SEO & CRO-Informed UX | Data-Driven Ecommerce
by Vlad Ciureanu
As a UX designer working in FinTech, I keep an eye out for relevant developments in the digital world, especially for the ones most relevant to ecommerce endeavors.
Before we dive into the subject, I must point out that UX design does not mainly handle the actual design of a website or application, but rather focuses on the entire user-interaction architecture behind it.
As it happens, I also act as the user interface (UI) and visual designer at Twispay, so I am to blame for the general look and feel of Twispay's content and digital services. However, some of the best UX designers out there do not always make decisions regarding typefaces and color schemes, design features, etc. And that is OK.
The UX designer's tools and activities are inextricably tied to data-driven decision making (DDD). In the ecommerce field, as is the case with most digital businesses, SEO and CRO provide two of the most important data sources when designing your users' digital experience.
SEO Vs. CRO | The UX View
Search engine optimization (SEO), in particular, has seen an increase in interest and allocated resources over the last few years, while search-engine algorithms (Google's, mostly) have been evolving faster than ever. Frequent algorithm updates have driven businesses to greater optimization efforts, in order to gain and maintain top rankings in search engine result pages (SERPs).
Conversion rate optimization (CRO), which arguably brings one of the highest returns on investment (ROI), is paradoxically one of the most underused activities in the marketing department. This paradox becomes apparent once you consider the fact that obtaining the click that brings a potential client to your eshop is only the first of many steps toward converting a prospect into a paying customer.
From this point of view, CRO is bound to carry the extra burden of user interaction in ecommerce, as opposed to SEO, which only manages to bring the visitor to the “front door.” Nonetheless, most SEO principles are completely compatible with CRO and can undeniably inform UX efforts.
How SEO and CRO Fuel UX Awesomeness
In SEO, the main point of focus is the webpage. The bread and butter of CRO are a PPC advertisment and a corresponding landing page. It all needs to tie up beautifully in a cursive, smooth experience throughout the buyer's journey. Here are a few fundamental tips that apply to the entire SEO + CRO + UX mix:
- Google tends to favor webpages that are updated frequently. Maintaining fresh layouts and well-pruned content is great for both SEO and CRO.
- A page that is optimized for conversion is user-friendly and more likely to attract inbound links and referrals, thus improving SEO.
- Using crystal-clear and user-centric headlines, as opposed to excessively creative "masterpieces," will impact both SEO and CRO positively. Try creating true human rapport, here and there. It will surely boost your click-through rates.
- Implementing a transparent, straightforward content hierarchy with proper heading tags will surely help with SEO, and it will inform your users about the progression of the message, which ultimately improves conversion rates.
- Replacing complex, ultra-tangled content with digestible pieces of content makes sense UX-wise, but will also improve both your SEO and conversion rates.
- Focusing on a single product or topic at once usually entails superior search engine rankings and dramatically improves conversion rates.
SEO has been revolving around search engine standards, more precisely, around Google’s ranking algorithm factors. Some of these factors are public and well documented by Google, some are pretty obvious, but yet to be confirmed, and some might simply turn out to be pure speculation or wishful thinking.
Since SEO revolves around ranking factors, which dictate the actions and tools required within this field, it’s only natural that the SEO insights most relevant to CRO and UX are rooted in these ranking factors.
A Closer Look at SEO Ranking Factors
SEO, CRO, and UX are fundamentally data-driven. Web analytics are the number one asset of an eshop owner, but the data is of very little help, unless it offers insight into user behavior.
As an eshop owner, these are the questions you need answered today: how do different categories of users interact with your website, and how can you optimize their particular experiences?
1. How Are Your Users Behaving?
The user-interaction data points collected by Google and factored in by their ranking algorithm can inform SEO, CRO, and UX design tremendously. Here are the main indicators to watch out for:
- Bounce rates and session duration are the hearteat of your website. How long do people spend on your page before returning to the original SERP? How much time do people spend on your site with every new session?
- Direct and repeat traffic are indicators of quality. Google uses data collected through Chrome in order to determine how often users visit a website. Pages with noticeable direct traffic are favored in SERPs since they are more likely to contain valuable, engaging content.
2. Websites Are SEO-Optimized Conversion Paths
The following are some of the site-level SEO factors most likely to influence CRO and UX decisions, at least contingently:
- Responsive sites rank better in Google searches. Even before the April 2015 “Mobile Friendly” Google algorithm update, it was not unthinkable to assume that responsive sites had an advantage in searches from mobile devices. Also, Google mentions precise standards for evaluating responsive web design. Google WebMaster Central offers details about mobile friendly requirements. To assess your website’s current mobile performance, check out this Mobile Friendly Test.
- A sound site architecture and the existence of a sitemap improve search query rankings, since they assist the engine to index pages correctly and organize your content more thoroughly. So, make sure that your eshop can accommodate conversion paths without messing up the sitemap logic.
- Google indexes SSL certificates and uses HTTPS as a ranking signal. Moreover, people are reluctant to offer credit card details and other personal data over the Internet. Obtaining an SSL certificate is crucial in providing reassurance to your customers and letting Google know that you are running a proper business.
- Domain TrustRank is an important ranking factor that constitutes a link analysis technique described in the ultra-quoted paper Combating Web Spam with TrustRank by researchers Zoltan Gyongyi, Hector Garcia-Molina of Stanford University, and Jan Pedersen of Yahoo!
CRO extends beyond landing pages, generating so called conversion paths throughout the entire website. However, SEO specialists suggest that breaking up content into many steps is a bad idea.
CRO specialists argue that multi-stage landing pages convert better, by engaging respondents in a productive dialogue and facilitating proper audience segmentation. For this reason, some form of consensus needs to be achieved in order to allow both SEO and CRO specialists to reach successful results, under the UX umbrella.
3. Content Is King, and Your Eshop's Pages Are Its Kingdom
Here are some of the page-level SEO factors that, addressed properly, will prove key to the success of your UX:
- Using keywords correctly throughout every page is critical to your search engine rankings and to conversion rates as part of your online content strategy. Keywords must be used, yet not carelessly stuffed in: URLs, title tags, description tags, heading tags, and, of course, the body text.
- An excellent page layout influences rankings and conversion, if not as a quality signal, at least by scoring in the “user-friendly category,” keeping users returning for more.
- Content length. While our attention span supposedly keeps narrowing, you would expect content to require shrinking to match the attention of users efficiently. It turns out long-form content ranks and converts better. Here are the results of one of Neil Patel's evergreen A/B testing experiments that show the superior efficiency of long-form copy.
In both SEO and CRO, content is king. In SEO, this wins you links. In conversion optimization, it wins you customers. You should never allow technical aspects to eclipse what is truly important: compelling value propositions and meaningful branded user experiences.
4. Branded Content Creation + Backlinking = Trust Building
Nothing surpasses link building in importance when optimizing for search engines. Since CRO deals with links only in terms of conversion paths, landing pages rarely contain links other than calls to action (CTA). Nonetheless, SEO factors concerning link building can apply to CRO and UX. Here are two examples:
- The quality and word-count of the linking content make a significant difference in link value. A link from a 2,000-word brilliantly-written article weighs in significantly more than a link placed in a short comment or a poorly written blog post.
- Contextual links are more valuable than links placed in sidebars, footers, or anywhere else on a page. So, aside from PPC campaigning, try getting your pages mentioned in relevant content on relevant websites.
When you identify low-quality links pointing to your web pages, or you receive unnatural-link warnings from Webmaster Tools, you can use the Disavow Tool. It will eliminate undesired links from Google’s assessment of your site.
Let's Wrap Up
The proliferation of ecommerce solutions and the latest developments in digital UX support the prediction of a detachment from traditional SEO-focused design to a deeper analysis and understanding of site value.
Automation is constantly transforming digital marketing, turning CRO and UX into much more effective fields in the process. Ideally, within the next decade, Google’s search algorithm will allow us to completely customize our proposals according to our customers’ buying cycles.
The FinTech industry is at the forefront of the current web revolution, opening the way for frictionless user interaction and a more open overall digital experience.