In a bid to increase website traffic, boost conversions or generate awareness for a product/service, organisations take to Google’s advertising platform to feature in the paid listings through pay-per-click advertising (PPC). However, when operating on a restrictive marketing budget, PPC may not be a viable option, which is where the focus shifts to boosting ranking positions within organic SERPs (search engine results pages).
If you have managed to make it to a top position within organic SERPs, great! However, this doesn’t necessarily mean web users will instantly click on your listing - it is now your responsibility to ensure your organic listing stands out from the rest. Just as you can optimise a website for search engine rankings, you can now optimise based on user behaviour in a bid to encourage higher levels of click-through-rate (CTR). Coming under the on-page SEO umbrella, there are a number of methods for improving CTR in organic listings, which we will discuss below.
In 2011, Google created authorship providing organisations with the ability to have their name, image and social annotations feature next to the content they had written. The conditions - create a Google+ account, include your name, upload a headshot, include the website you write for and provide links between your Google+ account and said website. Although Google initially stated authorship would not result in higher organic rankings, the listings were definitely more appealing to web users and Cyrus Shepherd witnessed 25% increase in traffic to his website upon optimising his profile photo. Google Authorship seemed to be a hit however on the 25th of June 2014, Google’s John Mueller announced all authorship images would be removed from SERPs. The reason - to visually clean up SERPs creating a better mobile experience. It’s not all bad news, Google Authorship still exists (minus the images) and the latest algorithm will recognise author rank rewarding those creating high quality content. As Google have promised this would not cause a decline in CTR, it is only positive to have authorship attached to any content you create.
Title tags are the content held within the blue link of a search result - as they are often the first experience a user has with your business, you must make it count by appealing to human readers. In order to capture attention, in turn increasing CTR, title tags should be brief, informative and kept within 45 to 55 characters. Additionally, as keywords are emboldened, keeping them to the beginning of the headline will capture the attention of the web user, thus, increasing CTR.
Meta description is displayed below the title tag in SERPs and is ultimately what will influence the searcher to click on your link over other organic results above or below. Although writing a meta description will not instantly result in higher CTR’s, studies show the more informative the meta description, the more likely a web user is to click through to the article whilst including calls to action have proven effective also. So, how do you write an effective meta description? - it is best practice to keep between 150 and 160 characters featuring keywords as close to the beginning as possible in order to capture attention and encourage clicks.
Increasing the clickability of organic results can also be done by ensuring the URL is appealing to both web users and search engines. You will have come across URL’s with a mixture of meaningless numbers and symbols and more than likely avoided them as they look spammy and unauthentic. As such, symbols, numbers and meaningless words should be avoided, instead focusing on descriptive words separated by hyphens to ensure readability. Although providing an overview of what the page will include via the URL may not directly increase CTR, the quality of the clicks will increase due to more relevant traffic being attained, with the bounce rate expected to fall as a result also.
Rich snippets/Schema markup
A snippet is the line of text featured below a URL essentially designed to highlight what the page will include, often displaying some of the elements in SERPs. Schema markup is a form of rich snippet and should always be used when the aim is to stand out within organic listings and increase CTR. Of course schema markup is beneficial for SEO purposes, however the more information provided in organic SERPs, the more likely the user is to click. Since Google’s latest algorithm was introduced, more and more rich snippets have appeared and Panda 4.0 will provide the most trustworthy and relevant results with a higher ranking in organic SERPs. This is illustrated through Catalyst’s 30% increase in organic CTR.
Additionally, websites including schema markup are likely to rank up to four positions higher in organic listings than web pages without and a recent study revealed less than 1% of websites currently use schema markup. This is certainly an incentive if you wish to increase both your organic ranking and CTR.
As well as increasing rankings and potentially CTR within SERPs, the above will also keep marketing costs to a minimum as they can all be self-implemented for free, or outsourced to your digital agency for a small fee. On desktop computers research has shown that the top four listings receive 83% of page one clicks, therefore you should be striving to feature within these positions, or at least within page one results. Give it a try and let us know if you notice an increase in your CTR!