SEO is not about rankings. It is about traffic. We often forget that simple truth in our pursuit of top Google placement. When our site finally hits the front-page for our target keyword we tend to switch over to the next search term on the list. Each time we do it we actually leave a lot of traffic on the table. Instead we should try to increase our organic Click-Through-Rate (CTR) by optimizing the way our site’s listing appears in search results.
Whether you rank first, in top 3 or top 10 you can always get more search traffic without actually increasing your ranking. If you take some time to make your organic listing (known as snippet) more compelling for the searchers, you can end up getting more clicks in 3d or 4th position than the sites above you. There are several ways to do that.
Set Up Tracking and Measuring
Before you actually get down to optimizing your listing you need to think of how you will be measuring the effect of your changes. You can’t effectively test anything unless you have a tracking system in place that will show you whether the tweaks you make are for better or for worse.
First of all you need to identify your most important keywords that you rank well for. I’m pretty sure you know what keywords drive traffic to your site, if not you can always get the list from Google Analytics or whatever tracking system you use.
Once you have your keyword list you need to check where you rank for them. It is best to use some rank checking software to ensure the results are not affected by personalization and your browsing history. You’ll need to regularly monitor your search rankings to be able to tell whether your CTR was affected by your actions or simply because your position in the SERPs has changed, so automation can be really helpful here. Still, if you decide to check your rankings manually, make sure you’re not logged into any Google services and opt out of personalized search.
Together with your rankings you need to monitor how many visitors each keyword brings you and how these numbers relate to your site’s position in the SERPs. You can use the traffic as your main metrics, or you can estimate your CTR. To do this check search volume for each keyword with Google AdWords Keyword tool (be sure to set it on exact match) then divide your traffic by the # of searches and multiply by 100%. The formula looks like this:
CTR = # of searches/visitors * 100
Of course this is just an approximation since the searches volumes provided by Google are not 100% correct. Still this is the best thing we’ve got and it’s enough to trace down your CTR trends.
When you start seeing changes in your traffic and CTR use Google Trends to make sure there’s no significant rise or drop in searchers’ demand for each keyword.
How to Increase your Organic CTR
Now that we’re done with the tracking we can finally start improving our organic CTRs. Here are 3 most significant things you can do to get more clicks.
1. Optimize Your Search Listing
Your listing or snippet is made up of 3 core items: title, description and URL. You can optimize the first 2 to make your site stand out from the crowd and magnet clicks in any position.
Title is the most important part of your listing. It not only determines whether your listing gets clicked but also affects your rankings. Try to write a compelling engaging title and be sure to use your keywords in prominent places. This gives you a boost in the rankings and Google bolds the keywords in the search results so that you get extra prominence.
Take a look at the other sites on the search results page above and below yours and see how you can make yours stand out: try shortening your title if the other sites use long ones you can go as far as limit your title to just the core search term; you can try adding special symbols like > or * at the beginning, etc.
When playing around with your title always keep in mind that it affects your rankings, so don’t change things too much and too often. It will take some time for your changes to take effect in the SERPs depending on how often Google bot crawls your site.
Description is the second most important element of your listing. Suppose you’ve got the searchers attention with your title, now you need to further convince them with your description that your site is worth their time.
Meta description doesn’t affect your rankings, so you can change and test different texts without risking your position in the SERPs. Google sometimes takes random text samples from your webpage to use as the description but most of the time you can specify what text to use in your Meta description.
Take a look at how your description comes up in search results and see how you can improve it. Again using your keywords is crucial because they are bolded which makes your listing catchier. Limit your description to 60 characters to make sure all of your text appears on the results page.
In some cases Google may pull the description from your DMOZ listing. You can override this by using <meta name=robots content=NOODP> tag to explicitly tell them not to do this.
2. Get Double Indented Results
A great way to gain additional exposure in the SERP is to get 2 of your pages listed there. When several pages of the same website are ranked on the same results page Google combines the listing into a double stack known as indented results.
To get a double listing you need to locate the second highest ranking webpage for the term and promote it to the same results page where your top ranking page sits. For example if your home page ranks third for ‘blue widgets’ and your /blue-widgets.html page ranks #10 for the same term you’ll get a double result in the 3d and 4th position. Of course this will require some effort depending on how competitive your search term is, but if you succeed you’ll not only make your listing stand out, but will also push one of your competitors off the front page.
3. Optimize Your Sitelinks
Sitelinks (sometimes called quicklinks) are additional navigational links that sometimes show up below the main listing of a site in the search results. In the above screenshot Site-Reference has 4 sitelinks to the submit an article, forums, rules and videos pages. Sitelinks are important for 2 reasons:
- They make your listing stand out helping you grab the searchers attention
- They help the searcher navigate to the most relevant landing page right from the results page so that your visitors get to the content they need faster
Getting and optimizing sitelinks is a bit tricky because Google does not explicitly tell us how they decide when to display sitelinks. Still there are some factors that are known to trigger sitelinks:
- Your site has to rank on the front page
- There have got be additional pages relevant to the query
- Your site should have a clean text-link navigation structure
- Site links will appear in the search results when you have three or more of them
- Up to 8 sitelinks can be displayed for a single result
Although you cant directly specify what sitelinks to use for your site there are ways to affect this. For example when you see that Google displays a sitelink you don’t want to use because it leads to an irrelevant page where you don’t want to send the traffic to, you can block that sitelink. To do this go to Google webmaster tools and navigate to Dashboard -> Site configuration -> sitelinks.
There you’ll see the list of available sitelinks Google has generated for your website. You can block any of the sitelinks. If you have more than 8 sitelinks for your site, the ones you block will be substituted with the new ones. This way you gain control over what sitelinks should be used on your listing.
Hope these tips will help you magnet more clicks with your organic listing and get more eyeballs on your content.
Reach out to Perth Digital Edge for SEO Services in Perth.