Conversion Rate Optimization or CRO is a hot topic right now. Understandably so, given our current economic environment, it makes sense for businesses to be looking to squeeze more success out of the same marketing spend. (It makes sense regardless of the economic environment.)

You might be doing a bit of CRO yourself, however there’s every chance you are missing the most important step of all…

Ask the average fairly net-savvy individual what they’d do to improve conversion…they’ll probably give you a response which includes the phrases “A/B testing”, “testing page elements”, “improving usability” and “writing copy that converts better”.

I won’t disagree, these are all very important parts of the conversion rate optimisation process however they all have a common theme – all focus on optimising the visitor experience once they’ve landed on your website.What about making sure the right kinds of visitors arrive at your website? Optimising the source of the traffic rather than just the traffic itself.

The keywords you target can make or break you

Many approach keyword research from the wrong angle. They fire up their keyword research tool of choice, look for the keywords with the greatest search volumes, check the competition levels using any of their favoured metrics and then make their selections accordingly. This approach doesn’t actually account for your customers.

Successful keyword research boils down to fundamentally understanding your product or service AND having a detailed knowledge of your target customer. A keywords that brings in traffic is worthless if you don’t offer a relevant product or service.

I talked about this the other day; why Ballpark shouldn’t be targeting the keyword ‘CRM Software’ – Ballpark isn’t (and shouldn’t ever be) Highrise or

Psychology and keyword research

The kinds of visitors you get stem from the kinds of keywords you target. That might sound mega obvious but it is so often forgotten.

At a basic level, this might mean not targeting ‘free’ type keywords if your service is premium (this can sometimes actually be an acceptable strategy if you have a free trial for example.)

Often it is much more subtle and complex than this – the difference between ‘CRM Software’ and ‘Proposal Management Software’ to use the Ballpark example again.

It can mean having a true appreciation of the profile of the customer and trying to get inside their way of thinking. Prospective customers who uses certain search terms i.e. the individual who searches for ‘cheap SEO’ has a very different mindset and is looking for a very different service from someone who is searching for ‘SEO Consulting’.

This brings me onto how your frame your business – the image you give off and how potential customers perceive you. I’m sure you agree this is important. Rarely, however, is this taken into account at the keyword research stage.

Keywords are words and phrases that your business will become associated with. It sets you up for the kinds of customers you’re going to get coming through your virtual doors.

You might have seen this piece by Wayne Mullins – it talks an experiment which proved the ‘frame’ (and controlling people’s perception of your brand) can be the difference between earning $32 an hour and earning $115,000 an hour. Derek Halpern talked here of how people’s perceptions can mean you can charge 71% more for whatever it is you are selling. [Key]Words really are powerful

Why this is more important now than it ever has been…

You can’t afford to disappoint searchers these days. SEO is to a certain degree search experience optimisation.

You need to make sure that every touch point online for your brand is a positive experience; from the keywords you’re visible for, to the page titles and meta descriptions that entice users in. Offering a showstopper in the SERPs? You’d better be a stallion once they get back to your place.

If you’re not, not only will conversions suffer but your bounce rate is likely to be high which, now that Google is working user metrics into their algorithm, could be harming our rankings.

Even if you do make the sale, there’s every chance you’ll be attracting the wrong kinds of customer which might mean frustration for you, your staff and eventually disappointment for the client. Never a good place to be.