Your SEO Is Probably Not Improving Clicks, Even If Your Rankings Increase! July 9, 2013

There is a trend in the SEO industry where businesses have begun to focus on getting the highest position on Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) at all costs. However this can actually wind up hurting your company’s efforts to drive traffic to your website from search engines. This race to the top of the search results has actually caused a race to the bottom by companies who will do anything to show up as number one. A closer look will reveal that most of the time these companies have lost sight of the true purpose of Search Engine Optimization.

So, what is the purpose of SEO? The answer “To get your page to appear higher in search results” is probably the most popular answer to that question…

But it’s wrong.

When done right, SEO is not always about rankings on SERPs, SEO is about getting more traffic to your site from search engines. A good SEO campaign will get the number of quality organic visitors to your site to go up, even if your rankings don’t go up, or even if your rankings go down! As long as the campaign is increasing traffic or conversions from search results to your website, it doesn’t matter what happens to your site’s position on SERPs. Right?

Think about it this way, if you were given the magic formula to make your site appear in the top position on every search engine around the world, but the only trade off would be that no one could click your link, would you use it? Of course not! However a massive number of sites are essentially engaging in this exact scenario — increasing rankings without thinking about clicks.

The root of the problem is that these companies forget that search results are determined by computers, but real human beings are actually clicking on the results. A business may be able to convince a search algorithm into giving its site a high ranking, say by including a highly relevant but incoherent page title or description, however when an actual person sees that description it won’t make sense to them and they will move on because it doesn’t communicate why the page is a good match for what they are searching for.

Here are four things to consider to make your site not just search engine friendly but also “search person” friendly.

Include a call to action or reason to click in the title. The page title is most often what will show up as the blue link in search results. This is the first thing a person scanning SERPs is going to look for to see if they want to investigate your site further, which makes it the most important part of how your site shows up to search engines. Make sure that you have a detailed title, with a call to action if the context is appropriate.

Example: Would you be more likely to click a link that says “Downtown Coffee Shop Homepage” or “Downtown Coffee Shop, Try Our Custom Roasts!” The second one is clearly better, because it includes a call to action and an enticing offer to someone searching for coffee. Not only that, this will also be the page title at the top of the web browser for people viewing the site, which is another great place to inform visitors about one of the company’s best features.

A/B test descriptions. Meta descriptions usually show up as supporting text underneath the title in blue in search result snippets. This part of the snippet gives you the opportunity to go into additional detail and provide a more comprehensive case for why someone should click on your page. You can try to test alternate versions of your meta description in order to see if there is one that will resonate better with the audience searching for keywords related to your website.

Also, have you noticed that if the keyword a person searched for also appears in the search result snippet, most search engines will highlight or bold it? This means you can look up the most popular keywords that drive traffic to your site, and then test different versions of your meta tag to try and get more words to appear bolded for your most popular searches, which should substantially improve your organic traffic, to see which one gets you the most clicks.

Create rich snippets. Rich snippets allow you to point out parts of your website to search engines that will be helpful for them to display in the results for your page. If you’re a restaurant you could include a star rating and customer reviews in the description of your search result so people looking for restaurant options will see your excellent ratings and reviews. If you’re a musician you can show a track listing, and if you’re a venue you can show your upcoming event schedule and provide links to get tickets. To see if there is a way to use rich snippets that’s right for your business, see the various options on Google’s rich snippet information page.

Stop trying to beat the system. The most fundamental way to make your site “search person” friendly as well as search engine friendly is to stop trying to beat the system. Whenever you go to make an SEO enhancement to your site, ask yourself are you doing this to try and trick a computer into liking your page more, or are you trying to make the way search engines render your page as a search result more descriptive to people searching? Anytime you’re making your site more computer-friendly, just stop. But if you’re trying to adjust your site so that the results shown by search engines are more accessible to real people, you’re on the right track!

Now that you see the pitfalls that come with getting your website to rank higher at all costs, hopefully you’re ready to focus on the real goal of SEO: getting more quality organic traffic for a website while staying focused on increasing conversions, sales, and business performance.

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Nick Cuttonaro

Nicholas Cuttonaro is an Internet Marketing professional specializing in search engine optimization, lead generation, and online reputation management.

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  1. Jennifer • March 9, 2014

    Great overview! I especially like your final point. In the clickminded seo training course I just completed, there was an emphasis on things being natural: naturally weave synonyms into content, natural flow of content itself, etc. Following those simple guidelines completely avoids the trying-to-trick-the-system technique. Reply

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