Search + Conversions = Huh?

Search engine optimization on your Squarespace or WordPress website isn't the end, it's a beginning—the next step is conversation optimization!

Note from Sarah: This article was originally sent via my newsletter. Newsletter subscribers receive essay style pieces like this before anyone else. Click here to subscribe!

This past week was nothing but phone calls (I forgot this is usually how the first week of January is—whoops), and I had a similar conversation with several people who were trying to get their heads around online marketing for 2020. Everyone is very much thinking about search and making sure they’re found when people look for what they offer. Loads of blogs and podcasts and YouTube channels focus on this, and I’m glad they are, since it’s demystifying the wonkiness around search engine optimization.

But what I realized that a lot of folks aren’t hearing about is conversion optimization.

What’s that you say?

For me, conversion optimization is the next step after someone stumbles up on your website in a search. You want them to do something. For me, ideally, folks will subscribe to this newsletter you’re reading right now. For you, it may be buying something, booking a phone call, taking action in support of your cause, what have you. But, there should be a low hanging fruit type action you’d like people to take. Then, you can build a relationship with that visitor by building trust through great products, outstanding content, fabulous services, what have you…

If you recall a couple months ago, I wrote a newsletter issue about how long it takes for SEO to “work,” and conversion optimization is really that end result, the “working.”

So, how do you optimize your website so searchers take action?

1. Make it enticing! This is where lead magnets and a great newsletter service are extremely helpful. I’ve mentioned I’m all in on ConvertKit, because nothing else makes it so simple to create landing pages and newsletters, but your solution may be different, if your needs are different. Your lead magnet should be something that is specific and meets the needs of your ideal audience. It can be a one pager, but the more useful it is, the more “trust currency” you will earn. (I think trust currency is a Sarahism, but apologies if I heard it elsewhere and forgot the source.)

2. Think about content design. This is copywriting but more thoughtful and nuanced with regard to how people move through digital media. This is the language on your buttons, the way you place headlines on a page, even how you use bullet points. This is all content design and helps people assess if the thing you’re trying to convert them to do is worth their while. The more natural and comfortable it feels to them, the more likely they are to act. In a nutshell, speak to THEM, not to yourself. (There’s a huge difference and this is one of the most challenging hurdles many people struggle with on their websites—your website is not about you, it’s about your audience’s problem and your solution.)

3. A/B test content and visuals. Swap out text and visuals and track when you did this (you can do this with Google Analytics or be old school like me and use a notebook and pen) and see how your different pieces perform. If one headline leads to more deep exploration of your website or more newsletter subscribers, stick with that, if you see that people stay on your website longer or your bounce rate declines (this is when people stick around on your website) when you use a brighter, more vivid photo on your homepage, consider doing that across the board. A/B tests can be highly sophisticated and involve complex software, but this is an easy way for anyone to test out what works.

4. Assess where you can cut out steps in your “funnel.” Long sales processes are en vogue right now and I think they’re nonsense, if we’re being candid (and you know I always am). Do you really need a five email nurture sequence before you offer a link to book a call with you? Or can you have a link to book a call on your website? People are busy, stressed out and overwhelmed, I am 100% confident in saying that if you allow people to skip some of the tedious steps and take immediate action, there are people who will.

5. Include high value “social proof.” Social proof is a fancy way of saying “show people you’re legit.” This is especially true if the bulk of your work is done in online spaces. Have you been featured in a highly respected publication? Have phenomenal, highly specific Google My Business reviews? Can you demonstrate high impact of your work? Basically, prove to people that you’re not some goofball who threw up a website one day without any credibility. Be care about swapping reviews and such with other professionals. The world is much smaller than you realize and your audience definitely notices this sort of thing. Make sure your social proof is earned. Don’t have it? Start asking people for reviews (folks are nice about it, I promise!) and subscribe to HARO and try replying to a couple of journalists’ requests!

There’s a lot more to conversion optimization, down to the nitty gritty of calculating your “CRO” (what your conversion rate is) and I will get into the nuts and bolts of it… at some point… But, that should be enough that you could even tinker this weekend and implement one or two of these steps to help people who find you, do something!

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