You want to constantly improve your search rankings for all of your content, right?
The higher your content ranks, the more traffic you get. The more traffic you get, the more revenue you (hopefully) generate for your organization. The more revenue you generate, the more parades your organization will throw in your honor. (Okay, so maybe parades are a stretch.)
Many content marketers feel that once they’ve created a great piece of content and done the initial promotional push, their ranking in Google is out of their hands. Perhaps these steps look familiar for optimizing a piece of content:
- Identify your primary keyword. (Preferably, this is a medium tail keyword.)
- Write your content according to on-page SEO best practices.
- Link to the piece of content from other pages using anchor text that matches the primary keyword.
- Work to build inbound links to your content.
- Move on to the next piece of content.
Hopefully, you’re doing steps one through four. If you’re not, start ASAP.
But optimizing content shouldn’t be a one-time event. And it doesn’t take an SEO expert to make high-impact tweaks to content to get it to rank higher and drive more organic traffic.
Ongoing Ranking Optimization
Be honest. Once a piece of content is created, do you ever go back and change it? Or do you set it sail, wish it well, and wave goodbye? If you’re like most content marketers, you don’t give the content you publish a second thought. Unfortunately, this means you’re missing a huge opportunity that others are capitalizing on.
Improving your Google ranking is an ongoing process that involves a lot of variables such as getting better inbound links and building your entire domain to be more trustworthy. But one variable that’s becoming more and more important for ranking well in Google is increasing your click-through rate (CTR) on search results pages.
High click-through rates on search engine results pages show Google that your content is catching searchers’ attention. As a result, their RankBrain algorithm is now ranking pages with higher CTRs higher in search results, while those with lower CTRs are getting moved down.
Google now ranks pages with higher CTRs higher in search results, so focus on increasing your organic CTR to improve your rankings
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Improving Click-Through Rates With the Performance Report
If you don’t currently have Google Search Console (formerly called Webmaster Tools) connected to your site, please take a moment to stop reading and get it connected. It’s one of the most valuable tools available to content marketers and SEOs.
Once Google Search Console is set up and connected to your site, you will have to wait a few weeks for data to populate. Or, maybe Google Search Console is already set up, and all you need is access to the account.
Once you have access and data, head over to the new Search Console.
Now go over to the Performance Report. On the surface, the report is straightforward. It shows you how many total clicks and impressions your pages have received over a specific time frame, as well as the average CTR and average position your pages get in search engine results pages.
But what’s really useful is finding pages that have low CTRs. Here’s how to do that.
Find Ranking Pages With Low CTRs
The biggest opportunity you have for increasing traffic is finding the pages that have a high number of impressions but very few clicks.
In the Queries tab, click “Impressions” to sort your queries by the number of impressions your content has received in search results pages.
In this example, you can see there is a problem. The first result has a CTR of just 0.1%. That means that only about one in a 1,000 people who see that result when they search for “tervis 16oz tumbler” actually click through to that page. Ouch.
If that many people are seeing that result but aren’t clicking it, something must be wrong with how it looks in search engines.
Let’s see what page that is on. Click the keyword, and then click the Pages tab.
Looks like the Tervis Tumbler page simply isn’t performing well for that query. But is it performing well for other queries? Perhaps another query that brings up that page is doing really well.
Copy the URL of that page and click “+ New” at the top of the report. You can select “Page” and enter the page name.
We can now see all of the keywords/queries that page ranks for and its overall CTR.
The Tervis Tumbler page simply doesn’t do well in search. A 0.5% overall CTR is pretty bad. We need to help this page out STAT.
Based on the queries it ranks for, we can see that it’s getting far more impressions for “tervis 16oz tumbler” than “customized tervis tumbler.” So “tervis 16oz tumbler” is going to be the keyword/query we’re going to optimize this page for.
Optimizing Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
For most pages listed in Google, only three pieces of content are displayed: title, URL, and meta description. These three pieces of information are all you have to get people to click through to your site.
Here’s what the Tervis Tumbler page looks like in search:
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes. If you searched for “tervis 16 oz tumbler” and saw this result, would you click it? Probably not.
To update these, you need to update the content itself. Optimizing your title is the most important factor for increasing CTRs, since it’s the part of the result people click on.
When optimizing titles, make sure you include the entire search string as close to the beginning of the title as you can. Also, make it clear to people why they should click through your link right now. People searching for a Tervis tumbler are probably interested in buying or customizing their own, so give them an action to take such as “create your own,” “buy now,” or “begin customizing.”
Your meta description is your elevator pitch on the search results page. It’s your chance to stand out from the rest of the results on the page. Any mention of the keyword query will be bolded, which makes your result stand out even more, so be sure to include the keyword here as well.
Here’s the revised search result after updating the title and meta description.
Would you be more willing to click through this result? It’s not perfect, but it’s definitely better than what you had before.
Improve Your Other Low-Performing Pages
You’ll probably find that you have no shortage of poorly performing pages. It’s incredibly common for most sites to have click-through rates under one percent for the majority of their content.
Find the pages that have a CTR of under three percent and optimize them, especially those that have a high volume of impressions and a low CTR. These are huge missed opportunities you can capitalize on right now. Once you update them, wait a month or so, and then come back to see how they’re performing. You should see a nice increase in clicks since you made your updates.
For some search queries, an increase in CTRs of even one percent can mean thousands of new visitors to your site. And improving your meta titles and descriptions is a lot easier than creating an entirely new piece of content.
Create and Iterate
Getting your content found in search is an ongoing process. Implementing the strategy above will not only help your existing pieces of content rank better, but you’ll soon learn the phases and calls to action your audience wants to see in search results pages. You can then take these learnings and apply them to new pieces of content you create, giving that content a head start as soon as it’s published.