Five hacks to enhance your organic CTR and rankings in SERPs

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30-second summary:

  • Issues with increasing your site’s organic traffic may be attributed to low organic CTRs.
  • Creative title tags helps your site create a positive first impression.
  • Limit your meta description to under 160 characters to avoid truncation.
  • A well-optimized, keyword-rich URL can increase organic CTRs by 45%.
  • Leverage the power of rich results to steal SERP real estate from your competitors.

Appearing in Google search engine results pages (SERPs) is a must-have for any business looking to further their online presence and increase their market share. But if your goal is to grow your website traffic or increase sales, merely appearing on the first page isn’t enough. With Google progressively changing from a search engine into an answer engine, more and more search users are completing their search without leaving the SERPs. To win in today’s zero-click era, it’s become paramount for businesses to occupy more real estate in SERPs and be more visually engaging to search users. If your website is having little luck with increasing its organic traffic, your troubles may be attributed to low organic click-through-rates (CTR). Improving click-through performance is an essential facet of ensuring long-term online success, both on and off Google. 

So what can you do to improve your site’s organic CTR?

Whether you run an e-commerce shop, operate a cooking blog, or manage your client’s site, these five well-tested CTR enhancing techniques will positively boost your organic CTRs, driving more targeted traffic to your site.

And the best part? All of these techniques are easily actionable and are all within your control.

Let’s get started.

1. Get creative with your title tags

A traditional organic SERP listing has three main elements:

Headline: A blue clickable link that denotes the title of the page.

Description: A brief snippet of what contents can be found on the page.

URL: The internet address of a specific web resource.

Your search listing’s title tag (the headline) has significant importance to both the search engine and its users. As an HTML element, search engines use your title tag to understand better the information contained within the page.

Search visitors, on the other hand, use the title tag found in SERPs to make a first impression about your business. Because it’s displayed in a prominent blue color, how you craft your title tag can be a make-or-break factor in its clickability, impacting organic CTR.

But search results aren’t the only places where title tags are used. Because the <title> tag element is found in your page’s HTML code, your title is also displayed at the top of your web browser’s tab and when your content is shared across social media networks.

So how should you write title tags to make them irresistible to search visitors?

Here are five fundamentals to apply to your title tag writing

Aim for a title tag length of 35-55 characters

According to research performed by Backlinko, title tags between 15 and 40 characters have the highest CTR. A title this short, however, can provide a challenge – how do you fit your keywords in and make the title tag compelling? 

In my experience, the sweet spot for a title tag is 35-55 characters in length. A length in that range keeps the title tag short and punchy and ensures it does not truncate in search results, which generally happens at around 60 characters or 600 pixels.  

Use tools like SERP Simulator and SERP Preview Tool to check title tag length.

Place your primary keyword closer to the beginning

Frontloading your title tag with your target keyword increases that keyword’s prominence, giving more weight to its importance. Plus, most users typically only see the first two words of any given headline. Placing your keyword at the beginning helps to make the keyword more obvious, and thus appear more relevant to users scanning the SERPs.

Never keyword stuff

While keyword placement is essential, avoid titles that are just filled with irrelevant keywords or variations of your target keyword. Title tags stuffed full of keywords are unappealing to search users and are CTR killers.  

Add emphasis on capitalization

Capitalizing the first letter of every word in your title tag is general copywriting best practice. To make your title tag stand out even more and add emphasis to high-impact words, consider capitalizing the occasional odd word.

Minimize the use of stop words

Stop words like “a”, “the”, “on”, “or”, and, “etc.”, can add unnecessary length to your already restricted character limit. To better position your title tag, use high impact, power words like best, exclusive, insane, and so on.

Once you’ve mastered the art of title-tag writing, it’s time to move on to the next step.

2. Meta descriptions

The snippet below the headline in the SERPs is commonly (but not always) pulled from your page’s meta description. In addition, an HTML element, the purpose of a meta description is to summarize a web page’s content.

And like your page title tag, a well-written meta description can positively influence CTRs. 

These 155 characters can influence 43% of search users to click on your site. And with nine out of ten search users clicking on organic search results vs paid advertisement, meta descriptions are your opportunity to draw some attention to your site.

How to write the perfect meta description

When it comes to writing the most compelling meta description for search results, start by researching SERPs. Having oversight on what your competitors are doing will help you better assess what descriptions are click-worthy among your target audience.

Here’s a quick checklist you can use to ensure your meta description is highly clickable:

  • Stick to Google’s optimal length
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To optimize your meta description, be sure to keep the page’s summary under 160 characters and 130 characters for mobile searches. 

  • Add your most important keywords

Be sure to include your target keyword(s) in the description so they get highlighted in bold within search results.

To further create snippets that entice search users to click, avoid generic descriptions as much as possible.

  • Don’t duplicate descriptions 

The pages of your site should have unique meta descriptions. Duplicating descriptions can cause Google to penalize your site.

  • Include a call-to-action
  • To add value to your description and entice more clicks, write your description with advertising in mind. 

If you have a lot of pages on your site, just focus on optimizing the most important pages. Why is this you would ask? 

Because Google ignores the meta description tag for 63% of queries. Focussing your efforts on pages getting little SERP visibility is not worth the time, especially when Google’s descriptions perform equally well, and sometimes better than custom descriptions.

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Now that title tags and meta descriptions have been addressed, it’s time to turn our attention to URLs.

3. Use descriptive URLs

The third element of a traditional search listing is your page URL. And studies have shown that a well-optimized, keyword-rich URL can increase organic CTRs by 45%.

After all, when it comes to URLs in search results, wouldn’t you prefer to click on example.com/blog/ten-tips-for-seo-success rather than example.com/index.php?=5754225=t44=?p=987?

So what are the steps necessary to craft click-worthy SEO-friendly URLs?

The first step is to include the exact keyword you’d like to target in your URL.

When writing out your URL, avoid using special characters, stop words, and numbers. Special characters like the ampersand or “&” and numbers are best suited for your page title tag or header tag. Be sure also to only use lowercase letters and hyphens to separate words rather than underscores.

Lastly, keep your URL length short. Some studies have shown there is a correlation between shorter URLs and higher rankings. The average URL length of top-ten ranking pages is 66 characters.

Now that you grasp the basic SERP strategies to increase CTR performance let’s take a look at two advanced techniques you can start using on your site.

4. Turn your title tag donkeys into CTR unicorns

While it may be tempting to simply write a title tag and forget it, to get the very best results from your organic listing, you need to constantly optimize your title tags. As Larry Kim shows, this requires testing new variations and measuring their performance. 

The best way to fully optimize your title tags is to determine your site’s worst performers. These title tags we’ll call your donkeys. The best way to assess which title tags are underperforming is by going to Google Search Console and downloading your query data.

Once you have your query data, plot a graph that compares your Click-Through-Rates vs. Average Position for any queries you rank for in organic search. Add a trend line to your graph.

Now that you have your graph, target the keywords below the graph’s curve. These are your site’s biggest donkeys, the pages with the highest number of impressions but deliver lower than expected CTR for their ranking position.

To maximize your efforts, rather than testing new title tags and comparing their performance over time, consider doing some Google Ads “blitz testing.”

Blitz testing requires you to create a set of ads for the page you’re optimizing and testing at least 10 different headlines. 10 headlines are the bare minimum for blitz testing because it gives you a better chance at finding the headline that resonates best with your audience.

When you find your statistical unicorn from the Google Ads test, use that headline as your title tag on your re-optimized page.

The last hack we’ll be looking at will not only bring more visibility to your listing, but it has also been shown to bring in 2.7x more traffic from organic search.

5. Rich results

Leveraging the power of rich snippets allows your listing to occupy more SERP real estate and improve the visual elements of your SERP result, helping your site increase its organic CTR while satisfying search intent.

To experience success with rich snippets from organic search, it pays to know the most common schema types. While there are dozens of different rich snippets available, not every single one can be adapted for your business. Some are event industry-specific like flight information.

The most common schema types that will work for the majority of businesses competing in the SERPs include:

  • Review snippets: Displays a star and numeric rating below the meta description.
  • Recipe rich data snippet: Provides a step-by-step overview of a specific recipe.
  • How-To snippets: Provides step-by-step instructions for a specific task.
  • Sitelinks: Adds navigational links to key pages on your site below the meta description.
  • Search box snippet: Displays your site’s internal search box within SERPs.
  • Product snippet: Displays product information (price, reviews, stock availability) in SERPs.
  • Video snippet: Displays video information (thumbnail URL, upload date, transcript, etc.) in SERPs.
  • FAQ snippet: Presents commonly-asked questions and answers in the search results.

Now that you have a clearer understanding of the type of rich snippets available to you, follow this seven-step process to publish structured data onto your site:

  • Visit Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
  • Select the snippet type you’d like to create.
  • Paste your URL or HTML source to the markup helper.
  • Highlight the page elements you want to be included in the structured data.
  • Click the Create HTML button.
  • Copy and paste your generated structured data onto your page HTML.
  • Preview and test your new rich snippet in Google’s Rich Results Test.

Once you run your test, your schema markup will create a report that states the eligibility of your rich snippet. The information will also show any issues or warnings that will need to be fixed before your page can be published.

It should be noted, though, that having validated structured data in your page’s code doesn’t automatically guarantee that your search listing will display a rich snippet. Google will always provide the search user with the best search experience which, at times, may not require a rich snippet.

Now it’s your turn

By using the strategies above, your site can start to experience more organic traffic. This can significantly contribute to greater overall online success and, ultimately, increased site conversions. What’s more, the strategies provided here increase site traffic without creating more content or building more links.

With organic click-through-rates already on the decline, adapting these tips and tactics to your site will allow your brand to remain competitive in the current zero-click search landscape.

And the best part? All of the strategies mentioned here can also be used by any business, regardless of SEO experience or marketing budget.

Karl Tablante is Inbound Marketing Manager at SEO Sherpa.

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