As Google search result pages become more packed with ads, maps, images, videos, and knowledge panels, competition for organic clicks is more difficult than ever. In addition to climbing the Google ranks, optimizing your organic listing for a strong clickthrough rate is paramount to capitalizing on high organic rankings. So how can an organic result stand out amongst the growing crowd? Thankfully, there is quite a bit you can do maximize both your organic presence and clickthrough rates to drive more organic traffic to your site.
Though it is not a ranking signal and will not affect your organic position, a strong meta description can catch eyes and drive clicks if stands out amongst the competition.
Even though keywords in your meta description will not help you climb the ranks, your meta descriptions should still include your page’s most important keywords. When viewing a search result page on Google, you will notice that the keywords you searched are bolded in the meta descriptions in the results below. The presence of these bolded keywords, in addition to visually standing out on the page, can also drive clicks if your page’s meta description better satisfies the query than your competing pages. While it is easy to write one strong meta description and apply to all of your pages (as is done in the first organic result above), users who view these pages on Google will have only your page title to rely on to determine what your page is about.
Meta descriptions can typically be as long as 160 characters and you should try to push your meta descriptions close to this limit. In addition to the ability to make more calls to action and offer more value propositions, a meta description that is close to the 160 character limit will also take up more space—any additional space your organic listing takes up pushes your competitors down. In a landscape where above-the-fold content and vertical position on the page go hand in hand with engagement, this additional real estate is extremely valuable.
Over the past several years one of the key evolutions of Google results pages has been the “Featured Snippet,” also known as a “Quick Answer.” Featured snippets are an organic listing, but contain more content than a regular search result—the purpose of these panels is to provide users with an answer to their query that might not even require the users to click through to the site. While that may seem like a detriment to clickthrough rate, the value in featured snippets is that they appear at the top of the search results page ahead of everything else, including ads. Given that the top organic listing typically sits below at least 2 ads (and oftentimes more ads and panels), a featured snippet has the ability to show up higher on the page than any other organic listing and can be a powerful driver of traffic.
While your site may earn Featured Snippets without trying (and your favorite keyword tracking software can likely tell you which of your keywords have featured snippets), targeting and earning snippets is a nuanced process. Featured Snippets generally come from search results that already rank on the first page of Google, so ensure that the pages you’re looking to optimize already have strong organic visibility. Another common factor amongst Featured Snippets is that they usually appear for queries that are questions (searches that include words like “what,” “which,” “who,” etc.), so it is best to identify queries like these with higher keyword volumes and/or queries that already feature a snippet you are trying to usurp.
Once you’ve identified the query and the page you’re going to optimize, focus on writing strong, concise content that sufficiently answers the query in a paragraph and ensure your title and heading tags are optimized. If the query in question is more data-centric, a list or table may best answer the question, and Google will use that list or table if that is the case. Another item to take note of are any queries Google features in the “people also ask” panel that sometimes shows up in search results for question-based queries. Reviewing the related queries can allow you to better understand the user intent behind the original query and help guide writing content that can rank for multiple queries.
Though some featured snippets may answer a user’s question with no click required, many queries will lead to users clicking through to your page for more information, and it is likely that many users will not even see your competitor’s organic listings (even those in position 1). Given that Featured Snippets appears higher on the page than any kind of organic result, winning Featured Snippets can result in significant boosts to both your organic traffic and clickthrough rates.
In addition to helping Google understand your pages and products (and improve your rankings), many types of structured data markup also display on Google results pages. Let’s take markup on PDPs for instance. In addition to taking up more space and catching more potential eyes, the additional information in your listing could garner clicks over competitors because your listing implies your site is an authority on the item.
In the example on the right, the first result displays specific information about the linked product, including the price and various specifications. With this information readily available (and potentially not available at all from the competitor website—the user would need to click through and then search for that information themselves), the user will most likely click on the result that has the most information that matches up with their query.
Though implementing structured markup on your website will likely require some development time, testing Google’s ability to read your markup can be easily done using Google’s <a href=”https://search.google.com/structured-data/testing-tool/u/0/”>Structured Data Testing Tool</a>. To learn more about the various properties that can included in product markup, check out <a href=”https://schema.org/Product”>schema.org</a>.
In comparison to earning high keyword rankings for competitive terms on Google, optimizing the quality of your organic listings on Google result pages is much less difficult. A 5% jump in clickthrough rate for a term searched 2000 times a month would lead to an extra 100 visits per month (which, assuming a healthy conversion rate, would yield three to five extra orders a month). Done at scale, a site-wide increase in organic clickthrough rate could result in an extremely significant increase in both organic traffic and revenue. While the focus of organic traffic is often based solely on keyword rankings, a quick audit of your listings on Google could lead to unrecognized opportunities that can boost traffic significantly.
About Chris Brown
Chris Brown has nearly 20 years of retail leadership while driving impressive results in a diverse range of retail business models including, pure play ecommerce, brick and mortar, omnichannel (with substantial mobile expertise) and merchandising. As Vice President of Omni-channel and eCommerce Strategy, Chris connects with clients to help drive their digital strategy, combining his experience in high-growth retail environments with software solutions to build revenue, increase conversion and drive retention. Connect with Chris on Linkedin: