Are You Optimizing Your SERP Listings?
SEO is constantly changing and evolving, but the goal has stayed the same. Effective SEO must drive traffic to the site from search engines.
The basic principles have been the same for many years, even as SEO has gotten increasingly more difficult. With all of the changes, it is easy to overlook and under-optimize an important step in securing traffic — the final click from the search engine results page (SERP) to your site.
Today, as organic search becomes increasingly competitive, you must not fail to optimize for this last basic element. I am an avid golfer and spend a lot of time on the practice range attempting to improve my game from horrible to just miserable. I have noticed that many golfers will spend hours working on driving the ball and yet do not spend much time at all working on their short game, where the game is won or lost. Just witness the dominance of Jordan Spieth in professional golf. His success ties directly to his magical putting. By not carefully optimizing your site’s appearance in the SERPs, you will miss many SEO equivalents of 6-inch putts.
Getting Search Traffic
You will not get traffic from search delivered to your site unless these basic conditions are met. First, your page must show up in the results for the search engine. This is the application of the county fair principle: “You must be present to win.” This is as basic as the drive in golf. You must get out in the fairway.
Google’s Webmaster Tools (WMT) make it easy for you to know if your site is indexed and meets this condition. The second condition that must be met is equally simple. Your site must be delivered in the search results (SERPs) in response to users’ queries. This is the old ranking principle. Your site must rank highly for the query the user puts in the search engine. Again, there are many ways to measure this; however, the WMT is a good place to start particularly, because Google stopped reporting keyword referrers, just saying “not provided.”
In my practice, I have found the WMT data valuable for answering whether my site’s pages are ranking well. The final condition is one that, in my opinion, is most often neglected by SEOs. Do people actually click through to the site from the SERP? Honing how your pages appear in the SERPs so that they really grab the clicks will yield huge benefits.
Grabbing Those Clicks
SEO is based on many iterative tasks that must be done flawlessly under constantly changing rules. Large sites have made it essential for SEOs to create the key elements that appear in the SERP, the URL, Title and Description using programmable formulas.
I consider them recipes and have used them for years. Each element of the recipe is designed to entice the user to click through. From the outset, what appears in the SERP should provide reassurance that the page will answer their query. Who wants to waste time looking at pages that might not be of interest? Not me, and surely not your potential site visitors.
A subtle bit of persuasion can be accomplished by having keywords in the URL that reinforce for the user that the page is on-target for their query intent. Similarly, the Title itself should contain the query. Chances are ,your page won’t even make it to the top of the listings if it does not have the query keyword in the Title.
Once reassured, the user still might not click unless you provide a call to action. Descriptions provide you an opportunity for a call to action? Every basic sales training reinforces the need to ask for the order. If you offer products for sale, consider the power of the simple short words “buy” or “shop.” These ask for the order and signal that you have products on offer. If you are not using the structured data and rich snippet tools offered by Google, you may be overlooking an easy way to provide that subtle persuasion needed to get that final click.
Not sure how you are doing? Once more, WMT can provide the data needed for improvement. Just look for those query terms that you are ranking well for but getting weak click through rates on. Check the pages that are being delivered and, voila, there are the answers.
Also, while you are at it, look at your site’s money terms – what you are really about – and look at the other SERPs on the page. Then consider would you click on yours. Then consider changes you should make to improve your last-click performance. Oh, by the way, there is data that suggest that clickthrough rates are a ranking factor.
So improve your SERPs, increase your clickthrough rates and you may improve your rankings. While you are at it, next time you go to the driving range, spend some time on the putting green. It is my plan.
The purpose of this blog is to provide insights and tips for how to use search profitably. It will cut through the volumes of information that threaten to overwhelm the busy marketer and will focus on what is truly important for making search work.