Gaining visibility in Google search results is one thing but getting your target audience to click on your ranking is another.
How do you improve the click-ability of your SERP results? Improve your meta tags. The relationship between the two is inextricably linked.You’ve got great rankings on @Google, but that doesn’t really matter if searchers don’t click on your site links, says @madmanick via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet
Here’s a deeper look at that connection and some tips to get more searchers to click on your content.
What is an organic click-through rate?
Organic click-through rates are the percentage of searchers who click on a link promoted on a search engine results page (SERP):
CTR = # of searchers who click your link in the SERPs
# of searchers who see the SERP with your link
To make it simpler: CTR = clicks / impressions.Image sourceSearch CTR = Clicks/Impressions. The higher CTR, the more people see your page as relevant, says @madmanick via @CMIContent. #SEO. Click To Tweet
Higher CTRs mean more people see your site page as relevant to what they are looking for. Any solid SEO strategy should include an effort to elevate organic CTRs.
What meta tags influence CTR?
Meta tags are what searchers see to determine which content they will click.
Meta tags are essentially the language of Google. The more succinct and engaging they are, the stronger CTRs you should see. Four primary tags influence CTRs:
- Title tags: The title tag (or page title) briefly describes the content on the page and appears as a blue, clickable hyperlink on the SERP.
Meta descriptions: Meta descriptions appear below the page title and give searchers more context on what the content covers.
URL paths: Although not as influential as the title tag or meta description, the URL path to your web page appears with the result and can influence the click rate.
Schema markup: Schema markup can help your page appear in Google’s rich results, such as featured snippets, knowledge panels, etc., that receive prime SERP real estate and usually attract more clicks.
Title tags, meta descriptions, URL path, and schema markup influence organic search CTR, says @madmanick via @CMIContent. #SEO Click To Tweet
TIP: Google recently announced it rewrites page titles or meta descriptions when it doesn’t think the existing ones are sufficient. However, Google says it still displays the original title tag about 80% of the time, so it’s important to take the time to optimize your meta tags and improve their click-ability for searchers.
What is the relationship between CTR and ranking position?
There is an exponential relationship between CTR and ranking position. Simply put, the higher the page ranks, the more organic clicks it’s going to get.
Naturally, the first organic search result gets the most clicks. As you go down the rankings, clicks and conversions become exponentially lower.
Search volume can also impact the total number of clicks. If your content ranks for the top spot for a keyword phrase with a higher search volume, it will naturally earn more clicks than one with a lower search volume.
TIP: Different studies show searchers prefer organic results over pay-per-click ads appearing at the top of the SERP. That’s another reason to focus on higher organic rankings to generate stronger CTR.
How to understand your CTR performance
Google Search Console is a free platform that helps site owners track their SEO data and iterate on their strategy. When it comes to click-through-rates, this platform shows you:
- Average CTR across all keywords and web pages
- Average CTRs across all keywords for individual pages
- CTRs for specific keyword queries
For example, the below chart illustrates the performance of the No. 1 ranking for a query on Moz Bulk Da Checker. Its 34.9% CTR outperforms the usual 28.5% CTR expected for a No. 1 ranking position based on Google’s data.
Given the page’s performance, its meta tags are likely optimized, clearly explaining what searchers will find and driving them to click on the page.
In this next example, the page ranks No. 4 on the results page but has an average CTR of 0.4%. Looking at Google data, this ranking should expect a CTR closer to 8%:
This underperforming page can be identified as one that could benefit from meta tag optimization.
My tool, GSC Insights, can help you understand your click-through rates with data visualizations and nuance. This chart for traffic by keyword position illustrates the CTR in relationship to its ranking position, helping you more easily identify underperforming pages.
Improving CTR via meta tags
Now that you understand the strong relationship between your CTR, ranking position, and metadata, it’s time to improve your meta tags to boost your organic CTRs on underperforming pages. Here are five tips:
1. Follow best practices for page titles and meta descriptions
Be sure to:
- Respect the maximum character counts – no more than 60 for the page title and about 160 for meta descriptions.
- Include your target keyword – in the page title and meta description to indicate relevance to Google and searchers.
- Include the required properties in schema markup. To check, input your page link into Google’s rich results tool and see how your content is displayed.
2. Add questions and CTAs
Pose an intriguing, relevant question so they want to click on the link to find the answer. Yes, Google may rewrite your meta description, but that only happens about 20% of the time. The more relevant your meta description, the less likely Google is to rewrite it.
3. Make your SERP result more attractive with schema.org
Schema.org offers site owners amazing opportunities to outrank competitors and stand out in the SERPs.
4. Focus on pages where improved CTR means exponential traffic
Optimize the meta tags for the pages ranking on the first page and ranking for keywords with higher search volumes. Because CTR and ranking position are exponential, those improvements could mean huge influxes of traffic to your website.
5. Monitor performance
To see how your meta tag optimizations impact CTR and organic traffic, track the changes you make to meta tags. Note the changes made and the dates they happened so you use Google Search Console or other ranking tools to evaluate the impact.
Ultimately, your goal with any SEO practice is to get real traffic to your website. Once your content is ranking in Google, more granular optimizations like these will be all the difference in driving additional clicks and delivering a bigger audience to your site.
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All tools mentioned in the article are identified by the author. If you have a tool to suggest, please feel free to add it in the comments.
Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute