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5 Ways to Improve Your Click-Through Rates

You may not be doing all you can to increase your rankings. These five tips will help you get higher traffic to your website.

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You’ve got a great website. It converts visitors to buyers better than any of your competitors. And you’ve done your SEO work as well. Your landing pages rank well in the SERPs (search engine results pages). If you could improve your click-through rates (CTR) for your highest converting keywords, you could significantly boost your profit. Here is some serious data about click-through rates and what you can do with it.

Slingshot SEO, an Inc. 500 fastest-growing company, conducted an in-depth study to determine the average CTR you can expect for listings in positions one through 10 of the SERPs in both Google and Bing. CTR is the rate at which folks are likely to click through from a listing in the SERPs to the website it links to. CTR is calculated by dividing the number of visits to a website by the number of searches for a specific keyword:

EXACT CTR = (# of visits) / (# of searches)

In our study, the number of visits was obtained from Google Analytics. The number of Google searches was obtained from the Google Adwords Keyword Tool. The number of Bing searches was obtained from the Bing Advertising Intelligence Tool. We’ll just cover the keyword CTR work here today, but you can read and download A Tale of Two Studies, the full white paper report on keywords and key phrases (long tail) results, at Slingshot SEO CTR Study.

To generate an accurate model, Slingshot SEO analyzed the user behavior of more than 170,000 visitors across 624 non-branded keywords. Of those, 324 were used in the Google study and 300 in the Bing study. The sample set came from a databank of more than 10,000 keywords and were chosen based on the strict criteria of a stable ranking period. The keywords were derived from Slingshot’s group of over 200 major retailers and enterprise clients. The Google and Bing studies shared 108 keywords in common and utilized 91 of the same clients.

Below is a chart showing just how much you can expect, on average, to increase CTR and, therefore, increase traffic to your website when you improve your SERP ranking on page of either Google or Bing.

Slingshot SEO CTR curve

The chart above clearly shows that Google will get you a higher CTR and more clicks to your website than Bing. This is not the same as saying you’ll get more conversions from Google per click or even more conversions from Google than from Bing. It just means you are likely to get more clicks, aka traffic to your website, if you rank in comparable positions in both Google and Bing. As a matter of fact, if you rank No. 7 in Bing, you could rank No. 8, 9 or even 10 in Google and still get more traffic to your website from that Google listing than from your No. 7 Bing listing.

Here’s a chart comparing the relative click-through rates of Google and Bing as charted out above:

Google Bing CTR comparison

So, here are our 5 hot tips based on the study results:

Tip 1: Appease the Google Algorithm. Put your efforts into ranking better in Google. For the moment, it will bring you more bang for your buck.

Tip 2: Higher Rankings = Higher CTR. Relative CTRs across each position in the SERPs reveal the importance of optimizing pages and spending resources on SEO. With an average CTR of 18.20 percent for position 1 and 1.04 percent for position 10, this staggering difference shows that a change in rank from No. 10 to No. 1 will generate approximately 1,650 percent more traffic—and, of course, associated sales.

Tip 3: Don’t Ignore the Snippets! Snippets are the descriptive words you can read just below the SERP result title. Google representatives report 55 percent of snippets dissuade us from clicking through! If you’re planning to spend money and effort to rank well, don’t waste those funds and efforts by falling short in this area. Spend some time writing superb, eye-catching, engaging and compelling snippets so when I see your listing, I will want to click through to your website to see what’s there.

Tip 4Compare Your CTR to the Average CTR. You can better understand whether that clever description you wrote (see above) is showing up as really clever, after all, by knowing the average CTR and comparing it to your personal CTR for the same position. For Google SERPs, the study showed a CTR for the No. 1 position of 18.20 percent and 10.05 percent for a No. 2. For Bing SERPs, the Slingshot SEO team recorded a 9.66 percent CTR for the No. 1 position and 5.51 percent for No. 2. If your CTRs for rankings in similar positions are running better than those CTR numbers, you’ve beaten the average. If you’re CTRs are less, you might want to try some testing with your description tags!

Tip 5: Avoid Myopia. Rank is not everything. It is important to implement a holistic SEO campaign incorporating effective continuously fresh content generation, link-graph optimization, site architecture, social push and strategy (CLASS—the methodology Slingshot SEO implements to achieve successful results for its clients.)

Last updated: Jan 25, 2012

EVAN FISHKIN | Columnist | Head of R & D at Slingshot SEO

Evan Fishkin is Head of R & D at Indianapolis-based Slingshot SEO, a national leader in online marketing, planning and execution. Evan is an avid gamer, marketing theory junky, and thought leader in the world of search marketing, marketing game mechanics, and gaming communities.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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