The online customer journey often begins with search and ends in a form of conversion, with each stage presenting numerous technical and design elements to optimise for the best results. With that in mind, it’s easy to see how written content can become something of an after-thought in digital marketing.
However, this kind of non-image or -design-focused content has a vital role to play in every stage of the process. After all, content has consistently remained a primary Google ranking factor. When used properly it enables you to optimise your website to provide what customers are searching for in a way that appeals to them, inciting people to continue their journey towards conversion.
Bringing together all of the elements of SEO, UX and CRO can be challenging, but a good content strategy will incorporate each. Here’s why you need to start with a solid content strategy to help you focus on the user and look at the bigger picture within your industry.
The relationship between SEO, UX, CRO and content
SEO, UX and CRO form a chain that winds its way to your conversion goals. If the chain is strong then customers are led to make purchases, or reach your other conversion goals, but if the chain is weak at too many points it will break and customers will leave.
That’s why you shouldn’t just create content that provides a great experience without optimising it. And it’s no use working on content that will encourage sales, like testing call to actions, if customers are turned off by a lack of information. However, a top notch content strategy will think about how content can be utilised across all elements of the customer journey – SEO, UX and CRO – alone and in combination.
The importance of content in SEO
As mentioned, content remains Google’s number one ranking factor and, as well as producing original, relevant content, SEO’d content is all about the detail. Every page title, H1, anchor text and image alt text matters, adding up to provide search engines with a picture of how relevant your pages are to users.
Researching and understanding your audience and what search terms they use is key to optimising your content effectively. Google’s algorithms have become sophisticated enough to be able to understand user intent, even when typing in short-tail keywords. Your content needs to mirror these goals, whether the searcher uses broad informational terms or more specific transactional terms.
Starting with a potential customer’s first interaction with you, the content that displays on a SERP has to show that your webpages are relevant and useful in order to encourage click-throughs. Page titles and meta descriptions are also crawled for SEO purposes to ascertain their relevance, so it’s doubly important that they specifically explain what the page is about.
When that person then lands on your website, the page must match the search results and do what the reader wants it to in order to avoid a high bounce rate. You need to match the user’s search intent and answer their questions or they’ll leave. To do so you should avoid thin content at all costs – that is content which lacks value and doesn’t provide those all-important answers.
Including keywords in your webpages is important for SEO as it’s a part of how Google ranks your pages. However, the best content fits keywords seamlessly into pages so they don’t jar, which assists in creating a good user experience – we talk about this in more detail below. The higher quality and more natural your content is, the more likely people are to read on, click more links and act on CTAs.
Internal linking is another crossover point between SEO and UX – it spreads link equity around your website for SEO, plus you must ensure anchor text is well optimised and logical from a user perspective. However, don’t fall foul of over-optimisation by including too many internal links and keywords, and by using keywords as exact-match anchor text. This is an indication to both the reader and Google of a spammy website – the reader will punish you by leaving the page and Google could punish you with a penalty.
The importance of content in UX
Content forms the foundation of UX through credibility, functionality (or usability) and answering customers’ queries. However, the honeycomb model is a useful tool in showing how your content can pull its weight beyond just usability. It covers seven areas, demonstrating the crossover of SEO, UX and CRO. For example, ‘findable’ which relates to SEO, and ‘valuable’ and ‘desirable’, which relate to CRO.
As an example of this crossover, links are important for SEO, but also ‘useful’ (as per the honeycomb) to steer readers around your website and to other relevant pieces of content for further information that answers their queries.
We’re often looking for information fast online and tend to scan read. Therefore, people digest shorter sentences better when reading online, and content should be broken up with relevant headings, images and diagrams. Or even better, include an infographic in your content to do all the work for you.
There are several studies that indicate people read in an F-shaped pattern online, so it’s wise to summarise the page in the intro, get pertinent information at the top of the page and use strong headings that indicate to readers why they should read on.
The importance of content in CRO
Content also has the power to push readers through to conversion – relevant, original content is an indicator to both search engines and users of a quality website. These words will demonstrate why people should buy your product or engage with you. So, write about new topics, or existing topics in an interesting way, avoiding those clichés and clearly stating your unique value proposition.
Now you’ve explained why people should do business with you, give them a means of doing so. That’s where conversion tools such as pop-ups and email signup boxes come in, as well as the clever placement and wording of CTAs.
Here’s that joined-up approach again – all of these conversion tools need to be used with UX in mind too, so they’re not distracting to users. Annoying the reader will lead to a higher bounce rate and, in turn, lower search engine rankings, as well as a greater likelihood of a Google penalty, such as their interstitial penalty for pop-ups.
It’s good practice to place these conversion tools and content on your top performing pages to transform that traffic into sales or leads. Don’t leave content elements to chance though as you can split test content to see what language leads to conversion. And use heatmaps to determine which elements work best, placing pertinent information and links where the reader’s eye is drawn.
Joining it all up
It’s clear that SEO, UX and CRO don’t standalone, and shouldn’t be treated as individual elements of your marketing plan. A key unifying factor is content, and a good content strategy will align your efforts towards the common goal of creating new business.
For help with devising a content strategy that brings together the stages of the customer journey and provides a useful, usable, searchable and valuable website, get in touch with Ad-Rank Media today.