The end is near… of 2010 that is. A New Year is upon us. It has been 9 months since Brendan Regan wrote a post about the overlaps between CRO and SEO, and I propose that we take a moment to re-read that post, one or two others that do a good job of highlighting a key issue, and get things straight in 2011. What I’m talking about here is the basic difference between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), the area of overlap between the two, and how there can be room in any marketing plan for both. Brendan spelled it out pretty clearly in that post, right out of the gates:
FutureNow is not a Search Engine Optimization (SEO) firm. I am not an SEO practitioner. So why blog about it? Because there still seems to be misunderstanding out there in the online marketing world about how SEO does, or doesn’t, fit into a Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) strategy.
It is clear that misunderstanding still lingers. The evidence (as always) is in the GrokDotCom comments posted recently; comments that belie the frustratingly tenacious confusion of CRO for SEO; comments that belie a distressing lack of understanding of what we’re about here at FutureNow, Inc. (FNI) and GrokDotCom; comments that belie an astounding ability to read our posts and miss the point entirely. Here are a few examples of what I’ve seen recently:
In response to “Why the Holidays Are the Perfect Time to Tweak Your Site”, someone quoted part of a line in the post, but his choice of quote is very revealing…
And another on the post “Your Website is Unique. Don’t Settle for Best Practices.”…
Aside from Brendan’s strong opening comments, my favorite part of the post is the handy little Venn diagram Brendan included. It’s a great visual of how the two are distinct practices with an area of overlap. Be sure to have a look at that. I’d like to add to that Venn diagram another visual presenting a slightly different perspective: a very simple linear drawing intended to represent one visitor’s experience and the areas of that experience each discipline impacts…
Now, I realize web experiences really are not linear; for simplicity’s sake, in an attempt to drive home my point, I’ve decided to show it that way here. Our FNI-Grok blog posts and subscription services are aimed at helping you with that blue (CRO) portion of the spectrum, including the part where it overlaps the pink (SEO). Ideally, we’d like to work with your SEO expert to come up with search solutions that meet the goals on both sides of that spectrum:
1) produce high rankings and
2) set the right context for a persuasive experience on your website.
Brendan’s post certainly wasn’t the first time an FNI-Grok post acknowledged that CRO is different from SEO. In this 2007 post, Melissa Burdon tackled some commonly held misconceptions about SEO and CRO. While Melissa doesn’t go quite as far as Brendan does to point out that the two are not the same, it is implicit in the perspective her post offers. Melissa acknowledges the benefits of SEO, but is quick to call out the fallacy of “good” online performance based only on search engine ranking. Melissa confronts some of the most common fears of a combined SEO/CRO approach head-on, and explains why we have nothing to be afraid of. Her point is that a good marketing plan is one where the two disciplines work in concert to boost one another’s results; considering our diagram above, it’s easy to see why. So go on, read that one as well.
Before we call it quits here, I want to triage the abundance of SEO comments in another way too… by encouraging readers to really think about their comments. If you want to leave a comment on our blog (or any other credible blog, for that matter), read the post, digest it, and be sure you “get” it. Is it possible that some of the offending comments aren’t as clueless as they seem, but are just spammers, posting comments in a desperate attempt to appease search engine algorithms? One brave commenter actually posed that question:
There are some SEO practitioners out there who teach or preach practices such as posting comments or participating in link exchanges (or content creation/articles on your site). This advice is based on search engines’ current algorithms for ranking search results, which do account for such things.
The problem as we see it, is not so much that you post a comment or write content for your site, but how you do these things. Real comments with real value to add to the conversation are a great way to get your name out there! But don’t spam comment. I may not be a spam whisperer, but for crying out loud, I can pick up on regurgitated quotes from the post I wrote, gratuitous URL listings, and the guy posting the same comment over and over again! There is one word that describes the way some SEO “experts” employ these practices: exploitation. And the search engines are onto them. Search engines are constantly working on tweaking their algorithm to account for bogus SEO practices. After all, they are just trying to deliver the most relevant search results to their users, and practices that fly in the face of relevancy call their own credibility into question.
If you want to be sure your comment makes the cut, comes across as credible to your potential visitors, and is the beginning of an engaging and persuasive experience for visitors, check your comment against the standards in Brendan’s post detailing the “right” way to leave comments on a blog. Bear in mind, his post lists the kinds of comments we’d like to see posted on our blog, and this is not an SEO approach to commenting.
Still have questions about the difference between SEO and CRO? Don’t be afraid to ask. We’d love to have an opportunity to clear the air.