47 | CRO and ecommerce with Luke Carthy


Luke Carthy has been in the industry for over 12 years. He started selling products on ebay from which is how his passion for ecommerce developed. He focuses his time on the user experience and checkout performance, alongside traditional SEO. 

He liked to think outside of the box, so he’s not the typical SEO. He looks at driving SEO based on core KPIs of a company and not necessarily focusing on traffic. 

Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

Luke got into CRO through sheer frustration. He knew how, as customers, we’re desperate to buy something that we found but technical issues can get in the way. Not only as a customer though; being frustrated that you’re unable to buy something due to a poor site, but also due to the professional experience. 


Once, a business that Luke worked for dismissed complaints due to them coming from a mature demographic. They believed that the fault was with the user rather than the site performance. Luke wasn’t happy with this and went on to investigate. He measured the error messages to understand how many times it appeared and how much it was potentially costing. 1 error in particular was vague and kept appearing. Nobody knew what it was. After some digging, Luke found the issue was showing an invalid card number but customers were seeing a random generated error and didn’t realise it was an error on their part. It seemed that customers would give up at this stage. Luke changed the messaging to explain what the error was to the user, which recovered £30k weekly in sales, with near immediate effect. 

Therefore, Luke says, when you typically go to SEO agency, they look at the ‘traditional’ SEO tasks and there can be an oversight of the conversion side. That’s why it’s something Luke likes to differentiate himself with. He tends to look at the sweet spot between SEO & CRO to make results happen for his clients. 

Ultimately, the example above helped Luke gain trust in the business and budget for future SEO projects and tools. 

“Fix things that directly get in between the purchase and the customers.” – Luke Carthy

Favourite Ecommerce Challenges

Category management can be difficult. There is an SEO interest for more content but UX & CRO require a different angle that’ll no doubt need testing.

Dual locating products. One suggestion is not to have any category data in your product URL if you want to dual locate your products in different categories. The canonical structure is made easier with this too. Also, when categories die or products change or you want to recycle an ID, you can do so without worrying about your technical foundations of the page. In ecommerce sites, don’t be afraid to use products in multiple places. 


When you walk through a supermarket and time is precious, either buy nothing or less, but supermarkets do well to have things located in convenient areas, such as at the ends as well as the checkout. Sometimes you just need to multi-cyte things, such as chocolates or impulse buys in the designated area as well as strategic other places. The more you show the more you sell… but don’t annoy your customers!

Don’t worry if your product or category URLs do not have a sub-folder that they all sit under. After researching earlier in the year I’ve found no evidence or examples of people changing URLs that affects rankings. Instead UX & internal architecture helps rankings. IA and URL structure are different things and so even when you have 3 or 4 subfolders, if you’re linking to those pages via the homepage it still sit highly in the hierarchy. 

So, if your product is on the same level it actually is not important because breadcrumbs, category structure and homepage links mean these create an architecture. Products belong in categories and structures so your product URL is completely unrelated to architecture. It’s a painful route because if you’d like to dual locate and your URL includes a category…

Large vs Small Ecommerce Sites

The bigger the site, the bigger the mess. There are more people, stakeholders and departments to work with. There’s more technology too. If you have a big site, it doesn’t have to mean that you can’t get it right. John Lewis does it well but equally smaller sites have less people that are working on the site, budgets etc but they can be more flexible so also have no excuse not to get it right. 

Top tips to Start Conversion Rate Optimisation (CRO)

When I was at Tesco, our agency Query Click did lots of user testing. They would set up focus groups and speak to real customers. Luke says it’s important not only to know what your customers like but more importantly what they don’t want.  

Surveys are great when there is not a massive customer pool or money. The questions you’re asking massively impacts the answers you get though so you can’t be using leading questions. 

Luke recommends following Els Aerts as she is an expert in this field.

Internal search optimisation can have a massive return. People may be searching for those things already internally, you just need to make sure that what your showing is correct. Why not crawl your top 5k queries and return #1 for all. At scale, you can then define what customers are searching for and how often. The number 1 result can then be checked, if it doesn’t look right then fix it. 

Basically, use the data that you already have on the site. Do something better with it by making sure the results internally are relevant and showing up correctly. 

“CRO doesn’t mean more traffic and SEO doesn’t mean more conversions.” – Luke Carthy

CRO as a Ranking Factor Theory

Tom Capper theory is that CRO is becoming more of a ranking factor. You need to have good conversion to appear on top of page 1 for high search volume terms. Luke has seen a similar reasoning and shares examples on the show. He also recommends an article by Uproer on when brands invest in UX and design and other things but not traditional SEO and then see uplifts in Organic traffic.  

Get in touch with Luke: LinkedIn | Twitter: @MrLukeCarthy | lukecarthy.com 

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Music credit: I Dunno (Grapes of Wrath Mix) by spinningmerkaba (c) copyright 2017 Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (3.0) license. http://dig.ccmixter.org/files/jlbrock44/56346 Ft: Jlang, 4nsic, grapes.

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