to sales… where as CRO has a 1:2, 1:3, 1:4 or even higher correspondence of improvement to sales, clearly making it the better income source. Still, the two need to work hand in hand, because a well-performing site without traffic isn’t seeing it’s full potential either.

  86. Of course Search engine optimization will win, cause SEO have got some effective techniques of it’s own….

  87. Ya, without seo = no traffic = no sales = no conversion.

  88. I’m not sure how any business can even survive these days without a good SEO strategy.

    Without qualified leads your buisniness is just dead in the water.

    Solid article – even if it is a bit old.

    Troy

  89. It would seem that there always needs to be a balance between anything.

    And that goes for SEO and conversions.

    You just have to do all of it equally to get the results you want.

    And mastering it never ends…

  90. You cannot say that you can choose seo over conversion or the opposite because if you do only one of them without thinking how to optimize your site for both SEO and conversion you will fail, on the other side if you optimize your site for both SEO and conversion you will get much better results

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Melissa is a Senior Persuasion Analyst at FutureNow.

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