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Oh, it’s a hard life at the top!

You’ve gotten your client from obscurity to page one for their most important terms. If they are in the coveted number one spot, you’ve explained to them that search engine optimisation is not a race with a finish line. You must continue the good work to maintain the position they are currently enjoying.

As a professional search engine marketer, you know that position in the SERPs (search engine results pages) is not the sole measure of success. Understanding and improving on share of voice, for a particular term can have a tangible increase in organic search visits. Let’s have a look at four different ways to increase clicks on organic search listings...

1. Optimise your meta- description for increased “clickability”

A page’ meta-description is not a ranking factor, but it does describe what a page is about, to the search engines. In many cases and particularly with Google SERP listings, the meta-description appears here:

To optimise your meta-description, remember the character length is a limit and not a target. Short and snappy can work as well (or better) than the full 152 characters. You don’t have to front-load your keywords in your meta-description, though it is a good idea to ensure your lead keyword for the page is included. The objective is to make the description readable and impactful.

Make sure the description ‘sells’ the page to a searcher by incorporating a U.S.P. (unique selling point). First check out the competition, then, think about how your meta-description can set your client listing apart.

Finally; and perhaps most importantly, ensure your description remains relevant. There will be no advantage to jazzing up your meta-description so that the content over-promises on what is available on the page.


Measuring: Although never an exact science as there are too many variables outside of our control (such as total term- volume demand, and search(er) motivation), you can use Google Keyword tool to identify exact match local volume of searches on your keyword, and then look at the number of Google organic search visits recorded in Google Analytics for that same keyword; which when expressed as a percentage, can be roughly considered your “share of voice”.

Repeat this exercise for the month following the meta-description change. (Note: If you have more than one listing on a term in the same SERP, rule this secondary listing out of the “share of voice” calculation, by subtracting visits to that landing page entry point.)


Make sure you monitor bounce rate from organic search visits on this term. If bounce rate increases significantly, it could be that your new meta-description is not as relevant to the page or the user intent.

2. Use Google’s Rich Snippets to add depth and interest to a listing


Google uses the term “snippet” to describe the content that they take from your web page, to create the organic listing.

Most often we see the meta-description is used to inform a standard snippet, but there are options available to increase the amount and depth of content used in your listing, using Microformats and RDFa. Google call the presentation of such structured formats “Rich Snippets”.

Rich Snippet: Compare the second listing and note the star rating and "12 reviews"

To date, there are four types of rich snippet that can be incorporated by Google and these are reviews, people, businesses and events.

To surface this rich data, you will need to add markup formats (Microformats and RDFa) to the relevant data, and this can normally be done by adding to existing data, rather than re-writing.

Although tangible clickthrough uplifts are not known, Google do tell us that following tests prior to full roll-out,  that if users “see useful and relevant information from the page, they are more likely to click through.” (From the Webmaster Central Blog.)

You can find out more about Rich Snippets, including the full documentation, which includes support for both Microformats and RDFa, as well as information about each of the currently supported types of Rich Snippets.

3. Yahoo! SearchMonkey

Yahoo! SearchMonkey is an absolute gift for any website that ranks well on Yahoo! for any high-demand/commercial terms. SearchMonkey is the Yahoo! Search open developer platform, which, like Rich Snippets; uses structured formats to allow site owners to create a more enhanced listing. 

However, taking things a step further than Rich Snippets the enhanced SearchMonkey listing can incorporate images, reviews, location, price data and more. In fact developers can use web services APIs to create a completely customised search application, utilising far more content than Google currently surface, though these customised applications require the user to add these in their search preferences. You can browse all of the available open developer search add-ons here.

Already enabled SearchMonkey Apps are Product, Local, Person, Events, News and Discussion. All of these will appear by default for users without any preferences having to be set.

Search Monkey - Product: Enhanced listing showing reviews, rating and price

Search Monkey - Local: Enhanced listing showing reviews, rating and local information

4. Brand reinforcement using universal/blended search options.


By “brand reinforcement” I’m referring to the uplift effect on organic search clickthrough, thought to be obtained due to the additional credibility afforded a listing, when a brand appears more than once in a SERP.

Most studies and references to brand reinforcement to date; focus on increase to organic clickthrough when bidding on the same keywords in Adwords.

You can try this yourself quite easily and cost-effectively by looking at the volume of search visits on your brand terms during month one (without any paid search) then running brand term advertising in month two. (You should really be in position one as a minimum for your brand term organically – and in that same position for the months of test).

Just ensure your client is not running any other brand campaigns in other media that they would not normally (such as display, billboard, T.V. etc).

Such increases in organic clickthrough due to brand reinforcement exercises are thought to be attributable to;

  • increased chance of click, due to increased number of listings
  • credibility and authority (searchers trust Google)
  • increased share of the SERP real estate

Ensuring you take advantage of Adwords, Local, News, and Base (shopping feeds for e-commerce sites); plus create and promote rich-media content and your social media presence (for video, image and realtime content) there is even greater opportunity to dominate an entire SERP, increase share of voice and thus reinforce brand authority and credibility – which all leads to clicks.

As realtime and universal/blended search results seem set to take more of the SERP more often in future; off-site content and listing optimisation should move higher up the agenda in 2010.

Combined with the simple on-site optimisation options available (meta-description, Rich Snippets and SearchMonkey) there are a number of ways to increase organic traffic for your client, even when you have maxed out on position!

Nichola Stott

Published 31 March, 2010 by Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott is director and co-Founder of theMediaFlow and a contributor to Econsultancy. Find Nichola on LinkedIn or follow her on Twitter

3 more posts from this author

Comments (23)

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Jaamit Durrani

Jaamit Durrani, SEO Director at OMD UK

An excellent post Nichola, and welcome to the Econsultancy guest blogging family ;)

I had no idea about Searchmonkey rich snippets! thanks for that tip!  I wonder what will happen to this with the imminent Binghoo! merger of search results? I hope they keep it, this might just make me think more about Yahoo results...

The rest are a timely reminder to remember SERP clickthroughs and not just rankings.  BTW I've definitely heard anecdotal evidence of rich snippets dramatically increasing clickthroughs (I mean through the roof kinds of increase) - so if you can, do it.

over 6 years ago

Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott, Director at theMediaFlow

Thanks Jaamit. I'm told Yahoo! will be retaining front-end innovations such as Search Monkey, and yes I've also heard of anecdotal, significant increases on CTR from both Google and Yahoo! structured formats integrations in he SERPS. Both search engines state that there is "an increase", however obviously so many other factors are at play and that data is proprietary, so of course it is difficult to get such data from source - but such statements are never given lightly.

over 6 years ago

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David Goldie

Nicola,

Great post. Amazing how often people neglect these areas.

over 6 years ago

Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott, Director at theMediaFlow

Thanks David. I agree, with you. It's really important not to lose sight of why we're practising SEO. Thejourney to the top is only part of the process!

over 6 years ago

Angus Jenkins

Angus Jenkins, Ecommerce Consultant at Personal

Nicola - a quick thanks. Concise, practical info - just what one's looking for when reading Econsultancy whilst munching a lunchtime sandwich. Rich Snippets and Search Monkey completely new to me.

over 6 years ago

Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott, Director at theMediaFlow

Thanks Angus. I'm pleased I could impart something novel. Hope I can keep up the lunchtime reading tone! ;-)

over 6 years ago

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Julie Joyce

Excellent points, just what I'd expect from you... I like your overall point here: a good ranking is not going to mean a thing unless you can back it up.

over 6 years ago

Tatiana Likhacheva

Tatiana Likhacheva, SEO Account Manager at Greenlight

Great post, getting the in-depth info on what can be done and how we can implement. Would love to see the follow up post with info on the Bing reach snippets? any chance of a nudge towards info source for that? 

over 6 years ago

Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott, Director at theMediaFlow

@Julie - why thank you! @Tatiana - to my knowledge Bing does not yet incorporate structured formats in their organic listings. There are a number of front-end innovations and rich media integrations planned, but to my knowledge a lot of these involve third party data partnerships, such as the existing partnership with FlightStats and a planned partnership with Sky, to incorporate realtime sports data. More on that here: http://www.stateofsearch.com/bing-in-2010/ I am going to check this with a Microsoft spokesperson just in case; but in the meantime here's a link to the SEO toolkit: http://www.bing.com/toolbox/webmasters/

over 6 years ago

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Katie Nolan

Fantastic post, getting the in-depth info on what can be done and how we can implement.

over 6 years ago

Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott, Director at theMediaFlow

Thanks Katie. This is my first post for Econsultancy and I am really overwhelmed by the postive feedback and how many people have told me here and on twitter how useful they have found this and that they are going to make positive changes. It's what it is all about!

over 6 years ago

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@stuartflatt

Great post, again although I am aware of googles snippets I had not heard of the yahoo equivalent.

Something I will be researching over the coming weeks.

Thanks :)

over 6 years ago

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Adam Gardner

Awesome Nichola, thanks again. Forever simplifying the minefield that is SEO. Much appreciated.

over 6 years ago

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Tari Donohue

One excellent way to add text for searchability to your page is to caption any videos or rich media on your site. The captions become page text and are therefore searchable and make a sound increase in page rankings, as our clients have discovered.

Captions are easy to obtain and easy to insert in a variety of media formats.

automaticsync.com

over 6 years ago

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Joseph

Have you seen any examples of the "Business / Organization" rich snippets in the wild yet?  Google gives instructions for the format, but my cursory searching doesn't come up with any examples in action in their documentation pages or elsewhere.  I'm curious to see how they are treated.

over 6 years ago

Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott, Director at theMediaFlow

@Joseph - curiously enough no I haven't as of yet. When researching this post I was hoping to come across some examples and like you did some cursory research but haven't turned anything up as of yet. I will put out a shout on Twitter just in case. Fingers crossed!

over 6 years ago

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Ritz

Hi Nicola, Just saw your tweet so thought I'd respond there and here, if you do a movie search (doesnt matter which one) I believe that IMDB comes up with rich snippets, i.e http://bit.ly/a32Qr1 you can try with a couple of different movies I tried a few and they came up with it every time. I have also seen others, but for the life of me I can't seem to remember what they were :)

over 6 years ago

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popculturemaiden

Hey there! Just wanted to say that this is one well written article! Thanks for posting this. I was looking for a site that has this kind of info and I'm glad I stumbled upon this one. Gotta love the affiliate marketing business :D Keep up the great articles. ------ http://www.themarketingthief.com/jv465103.php

over 6 years ago

James Gurd

James Gurd, Owner at Digital JugglerSmall Business Multi-user

Hi Nichola,

Welcome to the guest blogging circle and thanks for an informative first post. Like others I'd not come across the Yahoo Searchmonkey rich snippets so will be taking a close look. 

Thanks for the links in your replies - it's interesting that the more you learn about SEO, the more you realise there is to learn. 

In your experience, who is using rich snippets effectively? I've seen plenty of results with customer reviews, especially on aggregator/comparison sites but I've not come across usage of other rich snippets.

Thanks

james

over 6 years ago

Nichola Stott

Nichola Stott, Director at theMediaFlow

@James,

Thanks for the warm welcome!

I personally think that any site using structured formats for such rich data, with a view to surfacing that in a SERP is using this opportunity effectively. I am surprised that we don't see this more often than we do though.

One thing that could be interesting to consider, is that now that some CTR data is appearing in WMC it should possible to make some inferences as to CTR improvements once microformats are showing.

over 6 years ago

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Matt Kettlewell

Thanks for the Google keyword search tool tip, good idea!

about 6 years ago

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Brett Widmann

This is really helpful! Thanks for sharing.

over 5 years ago

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Debmalya Datta

This is very strange, the guide given for meta description of 150 characters is not followed by this page itself. I remember watching a video presentation by Matt saying that meta description has no effect on keyword ranking.

over 3 years ago

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