9 CTR Optimization Strategies To Grow Your Search Traffic
Welcome back to Smash Digital’s weekly content series, where we give you actionable SEO strategies and tips that you can implement today and start seeing results.
Let’s kick today’s lesson off with a quick screenshot.
That’s a keyword with 3,600 monthly searches jumping from #5 to #1 and staying there.
What did we do to make this happen?
If you guessed link building… You know us well, but not this time.
Keep reading and I’ll show you the strategies we used to optimize this page and many others to double the site’s traffic.
Time to learn: 15 minutes
Impact (1-10): 8
Tools required: Google Search Console
Tools suggested: None
Now, let’s get to it…
Working With What You Have
You’ve probably heard of this concept in a few different ways. It goes along the lines of…
“It’s a lot easier to make more money off existing customers than to acquire new ones.”
“It’s easier to make more money with your existing business than start a new venture from scratch.”
The same holds true for SEO. It’s often going to be a lot easier to increase traffic on your existing pages instead of going after new keywords, creating more content, and building more links to a fresh page.
That’s exactly what we did in this case and we used the power of copywriting to do it.
Enter Clickthrough Rate (CTR) Optimization
If you’ve read a few of our previous SEO guides, you’ll already know that your CTR is going to affect search engine rankings.
In other words, even if you’re able to rank #2 with great on-page optimization and high-quality backlinks, if people are clicking on the #3 result more often than usual, Google might drop you further down for being irrelevant and not meeting the expected CTR.
Obviously, the opposite also holds true and that’s what we’re going to use to our advantage to improve our rankings and get more traffic
We’re going to find pages that are close to getting some traction but have a poor CTR and then I’m going to show you how to fix that up and hopefully climb to higher positions.
Not only that… Increasing your CTR literally means getting more people to visit your site.
How to Find Underperforming Pages
First up you’re going to head to Google Search Console and their “Performance” report. You’ll want to click on the CTR and average position boxes to get some additional data.
You’re going to have a nice overview of thousands of keywords that are bringing you traffic, what position you’re ranking in for these terms, and what kind of CTR you’re seeing.
Our goal is to find pages that are already doing well but have a poor CTR in relation to the position you’re ranking in.
According to data from 2019, the CTRs for the top 10 positions look something along the lines of:
These are averages and are going to vary massively from search to search, but they give you a pretty good idea of what is acceptable and what is not.
To actually find these pages, I recommend sorting the data by either the highest number of impressions or highest average position and then looking for odd CTRs.
Sorting by position, we can clearly see that there’s a bunch of keywords that have CTRs way below the average for #1 rankings.
We’re going to be optimizing these on a page-level, not for specific keywords, but you’ll want to save down any and all opportunities you see for later reference.
When sorting by impressions, you’re going to see much lower CTRs across the board because the average positions will likely be lower and the queries more generic.
Nonetheless, you can find some pretty amazing, high-impact opportunities from here.
How to Improve Your Organic CTR
Let’s talk about how to actually go about increasing your clickthrough rate for a page.
To do that, let’s first look at the Google search results.
There are really only two things we’re able to influence when it comes to our results – the meta title (purple on the image) and the meta description (the paragraph below it).
While the meta description definitely has an impact on the CTRs, it’s going to be quite insignificant when compared to changes you can see from improving the title. So that’s what we’re going to be focusing on.
Think about it… Unless you’re doing a highly important or specific search, you’ll likely simply skim through the top 5 results by looking at the titles and choosing the most compelling one.
I’m going to share 9 strategies and tips you can use to stand out in the search results and increase your CTR.
1. Assess Your Relevance to the Search Results
Google’s gotten pretty damn good at making search results relevant. In fact, it’s one of the most important ranking factors – if your pages serve a different intent than what is currently on Google’s first page, you’re probably not going to rank well.
But… There are also search results that display mixed intent.
You might see some e-commerce stores and some product reviews… Or how-to style articles and listicles.
This is the first question you’re going to want to ask yourself when it comes to both improving your position by being more relevant as well as increasing your CTR – what does the average searcher actually want?
If you’re ranking #7 for a keyword with a product page while everyone above you has informational content – you won’t really have anything to optimize for. You’re irrelevant.
It’s time to decide whether to create a new page and angle to rank with or move on to the next keyword.
Other times it may be as simple as shifting the angle of your page. Maybe you’re ranking with a listicle style post (15 tips for achieving X) but everyone ranking above you (and what the searchers want) are “how to achieve X”.
In summary – give people what they want and Google might give you what you want.
2. Change Your Title to Stand Out From the Crowd
I always try and read through the top three ranking pages and try to put myself in the searchers shoes on a deeper level… Beyond whether they want to see some reviews or to buy a product.
Let’s say I had an article reviewing the email marketing tool ActiveCampaign and was ranked #4 but not getting very many clicks.
The top three results are titled:
- ActiveCampaign Review 2020 – When (and when not to) use it
- ActiveCampaign Review
- ActiveCampaign Reviews and Pricing – 2020
These titles don’t set the bar too high but let’s roll with it…
One of the best ways to increase our CTR is going to be standing out from the search results and doing something unique.
If everyone else is putting pricing, features, comparisons, and other boring stuff in the title tags, I need to find a different angle.
From experience as well as reading through the top pages, I know that this is more of an advanced tool. This means that the searcher likely doesn’t need to be convinced that this is a good tool or that email marketing is necessary.
What they really need to be convinced of is to ditch their old email marketing provider and make the switch over to ActiveCampaign.
This is something we can take advantage of.
I might call the page something along the lines of:
ActiveCampaign Review – Why I Switched Over From Mailchimp
This is just an example but there are a million other angles you could take with it, that create a lot more curiosity and interest than a generic “when to use it” or “why it’s good” title.
Some additional ideas:
ActiveCampaign Review – How We Grew Our Store 157%
ActiveCampaign Review – Is It Really Worth $XXX/mo?
ActiveCampaign Review – Best Email Solution for eCom?
So simply doing something different from your competitors is going to be one side of it and the other goes back to our previous point about matching the searchers intent and what might compel them most.
To give you another example… We had a website ranking for a keyword where the top five results were all listicles along the lines of…
- 6 Steps to Sleep Better
- 15 Proven Tips to Sleep Better
- 6 Secrets to a Good Night’s Sleep
We tested several titles that were radically different from this, but they ended up going a bit too far from the searchers intent.
The winner of the test?
X Strategies to Improve Your Sleep [TRIED AND TESTED]
The hypothesis for the page was that we all had already heard of tips for sleeping better – sleep in a cold room, stop using screens before bed, etc… But what people really wanted to know was which ones are actually important and make a difference.
3. Look at Similar Niches for Ideas
This is probably one of my favorite little tricks when it comes to SEO (and it applies to more than just titles…)
Whatever you’re trying to achieve – in this case – a better title tag… Someone has already put countless hours into doing it the right way and finding the best approach.
I like to look at other similar niches or markets and see how they’re optimizing their title tags.
This becomes even more efficient if you can look at much more competitive or lucrative areas that are similar.
Let’s say you’re ranking for the best law firm in Charlotte (that’s a US city) and want a better title tag.
I would start to Google for law firms in some of the bigger and more competitive cities. See how other law firms have approached this in New York, California, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, London, etc.
If you’re an online business, the same logic applies but on an industry level.
Ranking for best facebook ad agency? Look at the SEO agencies, marketing agencies, Google Ads agencies etc.
Ranking for the best coq10 supplement? Try searching for magnesium, fiber, fish oil, calcium, and other way more popular supplement types.
An affiliate site ranking for long-tail tech stuff? Look at the most popular titles in tech and how they do it – best bluetooth earbuds, best wireless headphones, best gaming laptops etc.
Sometimes you’ll see the same formulas repeated over and over that you can implement in your own business.. Other times you’ll just get one word that’ll help you turn things around.
Either way it’s super easy and you’ll learn a lot by doing it (and not just in terms of titles).
4. How to Write a Well-Optimized Title Tag
Other than the above points and SEO best practice in general, you’re going to benefit from learning more about copywriting and headlines.
Here are five principles I try to follow with each title tag:
While it’s great if your headline creates some curiosity, it shouldn’t be regarding what the page is about or what value you’re going to add to the reader’s life.
The more specific you can be about what they have to gain from reading it, the more likely you are to get the click.
Here are a few examples I found on Google 🙂
Problem: How to fix your posture
Title: Good Posture in 30 Days: Exercises, Calendar Plan, and More
Problem: Improve copywriting
Title: 75 Resources for Writing Incredible Copy that Converts
Problem: Creating an SEO strategy
Title: How to Create an SEO Strategy for 2020 [Template Included]
Problem: Learn guitar
Title: How To Learn Guitar: An 11-Step Programme For Beginners
Whether it’s discussing additional tools you provide on your page to solve the readers problem (e.g. templates, calendars, exercises) or simply indicating that this is targeted to them (beginners, experts, kids, old folks) – the more detailed you get, the more attention you’ll receive.
Avoid Neutral Titles
Have you ever searched for a product review for “final confirmation” only to see that the first Google result calling it a scam?
You get a strange feeling in your gut, quickly click the result to see what the fuss is about, only to see the article conclude… “No, it’s not a scam – here’s my (affiliate) link to go buy it.”
While that’s one of the worst examples of this, it’s also the best proof that this strategy works.
You want your titles to have either positive or negative sentiment – avoid anything neutral if your goal is to get as much traffic as possible.
Tell people about:
- Things they have to try
- Mistakes to avoid
- Negative feelings they can get rid of (Stuck in a rut? Feeling broke?)
- Positive outcomes (5 steps to getting your dream job)
- Potential scares (Still building backlinks through blog comments? Watch out!)
Headline and Subtitle
Traditionally great headlines come in two parts – the headline itself and a subtitle.
With meta titles we don’t always have the luxury of fitting that in due to character limitations but for some topics, it’s still a great strategy to keep in mind.
The only difference is that in search results, the first part will often be your target keyword. This’ll ensure you rank well while also establishing some relevance for the query.
The subtitle will help you convince people to actually click on the result and differentiate yourself from competitors.
An example from our own site:
Using FAQ Schema – Double Your Search Visibility in 5 Minutes
Using numbers in headlines to increase interest is probably one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Hell, I used in for the guide you’re reading now!
BECAUSE IT WORKS.
While behavioral psychology is much more complex, the simplest explanation is that it creates curiosity (can there really be 65 ways to walk your pug?!) and has the potential to deliver a lot of value in a compressed format (I’m going to skim the headings and learn all 65 ways, fast.)
There have also been studies conducted that show that headlines with odd numbers in them generate more clicks.
I’ve never noticed a huge difference in this and recommend you do the same. Write the best damn content possible and go with whatever number of items you end up having.
Point being – some numbers > no numbers.
Keep It Short
According to The Psychological Review, people can keep seven, plus or minus two, objects in their working memory at a given time.
In other words, we’re not great at paying attention when too much is going on.
While it’s critical to have your headlines be concise and clear, you’ll want to stick between 5-9 words for the best CTR.
Try Stealing the Featured Snippet
You’ve probably seen featured snippets in search results. Google has been making them more frequent for the last few years.
What’s a featured snippet? Here’s a screenshot of a featured snippet explaining and showing it.
Featured snippets provide an answer to the searchers query straight within Google, without having to visit a website. While it’s great for a quick overview, most searches are far more complex than the limited amount of space in a featured snippet – this means they still get a myriad of clicks, especially considering they rank above all the other search results.
Why are these a big deal?
Well, because you don’t really have to “earn” that ranking in the traditional way. Anyone who ranks on the first page may be selected for the featured snippet instead. It’s a lot easier to rank within the top ten than to lock down the first position PLUS this ranks even higher than that.
So how does Google choose who gets the featured snippet?
They algorithmically choose “the best answer” to the search query, which effectively means that they mostly focus on the content itself and its relevance (as long as you’re on the first page already.)
The best tip I can give you to score more featured snippets is to be a lot more concise with your writing. Instead of writing sentences along the lines of “To summarize things, featured snippets are basically blah blah” you’d do better with “Featured snippets are X.”
Beyond the words on the page, it’s clear that Google also takes on-page SEO into consideration when it comes to selecting the featured snippet. This includes the use of things like numbered lists, use of headings (and doing so in the right order and a logical way), the cleanliness of your code and much more.
What if the search results already have a featured snippet but a competitor has it?
Well, that’s the best part,
It’s possible to steal featured snippets from your competitors and do so instantly by asking Google to reindex the page using Google Search Console.
I’m going to write a dedicated guide about this in the future that’ll walk you through the entire process. To give you an idea though, it mostly revolves around analyzing what the current featured snippet has done to obtain it (their length, format, structure, etc).
Increase Your SERP Real Estate Using FAQ Schema
What better way to get more attention than to take up more space?
That’s exactly what you’re able to do by using FAQ schema.
Here’s a screenshot of a blog post that has FAQ schema attached to it and as you can see, it takes up nearly double the space of a traditional search result.
People can also click on the “Show more button” to see even more questions.
The best part? You have 100% control over what the questions and answers are and you can make this appear for almost any page, instantly with some simple code.
Click here to check out our detailed guide on how to implement this, step-by-step.
Add Other Relevant Schema
Beyond the FAQ schema, there’s a bunch of other types of page-level markup you can use to get Google to enhance the search results and stand out more.
I’m sure you’ve seen the recipe snippet, which displays user ratings, their count, cooking time, and nutritional information:
Or the fancy star-ratings under product reviews, along with the reviewers name:
Of course, there’s a lot more out there – ranging from event details to product stock levels.
To learn more about these, check out the official Schema website.
Update Your Content and Publish Date
This used to be one of the most effective SEO “tricks” just a few years ago. While Google has made it a lot harder to abuse, it’s still an amazing strategy.
Google absolutely loves fresh content because in many industries, that’s a sign of a high-quality page and website. Who’d want to read an outdated guide?
Simply by keeping all of your most successful pages fresh and up to date, you’ll often be able to jump a few positions in the search results. It’s usually not enough to just change from 2020 to 2021 though – we recommend adding a few paragraphs of text at least and ensuring you also update the publish date.
The other aspect to consider for this is your competition.
While your article or page may have been the best out there when you initially published it, your competitors are also trying to grow and improve and may have overtaken you.
Google the top keywords your page should be ranking for and compare your content to the competitors – is it as long, detailed, and helpful?
If not, that’s a perfect opportunity to give it a refresh and also increase your traffic.
Build. More. Links.
Cmon, you knew this one was coming.
In fact, I really struggled when trying to not list this as the number one tip in this (and every other) guide.
Want to get a page ranking from #7 to #1?
Considering the number one ranking factor in Google is backlinks, the most efficient way to get there is going to be to score more high-quality backlinks.
There are extremely few instances where building more links is not the right way to go.
I hope you found this weeks guide helpful and as always, if anything was unclear don’t hesitate to reach out and we’ll help you out.
I’ll see you next week with some more SEO valuebombs.
Let’s Smash it!