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No, HuffPo, CRO Is Not Replacing SEO

I read an aggravating article on the Huffington Post a couple of weeks ago, and after trying to ignore it as best I could, I realized I’m not going to be able to get it out of my head until I say something. So I’m saying something.

No, ‘E-Rock,’ CRO is not anything like a replacement for SEO. To see exactly why, let’s look at a typical sales funnel.

  1. Surfers look up something relevant to your business. They might do so on Facebook or Pinterest, but by far the vast majority of them are going to do it on Google or Bing.
  2. They arrive at a page that has useful information and a link to more useful information.
  3. They click through to the next page, which includes a product mention and a sales link.
  4. They click the sales link, arrive on a landing page, and read it.
  5. They decide to buy the product.
  6. Profit!

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is designed to maximize the number of people whose step 2 lands them on a page you control. You don’t want them going off to some other random page about your industry, you want them in your funnel right off the bat.

CRO (Conversion Rate Optimization) — and yes, it’s “cousin” UXO (User Xperience Optimization) — are about maximizing the number of people who go from step 4 to step 5. You don’t make any money if people delve into your funnel all the way to the Buy Now! button and then don’t click it.

But here’s the really important part:

SEO and CRO are not mutually exclusive, and in fact they are synergetic.

If you’re out there telling people that SEO is dead and CRO is “the new SEO,” essentially what you are telling them is to ignore the top levels of their sales funnel. But let’s do a little math.

Company A invests 100% of its budget in CRO, and they achieve a truly stunning conversion rate of 33%. They only get 300 visitors each month through their massive social media-enabled content marketing campaign, because Facebook just doesn’t perform like Google does, but they manage to get 100 of those 300 people to buy their product. Woot!

Company B invests 50% of its budget in CRO, and because Company A was a victim of the Law of Diminishing Returns, they manage to achieve more than 50% of the results Company A did — an impressive conversion rate of 20%. They also invest 50% of their budget in SEO, and because of that, instead of 300 visitors, they turn on the Google power and nail 600 visitors. They end up with 120 sales, and they will continue to outperform Company A for as long as Company A keeps misspending its Internet Marketing budget.

Company C invests 100% of its budget into SEO and is confused when a meager 5% of their 1000 visitors convert and they only just keep up with Company A.


SEO isn’t dead — it’s not even slowing down. Frankly, until the impending AI singularity where computers suddenly become impossibly smarter than humans beings, any algorithm Google uses will be exploitable. Google’s greatest trick was convincing most of the market that SEO doesn’t actually exist — but all that really did was open a lot of doors for the people who are still willing and able to build backlinks that Google’s algorithms won’t catch.

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