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!