The entire point for businesses to have a good SEO strategy in place is to try and rank higher in SERPs to get more clicks on the intended web pages or in other words to increase their Click Through Rate (CTR). It has been observed though that an increasing number of Google searches are getting no clicks at all.
One of the most recent surveys done by SimilarWeb and assembled & published by SparkToro points to the fact that between January and December 2020, 64.82 percent of Google searches (desktop/laptop and mobile combined, excluding voice searches) finished at the search results page without a click to another website.
SparkToro had also published a similar study from now-defunct clickstream data provider, JumpShot, in 2019 and the percentage then was 50.33.
What is interesting here is that while the data mentioned above may be directionally true, the actual percentage of zero-click results may turn out to be much higher if all the voice -searches were also taken into account.
So, what does it mean to various businesses? Should it be alarming to them?
It is commonly believed that this sharp increase in zero-click results may not augur well for businesses as it decreases the footfalls on their webpages. It has already had a lot of businesses raising their eyebrows and yet considering the complexity of the search ecosystem, it can have several advantages as well. This holds true for both businesses and the searchers alike.
However, we will not get into the fairness or unfairness of it all. Instead, we will explore the possible reasons behind the increase in zero-click results and some of the hacks to optimize the CTR despite the limitations. Moreover, there is no denying the fact that Google search volumes have increased exponentially and so have the number of clicks.
According to a WordStream study, a 2x increase in CTR will increase your conversion rate by 50%.
Let us first look at some of the possible reasons behind searches with no clicks:
1. Featured Snippets:
Featured snippets are special boxes that appear on SERPs where Google answers a query by featuring descriptive content straight from the relevant webpage. They appear in what they call ‘position zero’, which is right below the ads and sponsored listings. Let us look at the following:
Here Google has pulled the snippet that answers the user’s query from Microsoft’s support page. The users do not need to click on the result to view the answer. Now try searching for your city’s weather and see what happens.
2. Mismatch Between Search Results and the Intent/Purpose:
Oftentimes, people do not know how to word their queries to get the intended result. Has this happened to you? Most likely, I guess.
An example of such a search is “Java”. If the results return details of Java Island or Java programming language against the actual intent of Java coffee, then the user will have to initiate another search. In this case, the first search resulted in zero-clicks.
At times, we do have to initiate fresh searches several times before we get the desired result.
3. Blurring of Lines Between How Paid and Organic Search Listings Appear:
Usually for the searches involving keywords with high commercial intent (where a user is looking to buy a product or service), the paid search listings appear in such a way that the users are often unable to differentiate them from the organic listings. In fact, paid ads do not really look like paid ads. Hence, searchers end up clicking on the paid listings while organic listings remain unclicked.
So, what can we possibly do to ensure that people still click our web pages in SERPs? Increasing organic Click Through Rate (CTR) can help in many ways. In fact, it may even lead to higher rankings as Google may decide to rank the pages with high CTR higher than that of others. Even if it does not significantly help in your SEO exercise, you do want to improve your CTR, don’t you?
Let us discuss some of the methods that can work to increase your CTR for your article titles:
1. Use Google Search Console to Analyse the Traffic:
The tools and data in the Google Search Console enables you track your site’s search traffic and performance, identify problems, and improve your site’s visibility in Google search results.
You can use the performance report (Search) to find out the pages that have the lowest click-through rate from Google search results and also the queries that are bringing the average CTR down. Next step would be to list the most important of these keywords or search queries and tweak the meta title, meta tags, meta description accordingly.
2. Meaningful, Readable and Descriptive URLs:
Microsoft has demonstrated that descriptive URLs outperform generic URLs by 25%. Hence, your SEO team needs to replace all the random URL names with meaningful ones indicating what the page is all about. Try and use the main keyword in your URLs. Let us consider the following URLs to illustrate this:
http://www.example.com/yellow-dress.html (meaningful and readable) http://www.example.com/index.php?id_sezione=203&aid=2a5cbf41daa6f849 (random, system generated)
http://www.example.com/yellowdress.html (comparatively less readable than the first one)
3. Refine Your Titles and Headlines:
In SERPs title tags grab the reader’s attention first and hence, there should be a conscious effort to choose one that works. Also, headlines should be carefully crafted highlighting the purpose and value being presented in the article promoting the Call-to-Action (CTA).
Here are a few things you can keep in mind while framing them:
- Usually, heavy title tags should be avoided. Experts say that the title tags that have 15-40 characters tend to have higher CTRs. So, a 30-40 words title tag with the main keyword embedded in it should do the job.
- We all have used google to find the answer to our daily-life related problem or some complex situation. If the article presents a solution or method to a problem, then a “how to” title has a greater chance of getting clicked.
Here are some examples of “how to” titles for your understanding:
- How to grow hair faster naturally?
- How to answer tough nursing interview questions?
- How to contact Washington state unemployment?
- How to soundproof a room from outside noise?
- How to cut down costs while living in a new city?
- Write the main keyword in the beginning of the title as it gives clear indication to both search engine as well reader about article’s theme but avoid keyword stuffing as it makes it unappealing to the readers.
- Titles backed with data gain the reader’s trust and invokes CTA. Check out some of these data backed titles:
- The 5 Best Scientifically Proven Ways to Lose Belly Fat after Pregnancy.
- 5 Best Psychological Proven Techniques to Increase your E-Commerce sales in 2021.
- 7 Metrics to Assist You Make Wise Decisions about Your Start-Up.
- 8 Science-Backed Tips Guaranteed to Increase your Compound Lifts in Gym.
- 7 Buddhist Monks Approved Ways to Increase your Daily Happiness.
- Adding a number to imply a numbered list in your titles and headlines can be a great click trick. For example: 5 ways to keep your immunity strong.
- Outbrain and HubSpot had conducted a study on writing great headlines, and they found that presence of parentheses or brackets could increase the click rates by 33%. For example, consider the following headline: 5 ways to keep your immunity strong (with a free diet chart).
- Use the current calendar year wherever possible. For example: 7 digital marketing trends to remain in vogue in 2021.
- Include words that can evoke emotions like fabulous, instant, swashbuckling, essential, and compelling etc.
4. Optimize Meta Tags or Meta Descriptions:
While the title tags can build your first impression, meta descriptions determine whether the pages are interesting enough to be clicked.
Concise and to the point description using powerful words like “immediate” or “fast” can get people curious enough to give your page a click. You may refer to the following image in order to figure out what URLs, title tags and meta tags imply.
5. Plan Your Content Keeping Featured Snippets in Mind:
While on one hand businesses fear that featured snippets can take away their clicks, on the other hand there is no denying the fact that appearing there is a privilege and builds a web property’s credibility. This may actually bring them more clicks over a longer period of time.
Hence, it would help if your content team studied various featured snippets appearing on Google and then planned and structured their content based on that. This would improve the likelihood of your content featuring there.
There is no thumb rule for producing contents specifically designed to suit Google algorithm of picking some as featured snippets; but one can surely increase the chances by answering the search query with best possible content.
Most of the snippets seen in SERPs are either in form of a paragraph, a list, or a table so it is advisable to provide the relevant information in either of these formats. The example mentioned above in this article has a paragraph from. Below is an example of a list snippet:
Here is an example of a tabular one:
There can be other forms like a video or a calculator as well.
According to the HubSpot study, when the results appeared as highlighted snippets, the CTR for their high-volume keywords jumped by over 114% (around 5000 sample queries).
6. Ensure a Fast Page Load Time:
It is very important to make your web pages fast to load on all devices (desktops, laptops, and mobile devices). Slower page load time may result in searchers abandoning their clicks.
If the pages do not load due to slowness, then that is a loss as well because a click will only be counted when the searchers actually visit your web page.
Google PageSpeed Insights can help you a great deal in analyzing the content of a web page, and then generating suggestions to make that page faster.
7. Use A/B Testing for Headlines:
A/B testing is a method of comparing the effectiveness of two different versions of a headline, Facebook ad, or images by presenting them to different sets of an audience to gauge which performs better. It is hardly possible to get everything right in the first go and hence, A/B testing can help you choose better.
Experiment with multiple versions of headlines targeting different keywords and keep a track of the ones that perform well in google ranking and has higher CTR over others.
Since A/B testing helps you to mould your content according to your audience’s liking, it can have benefits like better content engagement, lower bounce rates and better conversion rates.
8. Do Not Forget to Optimize the Web Pages for All Types of Devices:
This gets overlooked often. Considering the exponential increase in searches through mobile devices like mobile phones, tablets etc., it is important that your web pages are optimized to adjust while opening on all types of devices whether they are desktops, laptops, mobiles, or tablets. This will ensure top class user experience for all sorts of device owners, and they will feel at ease while clicking at your web pages.
Applying the above tricks and hacks in optimizing the content of your web pages will certainly help you in obtaining more clicks in SERPs and hence, will increase your organic click through rate (CTR).