What's Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)?

Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is a strategy for improving the percentage of people who take the desired actions on your website.

Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): What Is It, and How Does It Affect SEO?

Conversion rate optimization, often shortened simply to CRO, is the process of increasing the number of users who visit your site to complete a company-defined desired action or goal. Basically, you’re attempting to grow the rate at which users convert into customers. Though it’s an entirely separate endeavor, CRO can benefit your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts when it’s done correctly.

To use CRO to your full advantage, it’s important to understand what conversion actually means, what your conversion rate is, and how to calculate it. Additionally, you need to understand the relationship between CRO and SEO, what the challenges of balancing them are, and how you can benefit from optimizing for both conversions and search engine rankings. Without further ado, here’s what you need to know about conversion rate optimization and its relationship to SEO.

What Is Conversion?

In the world of online marketing, conversion occurs when a visitor completes a desired action on your website. It’s when a user fulfills the purpose of a certain page, ending a particular portion of their consumer journey. It’s a response to your call-to-action. For many websites, conversion is an important Key Performance Indicator (KPI) and can be used to help ensure that your SEO is actually effective.

Conversion Examples

Conversion often refers to transactional or financial activities, like purchasing a product on your site — but that’s not the only way a user can “convert,” so to speak, into a customer. In reality, conversion refers to a host of different activities, which can either be classified as macro-conversion or micro-conversion.


Macro-conversions are the primary goal of a page; these are typically monetary or commercial in nature. For many businesses, customer purchases comprise the primary goal, but lead acquisition or increasing the number of user inquiries overall are also valuable. Common examples of macro-conversions include:

  • Requesting a quote;
  • Signing up for an email list;
  • Paying for a subscription.


Micro-conversions are secondary or even tertiary goals of a page. As the name implies, these conversions are much smaller, as are the associated goals. They might not be your primary objective, but micro-conversions can still provide a more holistic picture of your site’s performance and work to support your macro-conversion rate. Some common examples of micro-conversions include:

  • Submitting a web form request for more information;
  • Adding a product to the cart but not purchasing it;
  • Creating an account on the website.

Your conversion objectives don’t have to remain static across your entire website. Different pages serve different purposes, and your goals for each page might be — and arguably should be — different as well. Don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole when optimizing your site; instead, try to determine how to best serve your users and encourage them to convert in a way that makes sense within the context of that page.

What Is Conversion Rate?

Conversion rate is the percentage of visitors to your website that “convert” or complete a desired action. You can use the conversion rate formula to monitor different types of conversions on your site and to get a better idea of how certain products, sign-up lists, or other conversion strategies are performing. 

How To Calculate Conversion Rate

Calculating your conversion rate is fairly simple. Take the number of times a user completes a desired action, and divide it by the total number of visitors to your site. You can then multiply that number by 100 to obtain a percentage, which is your actual conversion rate.

For example, say 100 people visit a given page on your website, and 12 of them purchase an item from that page.

12/100 = .12 x 100 = 12%

Your conversion rate, then, would be 12 percent. 

Of course, actual conversion rates are rarely this simple, as you likely have more than 100 visitors coming to your website. Further, your conversion rate will also be affected by how many times a user can convert. Depending on what you’re monitoring, a user may only be able to convert once — such as when purchasing a subscription — or they may be able to convert each time they visit your site. In the case of one-time conversions, you’ll need to take the number of conversions and divide it by the number of unique users on your site to determine an accurate conversion rate.

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The Link Between CRO and SEO

CRO isn’t a branch or type of SEO. After all, the purpose of CRO isn’t to increase organic traffic or improve search rankings. Some argue that CRO can have a negative effect on your SEO. Conversion, conversion rates, and conversion rate optimization aren’t even technically SEO terms (though at Page One Power, we use them frequently in an SEO context).

How, then, is CRO related to SEO? 

CRO and SEO can be used as complementary online marketing strategies to increase the number of qualified visitors to your site, or the visitors who are most likely to make a purchase. Making a profit from your website is important, but so is being visible online, and you can use that increased visibility to your advantage.

Benefits of CRO for SEO

They may not be directly related, but when done correctly, CRO has a number of distinct and significant SEO benefits. Some of these benefits include:

  • Customer Insights: Conversion rate optimization can provide some valuable insights into the behavior of users who visit your website. CRO can tell you what pages, and what types of pages, are doing well; the demographics of converting users; and what you can do to better serve this audience. Essentially, it can help you determine what type of content will help you draw in the right kind of customer while supporting your organic search efforts.
  • Improved User Experience: At its core, good SEO isn’t just about serving search engine crawlers; it’s about doing what you can to add value to human users’ experience on your website. Because it offers insight into what works well on your website, you can use the data and information learned from your CRO efforts to improve your SEO strategy and create an even better user experience.
  • Increased Trust and Authority: Users who convert have to trust a website to share any personal information, such as their name or credit card number. Your strides to make your website appear more authoritative for consumers also works for SEO, as search engines place more value on websites and content that comes from a trustworthy, authoritative source.

CRO vs SEO: Which Is More Important?

Though they can be used in conjunction with each other, CRO and SEO are distinct online marketing strategies. You may only have the time or resources to devote to one of these endeavors, which may leave you wondering which is the better approach to take.

Take a moment to think about what you’re actually asking here: Is it more important to convert your existing users into customers, or is it more important to gain more organic traffic and improve visibility in the search engine results?

CRO is not inherently better for business than SEO, and vice versa. Which approach is “better” depends on your business, your needs, your goals, and what you want to focus on. Both marketing strategies have their benefits and limitations, and you won’t know how they impact your business until you try them out.

Whether you choose CRO, SEO, or a mix of both, focus on creating an online experience that benefits your readers and site visitors. Conversion rate optimization and search engine optimization are both incredibly powerful tools to have in your digital marketing arsenal, but only if you use them wisely.