When there are an estimated 200 factors affecting your search-engine results positions, you’ve got to be choosy about which ones you’ll work on in order to affect the greatest change.
Should you target your keywords better? Work on your back-link strategy? Among the dozens of items that search engines look for as signals of quality and relevance, one that’s often overlooked is organic click-through rate (CTR).
What is 'organic CTR'?
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"Organic CTR" (click-through rate) refers to clicks to your website through the snippet links found in the organic search results (“organic” here means search results chosen by the search engines based on how good a match your content is to a user’s query, versus the paid ads displayed in the same location).
The better your SEO works across the board, the higher your content will appear in the SERPs (search engine research pages). The higher your content appears, the more likely it is to get clicked. And the number of clicks your content receives versus the number of times the content is displayed is what’s referred to as your the organic CTR.
Does organic CTR impact your search-engine rank? Yes, it does. Google and other search engines seem to look at organic CTR as an important signal of both quality and popularity. “CTR and ranking are codependent variables,” according to Wordstream. When you improve CTR, your ranking should improve too.
5 Tips to improve organic CTR
So how do you get more organic clicks on your content? The secret is to work on multiple factors that affect clicks, not just one. Here are five ideas you can put to work immediately to boost your CTR fast.
Tip 1: Use emotionally charged headlines. You’ve got to grab readers and haul them into your content using emotionally charged headlines. Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions offers a wide range of emotions that, when woven into headlines, grab immediate attention. The better your headline, the better the chance that people will click on your link. Pick one emotion and stay with it. Bland headlines devoid of emotion kill organic CTR, while strong headlines colored with vibrant emotions engage and encourage clicks. Go big or go home. Evoke or provoke. Whatever you do, don’t stay neutral.
Headlines also feed into the title tags on your pages. The title tag is what appears in blue on the SERP, and it’s what people see when they run a search. In addition to using emotionally charged words in your titles, make sure you include the keyword phrase in the title tags. Position the phrase as closely as possible to the beginning of the title for an SEO boost.
Tip 2: Write juicy meta descriptions. The meta description is the little “ad” that appears under your page URL and title on the SERP. This is the convincer, the words and description that convince searchers that your page is worth a click. A well-written meta description both reassures the person searching that he or she has found content that matches the query and that the content on the page will be worth the time.
Meta descriptions should be kept between 140 and 160 characters. If they’re longer, Google and other search engines shorten them, which can water down their impact. They should always be specified inside the program you’re using; if you don’t indicate a meta description, search engines typically default to the first 160 characters on the page, which may or may not be what you want people to see on the search results.
Tip 3: Fix ugly URLs. “Ugly” URLS often dominate automatic URL creation software that slaps a numerical moniker onto your page. Instead of accepting whatever your program picks as the default URL, modify it so that it boosts your organic CTR. Doing so creates a more attractive URL for people scanning the SERPs.
Keep a simple domain-name structure, with a common title and/or navigation elements inside that make logical sense to both search engines and people visiting your site.
Tip 4: Identify rich snippets. Rich snippets, in addition to meta descriptions, identify specific content on the page that’s worthy of a second look. It’s another way of pointing out to searchers, both human and bots, that the content on the page is relevant and matches their query in unique and engaging ways.
You can identify rich snippets through the HTML markup of the page. Google provides detailed instructions on how to identify rich snippets inside the HTML markup, and other search engines generally follow their lead. Learn more about Google’s markup suggestions here.
Tip 5: Tag your images with keywords. People forget that the poor, lowly images on their web pages are part of their SEO strategy, but images are increasingly important. Someone may search solely for an image, and click the image to learn more. If your image isn’t tagged appropriately, you’ll lose out on potential organic CTR. Images should be tagged with an ALT tag that includes the keyword phrase for the page.
Test, measure and repeat.
Work on your organic CTRs one page at a time. Make a significant change using one of these five tips, and test it against the results of the original page. As you methodically work through all five tips, you’ll likely find that one or more make a greater impact on the results than others. Which one depends on your own unique website, audience and skills.
You may already write killer headlines but neglect tagging images, so changing the headlines may not make a great impact -- but adding alt-tags and keyword-rich image captions may help a lot. Only by testing each factor and measuring the results can you gauge the impact.
Organic CTR is an important aspect of SEO, and improving it is one of the many ways you can boost your page’s rank and results. With time, patience and the mindset of a researcher, you can find what works best for your site.