There are few sites on the web which truly embrace all aspects of search engine optimise best practice, and fewer again which recognise the all important power of the click through. There are a number of things that you can do to increase traffic on your site, but by far one of the easiest is to increase the number of clicks your results in the SERPs receive. I thought I’d have a go at listing at least some of the ways that you can go about increasing your click through rate, particularly considering recent developments in Google.
Probably the most well known way to improve your click through rate is through the trusty meta description tag. This gets picked up by Google and used as the main introduction to a particular article. See below screenshot for a sample.
You have about 140 characters or so to play with, so get creative and test your descriptions. One of the easiest and quickest ways of doing that, is via social media. See what garners the highest amount of interaction from your existing audience, and chances are you’ll have a pretty decent chance of attracting a click through. Sharing tools such as bit.ly provide real time analytics (add a + sign on the end of your shortened link) so feedback can be instant.
Sometimes shorter messages can be just as effective as long ones, but you are losing a small amount of screen real estate in the SERPs by not having the full two lines. As people scan the results, sometimes this can have a negative effect on click through.
Another simple tip is to experiment with characters not commonly found – (for example ❤ ♡ ❤ ღ ★ ☆ ✰♩ ♪ ♫ ♬) – my experiments with this have shown that Google strip a lot of extra characters directly out of the descriptions, however Bing.com doesn’t. Using numbers to reinforce a positive message is also worth a shot to encourage a click, for example “Find 1000’s of Mulberry products…” etc.
The title tag also plays an important role in attracting a click through from a potential visitor. However, there is one caveat with messing around with the title – you have to balance the search engine ranking versus the click through impact. Unlike the meta description, which isn’t used in Google’s decision on ranking a page at all – the page title is. Ideally, the perfect page title needs to contain the keywords you wish to rank for, AND also needs to be engaging and tempting enough to make people click through to your site. The title tag is limited to 70 characters, but you can use uppercase characters for each word within it, this alone can positively impact the ctr of your results. Mashable use this tip pretty extensively in both their results and tweets.
Open Graph Protocol
The open graph protocol enables us web masters to describe our pages for the social graph in which they can become objects. If these statistics are anything to go by, more and more of us are providing this data to Facebook and other social sites. In simple terms, this lets us dictate exactly how our pages will behave when shared inside Facebook and now Google+ with everything from the location where a page has been published, to the image to associate alongside a particular post being capable of control. You can read more about the ins and outs and how it all works over here.
Its important that you provide this format for the same reasons you provide a good meta description. When content is shared inside social networks and people are looking at your content on their stream, this code lets you control and shape that to encourage click throughs. There are a number of properties to use, depending on your website niche, but the more you provide the better IMO, as the extra information will encourage both eyeballs and clicks.
To see what your URL’s currently look like – try the Facebook debugger. At a bare minimum, I’d recommend the og:image tag for starters is on every page, which will provide a thumbnail image alongside your post in the Open Graph. See the below capture as a sample of how information can be pulled back from a site.
Getting video in your search engine result can massively increase your click through rate. It’s one of the primary reasons sites need to be taking it seriously, and there’s no excuse considering the multitude of free and open source tools out there for creating it.
Consider the impact of seeing this sort of result:
There’s a huge impact in terms of the number of clicks between these two results. Video sitemaps help associate a URL with a video result, as does micro format markup (see Rich Snippets) and improve the chances that Google will showcase a video alongside your result. You can indicate the preferred thumbnail you wish to use in an element within the feed. If you embed videos directly from YouTube, sometimes this sort of result will occur naturally without any work on your part at all, as Google already have all the information they need to build a richer result.
In June last year, Google announced a massive change which will impact click throughs for those authors who implement it. I’ve hinted at where I think this change will go in the future, but for now, regardless of whether you have multiple authors or (like myself) are a lone ranger – you could step up against the competition by implementing it. Here’s a sample of how the authorship markup impacts the SERPs and in turn the click through.
Yes even my ugly mug makes an impact on the click through rate, and Google have provided us with all the statistics you need to improve the impact of that even further.
Google Rich Snippets are another structured format that Google are encouraging web masters to use in their markup. There’s a number of different vocabularies, but Google currently make use of Reviews, People, Products, Recipes and as mentioned earlier – Video.
Here’s a sample of how Review markup can change the SERP – notice the star rating.
Here’s a sample of how LinkedIn are utilising the people markup:
If you are involved with a food site, it makes sense to utilise the Recipe markup, as you can see below the extra image, reviews and cook time for the SERP provides much more SERP real estate to encourage the click through.
If you have either multiple or single events – event markup brings through the time and place. However, I’d be careful with this one, as often that’s the crucial piece of information that your visitors are looking for. The juice may not be worth the squeeze as visitors don’t need to click through.
Some of the factors which influence click through are provided on the basis of how authoritive Google denotes your site to be. Unfortunately brand site links are one of those, and short of building a site and brand which attracts a decent amount of named searches, there’s not much you can do to influence their creation. New sites are unlikely to see these for at least a while. You can however change which site links Google picks, and change them inside Webmaster tools.
Obviously you can see the footprint that these leave in the SERPs, so they are worth getting both in terms of increasing click through, and helping to push third party results for your brand name further down the results.
Breadcrumbs through your site are an important navigational aid for your visitors, and Google are smart enough to work these out when you provide them with a format they recognise. See here for a explanation of how to markup your site best. Some of the SEO plugins for Wordpress have already taken this advice on board – the results can be seen below, allowing visitors to click straight through to individual categories within your site and providing a more attractive SERP.
A recent addition to the SERPs is structured list formats. If you have a lot of information on one page, this format aims to condense each piece of into a useful summary. Here’s a sample:
From the Inside Search post back in August, Google unveiled that list pages with appropriate markup would produce this format. From my own research, unordered lists seem to work best at generating these with ten results or more.
Clickthrough is one of those factors that can make a difference to your traffic even if your ranking stays the same, and for that reason, its worth taking the time and effort at improving your SERP result with some of these tactics.