I’d like you to imagine a box of apples.
They’re sitting on the shelf at the shop. One Apple is nicely positioned on top of the box so you automatically always take that one first, right?
Well, not always.
If you’re like me you have a look at the box and pick some that look nice, the right colour, no bruises, a nice shape and size.
So it is with search engine results.
There is always a lot of discussion about search engine optimisation (SEO) and how to get your website, page or blog post as far up the rankings as possible. This is really important. However, you need to get people to click on your link within the search results, and for that you need to make your link stand out from the others – like the nicest apple in the box.
Do you want to get more people clicking on your links and following through to your website? If so, keep reading because I’ve got five tips for you.
1. A Title that Grabs Attention
Your headline is a significant factor in making your search result stand out against others. There are two aspects that are important.
An Attractive Headline
Write headlines like the ones that make you take a magazine off the shelf as you line up to pay at the shop. Ones that grab your attention.
Georgina talked about how writing the headline “How To Look Stupid In 140 Characters” not only brought the Micro Business Hub a lot of traffic but also gained a link from a very authoritative website.
If you want your search result to stand out from others you need to have a headline that grabs attention and creates curiosity.
A Relevant Headline
However, as well as creating curiosity your headline needs to be relevant to the search that has been made.
So for example if I search for “small business twitter strategies” I see the following search results as position one and two on Google:
I’m drawn to click on the second listing first as the headline to Mashable’s “How To” article is a more fitting suggestion to my search than the “9 Tweet Types” from SmallBizTrends. So using this example, regardless of the fact that it’s not the top listing, I’d be clicking on Mashable first because of the relevance of the headline.
Ensuring your headlines are relevant means knowing the keyword phrase that you intend to target with this page or post. You have a maximum of 66 characters and it’s important to make them count.
2. A Description that Encourages Action
The description is the text that shows below your headline in the search results.
It doesn’t have any impact on where or how your content ranks in Google. However it can have a big impact on the number of people who click on your link. These 156 characters are your chance to make your link seem even more relevant and to use some copywriting techniques to encourage people to choose your link.
I had to get to page two of the “small business twitter strategies” results before finding a description that had been optimised a little. You’ll notice that in the image above both Mashable and SmallBizTrends have just let Google take the first few lines of the post as the description. But with some more thought you can achieve a more relevant results such as this example:
Notice that the description doesn’t get cut off here because the publisher has kept within the 156 characters. So we get a nice, concise piece of copywriting encouraging us, which starts by asking the question “Need some help with your social media marketing?” – a question is a nice way to get the reader to think “Yes” and to get the click.
I often include the words “click here” in a description. You have to be careful not to appear to “spammy” in doing this but giving the positive encouragement is a great way to increase the number of clicks on your search result. I’d normally include it with the benefit, something like “Looking for twitter strategies for your small business? Click here for simple tips on growing your small business using twitter.”
3. A Clear URL Structure
One of the important things with a URL structure is ensuring that your topic is clear and that people reading the search result will have trust that the link looks good.
For instance here is an example from further down the search results for the same keyword.
The simple /10-twitter-strategies-small-business/ gives an indication that we know what to expect when clicking on the URL, it’s on topic and gives a good feeling. However this example is less clear and would make me hesitate and move past:
The URL is too long and runs of the page before it can be read properly. The “7” at least alludes to the title so it doesn’t look unsafe but with the choice I’d click on the top one.
Personally I use the “Post Name” permalink in WordPress on my website which gives a nice URL structure and combined with a correctly sized title of no more than 66 characters will always look good.
NOTE: Never change the URL of a page or post that has been published and indexed by Google unless you know what you’re doing and have a way to create a 301 redirect to the old URL. Changing an indexed URL can mean you lose any links to that page or post, which will lower it’s page authority and affect it’s position in search results.
4. Set up Google Authorship
Google Authorhsip is the name Google gives to the process of linking the content you create to your Google+ profile. There are a number of benefits and one of the best is that your picture is displayed next to your content link in search results. Here is an example from one of my own posts:
Although Google Authorship has been around for a little while now, many authors and website have yet to make use of it. This provides you with a great opportunity to stand out in your search results by adding a picture and letting your potential reader make a connection with who you are before clicking on the link.
The mention of being in other peoples circles is an element of social proof. As you get circled by more people using Google+, and this number grows, it’s display on your search results can have a positive impact on searchers clicking on your link.
The easiest way to setup Google authorship is through the following link: https://plus.google.com/authorship where you’ll use your email address to associate your content with your Google+ profile.
If you want to consider what type of picture will get you the highest number of clicks there is a great post about this at the SEOmoz blog by Cyrus Shepherd: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/google-author-photos
5. Use Rich Snippets
The final tip for increasing the number of people who click on your search results is adding Google’s rich snippets. These are a series of additional elements that can be added to certain types of content that really help them stand out.
For instance notice the review stars added to the review below:
We immediately get the impression that with four out of five stars this must be a good review and it’s worth clicking on the link. This result wasn’t position one in the search results when I searched for “nintendo 3ds xl review”, however it was the only one showing the rich snippet stars so it stood out and drew my attention to click on it.
You can read more about the various rich snippet options from Google, and see if any are relevant for your type of content here: http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=99170
Whether your content is at the top of the search rankings or not you can use the tips above to make your links stand out, be attractive to searchers and get more people clicking through to your website.
Today’s Micro Action
Pick at least one method from the above list of tips and put it into action today. You could rewrite the description of one post, or setup Google Authorship. Put some time aside to make the change and monitor the number of people visiting that page from search results using your analytics.