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Getting a user to click through to the next page and become a conversion is one of the greatest challenges of marketing and on-site SEO.
Wait a minute, you might ask, what does what a user does outside of Google have to do with SEO? Well, a lot, it turns out. Now the disclaimer here is that as with most things in SEO, conclusions are drawn based on third-party research into the vagaries of Google as much as statements from Google themselves. SEO is like a science experiment. We can draw conclusions from observations we make, but truth can be elusive and change with new data.
User Behavior as an SEO Ranking Factor
There is a growing amount of proof that Google does take user behavior into account as a results page ranking factor, according to Masha Maksimava, writing for Link-Assistant.Com. It’s been pieced together among tidbits of information from Google and real-time experiments by industry leaders like Rand Fishkin of Moz.
Fishkin’s experiment is a perfect example of how one metric — time on site — can affect ranking. He managed to move a site from the #4 spot in a SERP (search engine results page) to #1 in around 70 minutes by asking his Twitter followers to engage in specific behavior once on the page: to go to one target site and immediately bounce away in an attempt to reduce their ranking, or to another site and remain on the page in an attempt to increase that site’s position.
Put simply, time on site, pogo-sticking (clicking a page and then immediately returning to the SERP), and click-through rates do affect SEO. So testing for conversion and testing for SEO mean optimizing for the same thing: user experience.
Using Multivariate Testing to Improve SEO
The good news is that if you’re focusing on user experience, you’re killing two birds with one stone. You’re increasing the likelihood that they will convert, and better user engagement means better SEO outcomes.
So when you’re optimizing a landing page to convert visitors and lead them to offers on your website, it’s doubly important to test, test, and test some more. Generating a lead from a landing page is about finding the perfect combination of copy, images, and calls to action to keep a user engaged. 90 percent of marketers are using content in their strategies, so getting a user to stick through your copy and click that conversion link is getting harder with more content saturation.
This is where multivariate testing comes in. Unlike A/B testing, which compares two entire different pages, multivariate testing compares elements of a page individually, creating multiple combinations of titles, images, and copy in order to more accurately discover the most optimal form of the page. It’s more sophisticated, but much more complicated, especially when you start interchanging more than two or three page elements.
It’s important to remember not to focus too heavily on keywords while you’re doing this sort of testing. Remember that keywords are no longer the central focus of on-site SEO. That is to say, an over-reliance on keywords. SEO keywords will likely never not be relevant, but search engines are getting better at recognizing the relevance and usefulness of content to a user’s actual intent, which does not necessarily equal keywords. It means answering a user’s question, answering it well, using common phrases that are synonymous with what they’re searching for, and making yourself an authority source.
When you optimize for user experience and make a landing page that leads them naturally to a link that they want to click on, you are achieving so, so much. You’re improving your internal linking structure, increasing your conversions, and the happy users are doing wonders for your search rankings!
Guest Post: Ben Steele writes stuff: anecdotes, motivation, real talk about the freelance life and marketing