SEO And Conversion? Really?

May 28, 2008

I was really surprised to read Taylor Pratt’s article about the state of SEO. If we can all just get along and respect each other, he said — not in so many words– we’re on the road to victory, and that road leads toward more conversions.


I think Taylor cares about conversion, but I just don’t think that a lot of other SEOs are on board there. Maybe I am just out of touch… but it just seems like the vast majority of SEOs show ranking reports. “You used to be in position 25 in the SERPs, sir, and now you are in position 5!”

In fact, there are really three ways to measure how well your SEO is doing:

1) Showing the customer how their position has changed in the search engines (Position)
2) Showing the customer how many more visits they got from the keyword. (Clickthrough)
3) Showing the customer how many more conversions they got from the keyword (Conversion)

Position is the easiest to prove. And after all, many SEOs feel like that is their job. Clickthrough is harder to achieve, because the click is a function of position, title tag and description. The description might be the one you wrote, or not at all. So it is capricious.

But what about conversion? Some web analytics tools allow you to easily track conversion to the first referrer and last referrer (and everyone in between.) In Google Analytics, you will always get the last “real” referrer. (Use of a bookmark or directly typing in your URL, for example, won’t overwrite a real referrer like a banner ad click, but every other kind of ad/keyword/reference will. Sure, you can do some fancy footwork to capture the first referrer, but most people do not.) This is a topic that has been addressed a lot…

Unless you take the time and effort to set up your analytics, or unless you have a site where most conversions take place on the first visit, you will often feel like your organic efforts are for naught. Sure, they’ll find you on a non-branded keyword, but will often come back on a branded keyword. So I think most sites (who aren’t going to do that kind of analytics set up, which has its drawbacks, too) should be doing trend analysis — comparing increase in organic traffic to increase in conversion, even if those conversion ultimately came on branded searches or through advertisements.