Improve Your Organic Search Click-Through Rate (CTR)

So you want to know how to improve your search CTR? When I first embraced SEO, I didn’t take click-through rate seriously. Back in the days, it was a lot easier to rank on page one of Google, with much less effort.

But the tide is changed now. Google algorithm updates have changed everything.

Everyone is aiming for the #1 position in Google. Because that’s where the real clicks and action takes place.

A recent Study by Catalyst Search Marketing revealed that, “83% of Page one organic search clicks go to the first four organic results.”

This data tells us that ranking on the first page is great. Because it can get the most traffic and brand visibility. But that is outright difficult especially when you’re targeting a seed keyword (e.g. seo agency).

Even when you’re targeting long-tail keywords, you still must work hard to give your web pages the initial boost. Boosts such as social signals, natural links and brand mentions.

Now that you know the difficulty associated with the number 1 position, how do you drive targeted organic traffic to your site?

The simple answer is this: Improve your Click-Through Rate.

What is Click-Through Rate?

A lot of SEO experts and search marketing institutes have over the years defined search CTR. But most of their definitions revolves around on total visits – user clicks according to position.

Catalyst sees click-through rate as the percentage of impressions that results in a click to a web page. This can usually be checked via Google Webmaster Tools.

I want to show you how to take your current click-through rate and make it better. If your click rate was 4%, you should be able to increase it to 10% or more.

Here’s an example: Rambler increased their click-through rate by 32%. They started by analyzing the behavior of organic audiences. They used services that are relevant to specific portals.

The average daily clicks went from 990K to 1.2 million in April and June 2013.

So without much ado, here are the 5 simple ways to improve your search results click-through rate:

Write compelling titles and descriptions

Despite the competition, popular magazines and online publication are thriving, because of their strategy. They know how to write for the people.

They know what attracts people, keeps them engaged until they make up their minds to buy a product or service.

That element of attraction is the headline or title. Show me a high-converting landing page and I’ll pinpoint “The Title Factor.” It’s so important that you pay adequate attention to title writing.

According to Copyblogger, “8 out of 10 people will read your title”, and Ted Nicholas says that “73% of buying decisions is made at the point of the headline or a title.”

When your listings appears on Google results pages, there are basically two important things that people see: the title tag and the meta description.

Here’s exactly how it look like:

Title tag

This is the title of the web page. When search spiders or Googlebot crawls a fresh web page, they pick up the URL as well as the title tag and add them to their index.

The title that appears in the search results can influence whether or not a search user will click through to the page.

It’s your responsibility to craft a compelling title tag for your pages. Keep in mind each blog post or page that you want Google to index needs to have a unique title tag.

Having a duplicate title tag would affect your rankings in a negative way. And Google might even penalize you for blackhat on-page SEO. When writing your title tag, you have to be careful about the length.

Google usually truncates titles that are more than 65 characters.

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If your title tag contains the keyword that users are searching for, such keywords will be bolded in your title tag and meta description. Here’s an example of a well-crafted title tag:

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So what makes the example above great?

1. Well-placed keyword: At the beginning of the title tag, the main keyword (list building) appears. This is so important when you’re writing a title tag. Once you identify your keyword, you should naturally integrate them within the title.

So if your main keyword is “small business coaching”, here are examples of keyword-rich title tags that you can use:

  • Small Business Coaching: 5 Factors To Consider
  • What Makes Our Small Business Coaching Great?
  • 7 Ways To Get The Best Out of A Small Business Coaching

2. Specified length: The title tag in our example above contains 60 characters. Hence the reason why all the words appeared well, with no ellipsis (…).

Takeaway: Avoid the fluffs in your title tag. Use only the right and relevant keywords. You’ll increase your CTR if your title tag is shown in full.

3. Compelling title tag: Apart from having a keyword-rich title tag and adhering to a specified length, the title tag is also compelling – it’s “holding attention.”

One of the ways to write a compelling headline or subtitle is to show result or data.

See an example below:

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You’ve got to take your title tags seriously. A lot of organizations that have struggled to improve their search performance have seen the importance of the title tags.

For example, Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) has seen a steady growth in organic traffic.

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After optimizing their title tags, their Google search impressions went through the roof. From September 2012 to June 2013, they increased the number of organic visitors to their site by 327%.

Meta description

I’m sure you’re familiar with meta descriptions? The meta descriptions work together with the title tags to inspire a user to click on your page. It describes what the page is about.

This is how it appears in Google:

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For example, if the page is about ‘outsourcing social media’, the meta description needs to show it.

It may not affect your rankings in any way but when it comes to giving users a reason to click your web page, the meta description is what makes it happen.

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You may not have a budget for Google AdWords PPC advertising. If that’s the case, you may consider the meta description as your only opportunity to advertise.

And you know the importance of an Ad Copy. The more appealing it is for the target audience, the greater your conversion rate will be.

In your meta description, you don’t have to be clever or use jargon. Instead, focus on simplicity. Write as though you’re talking to users one-on-one.

You may even ask a question and use a call-to-action to persuade the user to click. Here’s an example:

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When writing your meta description, you have to be mindful of the length. The ideal length is 154 – 160 characters. If you exceed 160 characters, your meta description will be truncated and that’s not really a good thing.

Here’s an example of a meta description that goes beyond 160 characters. Notice the ellipsis (dots) at the far end:

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Always tweak and test your title tags and meta descriptions, because when you get them correctly, every other thing falls into place, including a leap in organic rankings and traffic.

Leverage CTR #1 purpose

One of the lessons I learnt the hard way was ‘rule of one.’ If you’re wondering what that means, let me help you. The “rule of one” states that each element of your landing page or copy has only one purpose.

So only purpose of the headline is to attract the right audience. The subtitle has a definite purpose, which is to enlighten the user on the purpose of the headline.

The bullet points are for highlighting the core benefits of the products. And of course, the call-to action is for closing the deal.

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If you want to improve your CTR on search engines, you have to cut the clutters and give your search results a definite purpose. Before your web pages start to rank highly in Google, what do you want them to achieve for you?

For me, I want people to click-through to my web page. Period.

I never planned to convert them into customers from the title tag and meta descriptions. Those are simply gateways to actualize my purpose. This is the mistake a lot of people are making.

If you’re a marketing expert, don’t tell people how great you are. Because in the minds of your users, they don’t care about you.

These people have a challenge, a problem or discomfort and they want you to provide the right answers as soon as possible.

Embrace a rich snippet

A lot of retailers are benefiting from structured markup.

According to Paul Bruemmer, “you can get a 30% increase in CTR with structured markups”.

Take a look at success stories:

  • Dutch car insurance site Independer.nl generated a 28% increase in SEO search share (CTR).
  • Autoverzekering implemented Rich Snippets and in turn saw their revenue increased.
  • When Yfrog implemented the GoodRelations markup on their web pages, within five days, its Rich Snippets were showing up in Google results and click-through rate improved significantly.
  • Renault UK also used the GoodRelations markup to skyrocket their search rankings for its merchandise shop.

Since Google introduced Rich Snippets, the top 3 U.S. search engines namely: Google, Yahoo! and Bing came together to support Schema.org.

This platform has schemas, which site owners and bloggers can use to markup their web pages. In turn, these markups can display perfectly on the search engines.

As a blogger, or webmaster, Google allows you to add and display certain elements of your web page in the search results.

These elements can be in the form of star ratings, pricing, customer reviews and so on. Any additional element beyond the title tag and meta description that displays in a search result is a rich snippet.

Here’s an example:

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The rich snippet markup can help you improve your click-through rate on product pages. If you are an ecommerce entrepreneur, you’ll see an increased conversions with rich snippet.

There are different types of markup that you can use to improve your CTR. But rich snippets in the form of star ratings and customer reviews are most effective for increasing CTR.

It’s easy to add rich snippet to your site, or you can download the “all-in-one Schema rich snippet” plugin if you’re a WordPress user.

Create clean, specific and optimized URLs

Back in August 2009 when Google updated its algorithm to accommodate breadcrumb navigation in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and till date, it’s become easier to use a clean, specific and optimized URL.

Here is an example of a breadcrumb navigation as used on Zappos:

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Did you notice that Zappos uses breadcrumb navigation? It makes it easy for shoppers to find the product that they’re looking for, and navigate back to the homepage with ease.

In the same light, Google wants users to see the path they’re supposed to take when they search for information online. See an example of a breadcrumb navigation in the search results:

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So when you activate this breadcrumb navigation on your site, ensure that your URLs are well defined. Make sure they’re short and contain one of the keywords that you’re hoping to rank for.

For example, the URL below displayed the main keyword (web design) – and this will motivate users to click it because the keyword they searched for is highlighted.

Target a long-tail keyword

Targeting long-tail keywords in title tags and meta descriptions works. It can increase your click-through rate. But that doesn’t mean you should stuff keywords or try to manipulate the search algorithm.

Users prefer to see long-tail keyword in your headline. When a user types (e.g. best workout programs to lose weight), they’re simply telling you the solution what they want.

According to Compendium, “70% of searches are considered long-tail searches.

These searches are less competitive and conversions are usually higher than any other keyword type.

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With your blog, it’s easy to target long-tail keyword in your headlines and use it naturally.

Because that is exactly what Google wants. So whether you are building links or seeking for the right anchor texts to use, be natural.

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The good news is this: These long keyword variations are easy to rank for. And the chances of driving traffic through many of these keywords are high.

Here’s an example of a long-tail keyword (work at home business opportunities) that appears on the title tag:

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Remember that the purpose of targeting a long-tail keyword is to draw users into your post.

Once you get the clicks, you should not have issues with converting visitors into subscribers or fans. It all boils down to the effectiveness of your landing page – does it appeal to users?

Conclusion

There you’ve it. The five simple ways to improve your CTR in Google and drive more organic users to your website. Here’s my advice for that: Focus on the user!

When you do a keyword research, you have to know your core reason. The essence is not to stuff keywords onto your title tags and meta descriptions.

But to understand the user intent and optimize for great user experience first. And of course, high-value content will position you as the go-to expert in your industry.

There are no shortcuts. Your content has to be great, or your organic clicks and visitors will bounce off the moment they arrive. Be wise!

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