Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) and SEO: An ecommerce merchant’s guide

Whether you’re creating keyword-rich content, developing new products, or sending out email campaigns, it all leads back to the same goal - boosting sales and acquiring customers. However if you see a high amount of traffic coming to a keyword-led product page, but not very many sales, then you might start to wonder why this could be. Perhaps you see high click-through rates from an email campaign to a catalog page and very few orders, and you may grow concerned as to why your campaigns are ineffective. 

To get to the answer behind these scenarios and improve those sales, we turn to Conversion Rate Optimization.

What is Conversion Rate Optimization?

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO), is the process of increasing the percentage of visitors to your site who perform a specific target action. That action is called a conversion and in ecommerce that will typically be making a purchase however it can be anything from filling out a form, to signing up for a newsletter. Whatever your desired goal is for the user is a conversion. The basic way to calculate your conversion rate is by taking the number of times a user completes the target action divided by traffic.

However we need to dig a little deeper than that, especially when it comes to ecommerce. It’s easy to find yourself lost in the numerical data around CRO, and forget about who’s at the centre of it - your site users and customers. Instead of defining CRO simply in numbers, it’s more helpful to instead consider it as part of a wider user experience (UX) strategy and how SEO can play into that. Especially in ecommerce, there are a lot of other actions that may happen before that final conversion is achieved. On first visit, for example, the user may simply browse; second visit, they might sign up for emails; third visit, they add to cart but don’t checkout; finally, on their fourth visit they checkout. To help us achieve CRO for ecommerce, we need to ask some key questions:

  • What brings potential customers to our store? i.e. traffic sources. 
  • What points of friction do they encounter? i.e. where are they dropping off and why?
  • What leads customers to make a purchase? i.e. is it reviews, customer service, content etc.

Understanding your customers and their behavior then helps you to better understand how you can improve your conversion rate through their experience, rather than boiling it down to a numerical and binary “did or did not complete action”. 

How is CRO useful for SEO?

Conversion Rate Optimization may not be directly related to SEO in the sense that it cannot influence organic search off site, however the two can work hand-in-hand to improve the other. The lessons you learn to improve your conversion rate will undoubtedly influence your SEO strategy, and in turn you’ll also see CRO-led actions have positive benefits to your SEO. 

Learn more about your target customers

First and foremost, in the process of determining a CRO strategy you’ll learn a great deal about your customers - their behaviors, what they respond to, and what they find off-putting. SEO brings users to your store, but CRO is about attracting the right customers - those who are most likely to convert and have a strong affinity with your brand. Therefore the more you know about those ideal customers, the more you’ll be able to implement into your SEO content strategy to attract them. 

Create a better user experience 

To improve your conversion rate, you need to optimize your store experience by eliminating any points of friction that may lead a customer away from converting. Through testing and analysis, you’ll better understand what messaging and experience your ideal customers prefer and respond to, and in turn this will help inform your user experience. By learning what users respond to you can optimize your user experience and this will also have a positive impact on your store’s SEO as the more that page satisfies and converts customers, the more positively search engines will view that page. Moreover, other experience related issues such as page speed which affect users are also ranking factors - by improving your site speed to better serve customers you'll also better appeal to search engines.

4 ways to improve your CRO strategy

#1 - Use both store data and feedback to understand your customers

If you were to go into CRO only using numbers, or only using what you think your users may respond to, you won’t be very successful. The best approach is to make use of both qualitative and quantitative data. 

Start by analyzing your store data along with Google Analytics to get the hard data about conversions, drop offs, and other variables. Look at factors such as landing pages and paths they typically follow, page features they engage with most, traffic source and referrals, and devices/browsers. Knowing this information will help you to see where you should focus your CRO efforts, and tell you more about how customers are engaging with your store. 

This numerical data will tell you how your customers behave, but qualitative data will help you understand why they behave in that way. Make use of surveys, on-page satisfaction surveys, reviews and customer service feedback, and user experience testing. These will add vital context to your hard data - what are your customers’ pain points in using your site? For example, hard data might tell you that you’re seeing a significant drop in traffic on a product page, and your surveys may tell you that users find the page layout confusing or that the “add to cart” button was difficult to use on mobile.

#2 - Make use of A/B Testing

A/B testing is a method of testing the effectiveness of different variables, for example publishing two different versions of the same product page with slightly different elements such as copywriting, or color schemes. You’ll do this over a period of time, and at the end you can analyze the results and determine the effectiveness of the two different pieces of content. 

In CRO, you can use A/B testing to see which elements of a page will result in more conversions. Testing different elements of both content and UI (User Interface) will help you to see which changes will actually have a noticeable effect on conversion rates rather than simply implementing it across your entire store and audience. If we were testing the effect of UI changes, for example, then you might change the color on a call-to-action or the placement of certain buttons and see which version users respond best to. If we were testing for content, it might be different versions of the same product description, or different page banners. 

#3 - Optimize your store for user experience

User experience optimization is a win for both CRO and SEO. Customer expectations are very high for user experience on online stores:

Whether it’s page speed, accessibility, mobile, or navigation, these are all elements that are crucial to the user experience. This is something that’s important to not just your customers, but also to search engines; Google uses page experience to determine if a page is worth ranking, so the better your experience is, the better it will fare on SERPs. These elements, if optimized, will in turn boost your conversion rate as they address key experience factors that are important to your customers. By addressing their pain points, you’re giving them more reasons to convert.

Here are some quick tips to optimize your user experience:

  • Optimize all content for page speed - A slow loading homepage or a product page with huge image file sizes is going to be a major red flag for customers. Go through all your page content and optimize where possible - minifying code, lazy loading images, retiring unused apps, and reducing image file sizes are all easy ways to improve page speed.

  • Ensure your site is mobile responsive - if you’re a Shopify merchant, this will be taken care of for you as all themes are mobile responsive by default. You should still take care with images and how much content is on a page, however, to help boost the mobile experience.

  • Implement a clear, easily navigable site architecture - it’s important that your customers can easily navigate throughout your site. Shopify’s site architecture is inherently simple and straightforward, so in order to make the most of that you should ensure that your menus are uncluttered and categorized in a way that would be the most useful to your customers.

  • Take accessibility into account across your store - implementing accessibility best practices is about making your store open and easy to use for as many people as possible. Consider how accessible your key pages are for conversions, such as product pages and checkout - are buttons easy to tap across devices? Do you make use of header tags and other formatting to improve readability?

#4 - Analyze your content, and consider the entire customer journey

Each piece of content on your store interacts and relates to each other - each page doesn’t simply exist in its own self-contained vacuum. When optimizing for conversions, consider that not only will customers likely interact with several pages and pieces of content throughout their journey, but that they may land on your store at different stages throughout their journey. Therefore you should create and optimize content that speaks to different touchpoints within the customer journey, from discovery all the way through to post-purchase.

Analyze your content through the lens of the customer journey, and ask yourself whether or not it would address what the customer needs at each stage. For example if you sell nutritional supplements, do your product page descriptions give further explanation for customers who may not be familiar with the product? Another example would be writing blog articles that speak to these different stages, and this is where SEO will also play into your CRO efforts. 

You want your content to lead them through the journey that leads to that target conversion:

  • Discovery - Pique their interest. Write SEO-led articles that will attract your target audience to your site, even if they don’t know your brand. Ensure your product pages have thorough descriptions and high quality visual content.

  • Interest - Demonstrate further value, and give them a reason to trust your brand. Reviews and testimonials will help show the customer that your products perform as expected.

  • Conversion - Don’t stop delivering content just because they’ve taken an action. Content at this stage will largely take place off-site through owned marketing channels such as email and SMS. Give them personalized content that speaks to their interests.


Your SEO efforts are all about bringing more traffic to your store, but unless you understand the behavior of the users that end up on your store as a result you may be losing out on sales. By combining a user-focused approach to CRO with your SEO efforts, you’ll be able to develop a user experience for your store that’s fully optimized and primed for conversions.