As a CRO vendor, during a sales call, many of our specialists hear the comment “We already have a company providing our Optimisation solution”. However, with further questioning, we often discover that what they are using and talking about is Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) not Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO). The two are frequently confused. So here is a simple explanation of the difference – It’s not an in-depth guide to either, but just a short overview of each.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

SEO helps you get further up the search engine rankings organically when people search for a product or service like yours. To do this companies engage a third party (or some do it in-house) to provide the ‘hooks’ that search engines use to determine what content is on each page and then align that to high volume, searched for keywords. I use the word ‘hooks’ as a general term for a combination of components used to improve the chances of getting on to the illustrious page one of a search engine result.

Things that matter…

  • Site authority – that is how trusted your site is in relation to other sites offering similar products or services. This is often measured by the number and quality of external site links back to your site. Your site authority is also based on other factors including how long your site has been around. Improving your site authority is not a quick fix but is one of the fundamentals of gaining higher rankings.
  • Keywords/Content – Getting your site to rank at all, never mind on page one, starts with identifying relevant keywords. These are the words (and sentences) that people are likely to search for when looking at a product or service like yours. Don’t however be tempted to ‘stuff’ your content with these keywords as some people used to do in the past, as this can have a negative impact on your SEO. Whilst you may believe that you site is filled with great content; search engines look a little deeper into the architecture of your site. So things like your H1/H2 tags and image descriptions become more important especially in today’s light touch, mobile optimised sites, with more videos and images taking prominence. Written content also has to flow and should be natural in style. As search engines become more intelligent, factors such as user engagement (how long they spend on your page) increase in importance.
  • Site speed – We all understand how frustrating it is waiting for a page to load, well search engines take slow page loads in to account, especially in an era where mobile devices lead the way. It’s important that your site is as fast as you can make it, reducing image sizes and the number of external tags on your site helps, as does having the right hosting package and ensuring your website code is as ‘compact’ as possible.

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

CRO tests different versions of a web page (or pages) to determine which version will deliver better engagement. It is often used when utilising SEO to ensure that the right content is on the pages that are returned from a search engine search. (When optimising a landing page by testing the design/copy/functionality etc. this is all done without disrupting any current SEO content or ranking).

If you are not using SEO, but instead paying for your products or services to appear on the results of a search page (Pay Per Click or PPC) then CRO is an essential tool in your marketing toolbox. You have put the effort and budget in to getting people to your site / landing page, now put the effort in to ensure the content being served is working for you. This can be done by tailoring content based on Ad Campaigns being served.


Things that matter…

As Peter Drucker the man who invented modern business management once said, “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.” Creating web pages without CRO testing them seems a bit like shooting in the dark.

Your gut feeling is not always reliable – As a Marketer, we all believe that we instinctively know what will and won’t work, but using CRO testing will add science to your art. We have found that even some of the most intuitive ideas on web pages do not always work.

  • Constant testing – build a mentality that you can always improve your web pages. Just doing a test once may show initial results but moving buttons, changing colours, adding more succinct content may make the page even better.
  • Don’t test in isolation – a visitor may visit your landing page but if you have created an amazing page they should further engage and enter your buying funnel. Make sure that your visitors on-going journey is consistent, and that each step looks and feels a continuation of the first page experience.


Both SEO and CRO have their place, and if you had to choose between them, that really depends on your site traffic. If you are a small site with minimal visitors, then SEO (and PPC) will help get more people to your website. If you already have a steady stream of visitors, then CRO is essential to ensure that they begin and end their journey on your site – and that you maximise the return on the investment you have spent to get them there.