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Case Study | Aug 10
Jessica Greene on October 23, 2019 (last modified on October 24, 2019) • 25 minute read
And with no-click searches on the rise, finding new ways to improve your organic click-through rate (CTR) is crucial.
To make it easier for you to find new ways to increase your ratio of impressions to clicks, we asked 134 marketers to share their best tips for improving organic CTR.
Here’s what we learned.
Table of Contents:
First, we wanted to define a range for a “good” organic CTR. According to nearly half of our respondents, their average click-through rates range between 3-5%. A good average CTR, then, could be anything at the high end of that spectrum or more (i.e. 5%+).
But John Reinesch of Beacon Digital Marketing says that you don’t have to rely on benchmarks to determine what a good CTR is for your website and recommends the following process:
“We pull in our query data from Google Search Console, and with that data, we calculate our average CTR at each of the top 10 positions that we rank in. This gives us our own CTR curve so that we don’t have to use industry benchmarks but can use our own data for more accurate results.”
“Once we have this benchmark CTR by position, we compare each of the keywords we rank for to that benchmark. This gives us data that we can then filter down to only keywords with a below-average CTR.”
“The next step is to sort the data by impressions so we can see the keywords that we rank for that have the highest volume but below-average CTRs This helps us easily prioritize title tag and meta description rewrites and allows us to get the most impact from this effort by using data to determine where the opportunity is.”
To find your organic CTR, Nathan Veenstra of Letterzaken says to “open Google Search Console, go to ‘Performance,’ and activate ‘Average CTR’ and ‘Average position’ by clicking the blocks. You then have an overview of your CTRs in relation to your positions.”
Veenstra continues: “Decide on what CTR range is acceptable for each position based on benchmarks or your own research. Find the CTRs that are underachieving, and check if the page titles and meta descriptions are appealing enough to click.”
“See if you can optimize them, and if you do, keep a file with current positions and CTRs to check regularly for improvement. You can download a CSV file of your data from your GSC, so use that as your benchmark to see if you improve your CTRs,” Veenstra says.
Editor’s note: Another easy way to find your organic CTRs is to grab this free Google Search Console Basics dashboard that shows you your click-through rates for the different pages of your website and the different keywords your site ranks for.
“I check my keywords in Google Search Console and filter by those that have the highest positions but lowest CTRs,” says Faizan Ali of WPBeginner.
Another option, recommended by Joshua Daniels of Go Amplify, is to “identify pages with high impressions but low click-through rates.”
“If the clicks and click-through rates for any pages are low, search for your keywords and check out your competitors’ SEO titles and meta descriptions,” says Josh Barney of Einstein Marketer.
According to our respondents, there are six main factors that impact your organic CTR:
Below, you’ll find more information about each of these six factors, as well as our respondents’ tips for how to optimize each factor for the best organic CTR.
If your CTR is low, the most important thing to do, according to Stefan Cordova of FriendWithA, is to “make sure your content is relevant to what individuals are searching for. Relevancy is the number-one thing you can do to improve your organic click-through rate.”
“For example,” says Tonya Davis of ThoughtLab, “if someone were to search ‘yoga pants,’ they could be looking for reviews of yoga pants or to buy yoga pants. If you understand the search intent behind the query, you can optimize your result to match it.”
“Say we uncover that searchers using this query are looking for reviews. A good title tag, then, might be ‘10 Best Yoga Pants for 2019,’” Davis says.
“If people search Google, find your site, and see that your title or meta description is not related to their needs, they are not going to click it,” says Jasz Joseph of SyncShow. “Many keywords have numerous meanings or intents behind them. See what type of sites are currently ranking. Ask yourself: does your site fit?”
“31.7% of all clicks go to position one,” says Viola Eva of Flow SEO, “so your best trick to improve CTR is actually to improve your rankings.”
Lots of other respondents agree.
“Your website needs to be ranking high in the SERPs to capture the most clicks,” says Tom Anders of Reload Media. “To achieve this, you can use Google Search Console to find the keywords that are already driving traffic to your site. Then, optimize your site for these keywords to capture people’s clicks.”
“Pages in position one should expect to see 35% CTRs, but this quickly drops off as the position decreases,” says James Johnson of Forward Linking. “Therefore, you should prioritize ranking your pages which are currently in positions 2-5 for their target phrases to see the largest increases in average site CTR.”
A third option: “One often-overlooked factor that improves position in search results is website speed,” says Jim Stablein of Mediafluent. “We recently optimized a client’s site for speed. Afterward, the home page listing leapfrogged three other listings to the number-one position on Google and Bing.”
And Pradeep Singh of WPism offers a final suggestion: “Adding structured data can help search engines better understand your content and could lead to better rankings.”
“To improve organic CTR, you want to come up with catchy, creative, and mysterious SEO titles,” says Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers. “This is the first thing people will read in the search results.”
Azuga’s Garret Seevers agrees: “Your page title influences whether or not a searcher is going to click on your link. Ensure that your title tag is not truncated.”
Lots of other respondents also offered lots of additional tips for optimizing your SEO title for clicks.
“We used to have short titles (ex: Vendor-Item Name), but we found that more people click our results if we expand the titles,” says Kuri Khailo of Best Price Nutrition. “Now, we write titles like ‘VPX – Bang Energy | Best Energy Drink.’ You want to be as descriptive as possible so people are interested!”
“My number-one tip is to make use of power words in your titles,” says Joe Flanagan of Tacuna Systems. “Words like ‘amazing,’ ‘powerful,’ ‘unbelievable,’ and ‘tremendous’ are all passively persuasive and convincing. This is a proven way to get readers interested.”
Jonathan Gorham of Engine Scout agrees: “Power words are emotionally charged terms that make your page stand out from other results in Google and, as a result, boost your click-through rate. So try to include at least one power word in your page title.”
“For example, let’s say your page title is ‘22 Wedding Gift Ideas for the Summer Season.’ Add the power word ‘Unique’ to make the title stand out: ‘22 Unique Wedding Gift Ideas for the Summer Season.’”
“There are literally hundreds of power words you can use, and a simple Google search for the term ‘power words’ will bring them up,” Gorham says.
“Curiosity drives the most clicks,” says Matt Diggity of Diggity Marketing. “Titles that begin with ‘How to’ stand out in search results. Continue the suspense in the meta description with phrases like ‘find out’ or ‘learn EXACTLY,’ and your CTR will soar.”
“Depending on the kind of industry you’re targeting, I’ve found that keeping up with trends, new releases, current topics, etc. and making content surrounding such things significantly increases ranking and click-through rates,” says Jennifer Neylon of Supplement Warehouse.
“Improve your title tags and add a call to action such as ‘click here,’ and you will increase your CTR,” says Cormac Reynolds of VelSEOity.
Jonathan Alonso of CNC Machines agrees: “Embedding a CTA within your title tag can help increase your CTR’s by 20%. We tested this on our platform and found it to work well.”
“Including a call-to-action in your title not only helps you stand out from competitors, but it also tells prospects what you want them to do, like request a free estimate or call now,” says Alvin King of Pequea Valley Exteriors.
“Many decisions are motivated by feelings, so it’s important to add an emotional feel to titles,” says Andrew Ruditser of Maxburst.
“By utilizing emotional triggers like fear, optimism, interest, anticipation, and so on, you instantly help your CTR,” says Deyan Drazov of VIP Games.
“This, of course, requires enough data points to understand who it is you’re trying to speak to,” says Alexander Porter of Search It Local. “But once you’ve got this, start to break down their likes and dislikes, their hopes and fears, their motivations and mannerisms.”
“Feed these into your page titles to place a hook in the subconscious of your prospects and draw them in. Avoid buzzwords and industry jargon. Instead, focus on powerful emotional triggers.”
“Remember, people are more motivated to move away from pain than they are to move towards pleasure, so use what little characters you have to paint a picture of a better business, a better process, a better life, and you’ll see an improvement in your organic CTR,” Porter says.
“The most recent research shows that titles with long-tail questions have among the highest click-through rates,” says Steve Yanor of Sky Alphabet Social Media. “So if you have the choice between calling your page ‘best Kelowna plumber’ or ‘who is the best plumber in Kelowna?’ I would go with the latter.”
“This will also position you well for voice search which is a growing and important source of traffic,” Yanor says.
McCall Robison of Best Company agrees: “Ask a question in your title tag. We’ve heard this from SEO experts, but we’ve also tested it ourselves. We run hundreds of CTR tests each quarter, and one of the findings was that title tags with questions do better than ones that don’t—at least the majority of the time.”
“For example: ‘Home Warranty Reviews: Which Ones are Scams?’ Asking a question like that draws the user in, especially if it is a question they would regularly ask regarding that topic.”
“Do keyword research and refer to resources like AnswerThePublic to find common questions people are asking in your industry. It will give you an insight into what will improve your organic CTR.”
“Update the ‘separator’ character between your site title and page titles,” says Jeremy Cross of Team Building Chicago. “The default on WordPress is a dash, for example: ‘Team Building Chicago – Example Page Title.’”
“Using a free tool like Yoast SEO, you can update the separator to something that stands out more, for example: ‘Team Building NYC » Example Page Title.’ Testing this, we’ve found substantial increases in CTR: ~2.5% to 5% or more.”
“Test new things,” says Salva Jovells of Hockerty. “If you have the margin to risk a little bit, you can try including special characters, such as ✔️.”
Alejandro Rioja of Flux Ventures recommends “using emojis. They are highly attention-grabbing and will push your CTR through the roof.”
“Title tags that include social proof tend to get clicked on more frequently because people tend to trust those search results more than those that do not include social proof,” says Jim Milan of Auto Accessories Garage. “An example of a title tag that includes social proof would be ‘Top 10 SEO Books Recommended by the Experts.’”
“The searcher sees that these are not just the 10 best SEO books in the publisher’s mind; these are also recommended by experts, and those experts are probably quoted in the article.”
“Including words and phrases like ‘2019 reviews,’ ‘recommended by the pros,’ and ‘industry-recommended’ are ways to convey that your article contains social proof.”
“Try to showcase your unique selling proposition (USP) to entice users to click through,” says Kevin Williams of SurgeStream.
“For example, if you have an ecommerce website and one of your most important advantages is your low pricing and free shipping, you should try having a title tag that is something along the lines of ‘Buy [Keyword] Here for Less | Free Shipping | Company Name’ or something similar.”
“However, it’s very important that the messaging you use in your title and description tags are accurate and not misleading. So using the above example, don’t mislead users if your pricing is higher than your competitors or you don’t offer free shipping.”
“Headlines that contain numbers and dates are normally more attractive than normal headlines,” says Kamran Ullah of Sacred Accounting.
Maggie Simmons of Max Effect Marketing agrees and says to “put the current year in both your title tag and meta description.”
And Zarar Ameen of CANZ Marketing notes that “odd numbers, in particular, multiply the impact.”
Robert Taylor of Advantix Digital recommends “including an eye-catching phrase in your meta title that utilizes positive sentiment; for example, ‘5 Killer SEO Tips that Work Great Right Now!’”
“We’ve had good success recently by using Unicode to make our title tags bold and stand out,” says Mitchell Kelly of Pathfinder Alliance. “Write your title tag in this tool to generate it in Unicode, then copy the Math sans bold version and paste it in as the title tag, and you’ll have an instant eye-catching title tag.”
Author’s note: I’ve seen different accounts as to whether this is effective or not. An article on Search Engine Roundtable says it works for Math sans bold Unicode. Another article said Unicode titles didn’t appear on many browsers. So if you plan to try this strategy, I’d recommend testing it thoroughly on a small scale first.
“There are numerous ways to improve your organic CTR to increase the traffic to your website, but one of the best tips I have found is to write custom, descriptive meta descriptions for each of your pages/posts,” says Colin Mosier of JSL Marketing & Web Design.
“If you don’t create a custom meta description, Google will automatically take a piece of your post and use it for the description. Often, these descriptions will not make a whole lot of sense and will not be the best description possible,” Mosier says.
James Robinson of Buffalo 7 agrees: “It’s an opportunity to include the keywords you’re hoping to rank for, and you can tell searchers what they should expect from clicking on your page. A well crafted meta-description will have a really positive impact on CTRs.”
“Your meta description is often the most overlooked component for maximizing CTR,” says Tommy Landry of Return On Now. “Use it to explain what visitors can expect on the page and tell them why to click your result instead of all of the others.”
“If you want a silver bullet for improving your organic CTR, get better at crafting meta descriptions. Your CTR will thank you for it,” Landry says.
“It is the first thing that users will see, so this short paragraph is basically your elevator pitch,” says Patricio Quiroz of Code Authority. “By writing a compelling meta description, you can increase your organic click-through rates significantly.”
Other respondents offered additional tips on how to write compelling meta descriptions.
“As marketing strategies and technologies evolve, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that some things never change—like human nature, for instance,” says Alexander Kesler of INFUSEmedia. “If you want to improve your organic CTR, show content that leaves people wanting more.”
“It might be as simple as a trivia question or a joke on a subject related to your ideal customer’s interests; as long as it entices the user to click to get the rest of the story, you’ll see your CTR spike. No AI required,” Kesler says.
“One of the hacks I personally use to improve organic CTR is by baiting people to click with a hanging meta description,” says Jeremy Ong of Hustlr. “For example, if someone was looking for ‘best podcast hosting,’ I would end the meta-description with ‘the best podcast hosting we’ve identified is…’”
“Emotionally, this sparks curiosity and makes people click on your SERP listing,” Ong says.
“Make sure you utilize targeted keywords in your meta descriptions,” says Dicky Phillips of Media Results. “Google will bold those keywords, which in return will draw users’ eyes to it.”
“Stop writing meta descriptions with keywords in mind and start writing them with the goal of enticing a user to click on your result,” says Sam Thomas of Embryo Digital. “Meta descriptions carry very little, if any, SEO benefit, so keyword cramming is pointless.”
“However, we do know that CTR impacts your organic rankings, so it’s important to work on improving it.”
“I always start by looking for celebrities or well-known companies associated with the business, and I like to mention them by name in the meta description,” says Heather Baker of TopLine Comms.
“For example, a video company I work with has filmed celebrities like Kim Kardashian, so mentioning that in the meta description really drove up the click-through rate.”
“It doesn’t need to be celebrities, though. You can also mention big companies like Facebook, Twitter, or Airbus. Depending on your industry, these names will entice people to click through.”
Another element that displays by default in your search result is its URL, and several respondents said optimizing your URL can also help your click-through rates.
“Your URL plays a role,” says Naveen Kumar of Mighty Themes. “It should contain the keyword you’re targeting and shouldn’t have superfluous elements like numbers, IDs, or special characters.”
Vishal Srivastava of HiveDesk agrees: “We have seen that including keywords in URLs has a significant impact on CTR.”
“You should create a semantic URL that’s related to the page content and topic,” says Muhammad Noman of Fan Jackets.
“My best tip is to have a visual search listing,” says Jeff Neal of The Critter Depot. “I love rich snippets and structured data and will add tables, reviews, and any other visuals to get noticed.”
Martin Schwarz of Coincierge agrees: “When we optimize for CTR, we usually have two high-level goals apart from the obvious compelling title and meta descriptions: we want to take up as much space in the SERPs as possible, and we want to catch the eyes of searchers as much as possible.”
The way they achieve these goals, Schwarz says, is through structured data implementation.
“The more virtual storefront we have, the longer users get to look at our results, which increases CTR—just like the longer you look at a shop window, the more likely you are to enter the shop. And the better we catch the eyes of the user, the more likely they are to click,” Schwarz says.
“At Wolfgang Digital, we believe that the impact of Schema markup to your CTR in the organic listings is massive,” says Kev Moore. “Correctly implemented, it can massively improve increase your CTR.”
“When users see our results in the SERPs, they see not only the review scores and prices of products but also images and product features,” says Robin Young of Fitness Savvy.
“We found that our products sometimes take up the entire screen on a mobile device, versus other results where you can easily see three or four results at the same time. Since properly implementing structured data, our click-through rate has improved,” Young says.
Here are several ways our respondents recommend for expanding the size and visual nature of your search results.
“Use aggregate ratings/reviews markup to get star ratings displayed next to your URLs in Google organic search,” says Adam Thompson of ReliaSite.
“Note that Google no longer shows self-serving star ratings, so if the ratings are of your own company or product, they won’t be shown. But if you sell products from multiple manufacturers, they’re a great option,” Thompson says.
“Adding reviews structured data has a fantastic impact on CTR,” says Ryan Klein of Market My Market.
“Having them can make a search result look eye-catching and provide a user with a certain level of trust to use your services,” says Matt Sellars of Converted.
“Recently, we’ve been seeing FAQPage schema markup used on pages, which produces rich results in the SERPs,” says Leonard Raleigh of Telapost SEO & Content Marketing.
“Much like a featured snippet, I’ve seen this go both ways. If people get the answer in the SERPs, you’re going to have a lower organic CTR. However, the list of FAQs in the SERPs often results in a higher organic CTR. This all depends on the search query and the answer,” Raleigh says.
It’s has a positive effect for Anne Allen of Nustart Solutions who says “FAQs showing up on the SERPs are really pushing up CTR.”
“One of our editors added recipe schema to a recipe that is ranking on SERPs mainly populated by other recipes,” says Kristin Anderson of Prime Publishing.
“The CTR went up by 14% month over month, and it now appears on the new recipe grid SERP feature. Of course, make sure your content is an accurate match for your structured data! If it’s not you could end up with a manual action,” Anderson says.
“Include a table of contents with jump links in your articles,” says Robbie Richards. “Google will place these links underneath your search result. This helps your article take up more space and stand out in the SERP.”
“Earning the featured snippet will drastically increase your organic CTR,” says Zack Bowlby of ROI Amplified. “Focusing on the questions your consumers are asking will help you achieve this.”
“With most Google search queries providing featured snippet results, I thank the way to move forward is to ensure the content ranks in position zero,” says Dileep Thekkethil of Stan Ventures.
“One simple tip to increase organic click-through rates is by using sitelinks,” says Casey Hill of Bonjoro. “Sitelinks allow people browsing to immediately jump to the most relevant result or page on your website, and this almost across the board increases your organic CTR.”
In addition to the tips for specific components of search result snippets shared above, our respondents also offered a variety of general best practices to follow to increase your organic click-through rates.
“In most cases, we’ve found that when a page has a low click-through rate, we update the title and meta to be less search-engine friendly and more user-friendly, and that does the trick,” says Jake Beiler of J&N Structures.
“The best tip to increase organic CTR is to always provide something of value,” says William Taylor of MintResume.
Hausera’s Wesley Ward agrees: “The best way to improve organic CTR is by appealing to your audience through an offer. This offer can be a discount code, a free product, or if you are an e-commerce site, free shipping, etc.”
“Be wary of length limits so your message does not get truncated in the search results,” says Andrew Burd of Web Talent Marketing.
“Keep your copy simple,” says Pulkit Gera of IMobsession. “Even people who are used to reading jargon and technical terms appreciate simple language.”
“Look at the SERP that you want to dominate,” says Kirsty Finlayson of Typeform. “It’s going to look pretty similar (even boring), so do something to surprise the user. Make your offer sound exciting and better than the rest—use humor, adjectives, and make it stand out from the get-go.”
Luke Eales of Seven Star Digital agrees: “Improving organic CTR is all about being more appealing than the other results. To stand out, first know what you’re up against. Consider taking different approaches to the usual best practices and craft a snippet that does something the competitors aren’t doing.”
“Okay, I’m giving away one of my favorite tips for improving organic CTR,” says Craig Streaman of Streaman Marketing. “You have a great term that gets hundreds of impressions per month but few-to-no clicks because it ranks in position eight.”
“Take that term over to your Google Ads account and bid on it. The double exposure between your paid ad and organic result on the same query will increase your CTR for both results!”
By this point in reading through this blog post, you have tons of different—sometimes conflicting—ideas for ways to improve your organic click-through rates. So which should you adopt?
The only way to know is to test the different practices and measure your results.
“My biggest tip is testing titles and descriptions,” says Jeffrey Michael of Moriarty’s Gem Art. “We are constantly changing our title and description tags to find out what brings in the best click-through rates.”
“Which might catch your attention more for a product or service page?” asks Caleb Rule of Rule Marketing Group:
“Here’s the catch: I can’t actually tell you which of the above is better. But it’s a very, very simple A/B test to find out,” Rule says.
Alistair Dodds of Ever Increasing Circles recommends this process for testing: “Write engaging and compelling meta titles—and especially descriptions. Start with one version that explains the outcome of the post/page and include a call to action. Monitor the CTR.
“Once you have a sufficient sample size of impressions, split test a new meta description and see how it performs to the same impression-sized sample. Keep testing until you see marked improvements,” Dodds says.
Another way several respondents recommend for testing is to run paid search ads.
“The most effective thing you can do to get an improved CTR is to run numerous tests in a paid search campaign so that you can learn quickly what works and what doesn’t,” says Michael Brown of Jellyfish Digital Marketing.
“If you rely solely on organic, it will take four times the amount of time to learn from how the market engages with your search listings,” Brown says.
Celeste Huffman of Rogers & Hollands agrees: “We take our best paid search ad titles and use them for our organic title tags. We also use some of our paid search descriptions in our description tags.”
And if you don’t have the budget to run ads yourself, Sophie Knowles of PDF Pro recommends “doing some competitive research. If you see competitor Google Ads showing up for your target keyword, examine what terminology they are using. Typically, these ad sets are well researched and tested to give them the maximum CTR.”
Editor’s note: Easily track the CTR of your Google Ads campaigns by grabbing this free Google Ads dashboard that shows the number of clicks and CTR for each Google Ads campaign you’re running.
Obviously, improving your organic CTR is important for driving traffic to your website from organic search, but is it also important for your search rankings? We asked our respondents if they think click-through rate is a ranking factor, and 85% said yes:
However, not everyone was convinced.“I don’t believe organic CTR is a direct ranking factor,” says AJ Mens of Blog Pioneer. “But I do believe a good CTR can have a positive impact on rankings in the long-term, particularly if organic clicks result in strong user engagement signals.”
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