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With a playing field increasingly dominated with paid search advertising and local SEO boosted listings, the search engine results pages (SERPS) are becoming a meaner territory for more traditional organic links.
Of course one of the key ways to increase your chances of ranking above the competition is through a comprehensive SEO strategy.
However, just because your webpage has clawed its way closer to the all important first SERP, through a focused and technically proficient adhering to good SEO standards, it doesn’t necessarily mean that searchers are going to click on your link in mighty droves.
Thankfully there are ways and means of making your result stand out from the rest. All it takes is the smallest of visual discrepancies to catch the browsing eye and hopefully increase the click-through-rate (CTR) of your listing.
It’s important to talk about this first, as it’s the most recent and tender of subjects.
For a while we’ve been enjoying an increased CTR thanks to our happy little trustworthy (relatively speaking) faces appearing on content that we’ve personally written.
Although there is no evidence to suggest that authorship helped your result rank higher, it certainly created a more appealing listing that stood out from the other purely text based results.
All you needed was a Google+ profile, a recognisable headshot and that your name matched the byline on the article.
However there have been some major changes to authorship recently (as you can tell by my use of the past tense above). In a bid to declutter the SERPs and make more room for results, Google has removed Google+ photos from SERPs.
In the linked article above there are plenty of arguments for and against the decision, many people think it’s a cynical attempt to drive more traffic to paid ads by making organic results less appealing. It also seems many people will abandon authorship as a result.
However, Google Authorship still exists. It’s just the photos and Google+ circle information that have been removed. Your name is still associated with your article, and therefore that search term, plus it clicks through to your Google+ page.
The original benefit of authorship still exists: to establish authority tied to your identity, so it would be wise not to abandon it.
Pages with Schema markup rank four positions higher in search results than pages without.
Schema markup gives webmasters all kinds of options to make their site’s listing on a SERP look all snazzy and relevant to your business or service.
It’s the difference between this…
Schema is basically a type of ‘rich snippet’, a HTML markup that adds extra detail to the text underneath the URL in a search result.
As you can see from above, if you’ve searched for ‘tiramisu recipe’ you are far more likely to click on the result that includes an image, a starred rating, a calorie count and various other bits of information that a webmaster can provide to make a result look more appealing.
Rich snippets are a way for you to tell search engines directly who you are, what you do and and to give precise information as to the product, service or content you’re providing.
For more detail on how to implement Schema mark up, read What is Schema markup and why should you be using it.
The title tag is vitally important not just for rankings but also to appeal to human readers. It forms the text you see in the blue link of a search result.
Keep them as concise as possible, sticking to a 45 - 55 character rule. Google tends to truncate titles over 65 characters long.
Make your titles accurate, informative and eye-catching for a a good balance.
Also try to include keywords at the beginning of your title, not just to catch your reader’s attention, but also because search engines tend to give keywords at the beginning of a headline the most attention.
The meta description is the snippet of descriptive text that appears beneath the URL in SERPs and also when sharing the link on social media channels such as Facebook.
This is what searchers will read and their decision to click-through to your site will largely be determined by how relevant and readable this description us. You want this to be less than 150 characters long, with your keywords as near to the front as possible, but still make sense as a readable sentence.
Search engines will not raise you higher in the rankings because of the quality of the excerpt, but it will increase the likelihood that someone will click-through to your article based on how interesting, relevant or entertaining the excerpt is.
Image search is an important driver of traffic, but often images themselves are not optimised to their fullest potential.
Use brief but descriptive file names for your images, rather than ‘image0057’.
Always fill in the ‘Alt’ attribute. Search engines can’t see your images, but they can read the ‘Alt’ text. It’s important to describe your image as accurately as possible as this may not only improve your ranking in image search but also improve the accessibility for those using ‘image reader’ software.
You need to complete the Title, Alt Tags and Description fields when uploading an image for full optimisation. This for instance is bad practice:
Your URL can also be tweaked to be more appealing to human readers and search engines alike.
Use descriptive keywords and make sure you use hyphens to separate each word to ensure legibility and avoid a meaningless mixture of symbols and numbers.
Here’s one of our own examples:
Even though it’s a URL it’s still legible as a sentence.
And hey, if you want to know more about SEO, click on the link above. Subtle, huh?