How to Improve your Organic Click Through Rate

By Leon Tranter | SEO

Feb 15
improve organic ctr

Intro

If you’re publishing any content on the web, you need to improve your organic click-through rate. This is basically how many people click on your pages when they come up in search results. There’s no point getting ranked if nobody clicks on your articles! This article will give you 15 super powerful ways you can improve your organic click-through rate.

And these are easy, so you can do them and start getting results today! Let’s get started.

What is Organic Click Through Rate

Organic click-through rate (also known as Organic CTR or just CTR) is the proportion of people who see one or more of your articles in a page of organic search results (i.e. a SERP), who click on it.

click through rate organic

Click Through Rate is super important in search ranking

So if 100 people see one of your articles in a page of search results on Google, and three of them click on your article, that’s a CTR (click through rate) of 3%.

Some people call out “Organic Click Through Rate” as opposed to just Click Through Rate. That’s because CTR can sometimes refer to the rate of people that click through on paid ads. So “organic” CTR specifically refers to the rate of people who click through to your website from search results, not ads. Which would be “paid CTR”, not “organic CTR”.

Why your Click Through Rate matters

Organic Click Through Rate is super important for your website. For anyone involved with SEO or traffic, it is one of the most important metrics in digital marketing!

There are two reasons why click through rate is extremely important.

More clicks means more traffic

The only point of working hard on your SEO and getting ranked in search results – is to get clicks! If you get clicks, you get visitors to your website. If nobody clicks on your articles in the search results, you won’t get any organic search traffic. And you might as well not have bothered getting ranked.

Click-through rate is an indirect ranking factor

Google is pretty tight-lipped about this subject, but many people believe that click-through rate is an indirect ranking factor. Google is continually testing and tweaking its search results. If it notices that a website is ranked quite high but never gets clicks (or gets clicks but they jump back quickly), it considers that to be a bad sign.

The RankBrain algorithm is running continuously to notice these things and push things up or down.

rankbrain search algorithm

The RankBrain algorithm watches how people use SERPs

You can actually notice this in action by searching for a specific phrase over and over, and always clicking on a particular result. After a while, you will notice the search results changing, as Google pushes out results that never got clicks and tries showing you other ones.

So improving your CTR percentage can be a virtuous circle. You will not only get more traffic, but you will improve your rankings, which pushes you up the rankings further, which gets you more clicks (since higher ranked articles get more clicks, all other things being equal), and so on.

So there are two reasons why Organic CTR is super important for your website. It is something you need to be monitoring and tweaking and improving. Continuously!

But how do you actually improve organic click through rate? Well luckily I got you covered. I’ve researched this topic in-depth and have come up with 15 powerful ways to improve your click through rate.

And these aren’t something you will spend weeks doing and see results four months later (like some SEO techniques, yuck). These are methods you can apply today and see results immediately – because the changes will reflect in the search results right away!

What is a good CTR?

Organic CTR can vary hugely based on your position, brand, and searcher intent. However, according to this article from 2017, CTR for position one in the SERPs is usually between 30 and 50%. It drops off pretty sharply after the first few positions and approaches zero as you go to the bottom of search page 1 and beyond.

So let’s find out how to improve your expected click through rate!

Ways to improve your Organic CTR

Here are 15 ways you can improve your Organic Click Through Rate. Remember, these aren’t for ads (though some of the principles actually apply to ads too!). They are to improve your clicks in the organic search results.

Use attention-grabbing titles

The title is probably the single most important factor in determining your clickthrough rate. To be more specific, I am talking about the Meta Title or SEO Title. This is not the same as the Page Title (what appears as <title></title> in the HTML code, and becomes the name shown by the browser in its tab for that page).

The SEO title is the title of the result in the Google or Bing search results: the actual words that someone clicks on. It can be anything, it doesn’t have to even be close to the page title or subject.

seo title example

This is what SEO titles are – the text of the links you actually click on

If you are using a plugin like Yoast SEO, you can easily edit the SEO title of your pages. And you should! By default, they will be the same as your page title, which you don’t always want.

The page title is a very important direct ranking factor so should be chosen based on exactly what keywords you are trying to rank for.

The SEO title is a very important indirect ranking factor! It is what humans see and interact with, as opposed to the page title, which is what the Google Spiderbots see and interact with.

Your SEO title is meant to be very appealing to humans. This is where you want to use your power words, click-bait phrases, and so on. That stuff is pointless in your page title.

This diagram explains the difference between the two.

seo vs page title

Some quick tips for attention-grabbing headlines:

  • use numbers to indicate people will get a quick list of resources they can grab – for some strange reason, odd numbers are more attractive to people than even numbers
  • use power words (“secret”, “killer”, “powerful”, “amazing”, “shocking”, “incredible”, “crucial”, “deadly”, “awesome”, “sexy”, “top”, “ultimate”, you get the idea – this article has a bunch you can steal)
  • describe what sort of resource your article is: cheatsheet, template, list, roundup, resource, infographic, etc.
  • tell people what sort of benefit or purpose the article provides: get more customers, close more sales, steal more traffic, etc.

So if you use these four in combination, you have a basic template (which I used in this article title!) – [number] [power word] [resource] to/for [benefit].

Some examples:

  • 7 secret methods to steal traffic from your competitors
  • 13 amazing types of infographics you can make to get backlinks
  • 11 top templates for killer powerpoint presentations.

You get the idea.

Test different headlines

You have to keep trying different headlines and see which ones work! As with all things in marketing, testing and tweaking is essential.

You can try different types of headlines on different articles and see what types perform well. Doing A/B or split testing on SEO Titles is very difficult. That’s because you need to have different SEO titles running for the same page at the same time.

WordPress doesn’t let you do it out of the box.

One option is to use social media marketing to do your testing. Run Facebook posts and/or ads and see what results get the best impressions. If you are worried about clogging feeds, you can do “dark” posts and promote them to randomized segments of people (this article explains the how and why of Facebook “dark posts”).

There are also some software plugins and tools out there that can apparently do this, but from what I gather they are expensive and a bit dangerous. If you have had good experiences with them, please let me know in the comments below.

Optimize your meta descriptions

The meta description is what appears below the SEO title in the search results. It used to be a direct ranking factor, but people blatantly keyword stuffed them to the point that Google switched it off completely.

It is still an indirect ranking factor though (and a big traffic factor!), because they have a big effect on click-through rate. Not as big as Title but pretty close.

meta description example

Your meta description can be whatever you want. Literally anything. But make sure you choose one! If you do not choose one, one will be chosen for you, by Google. And you don’t want that!

More specifically, if Google cannot find a meta description for the page, it will just scan the page content until it finds the search keyword, then show the sentences around that keyword, with the keyword in bold.

This is not at all a good thing, so make sure you have something, anything, written for all your articles.

Some tips to writing a good meta description:

  • make it relevant to the search query. If you are targeting “best headphones under $100”, then don’t put stuff in your description about why cheap headphones can be good – people looking for cheap headphones already know that!
  • use power words like mentioned previously, but make them closely aligned as possible to the “intent” behind the query – if the keyword is “best” or “review”, make sure your description has words like “best”, “value”, “honest”, “bargain”, “buy”, “ultimate”, and so on
  • Give some information about your content – but not too much! One neat trick is to cut off your description at a “cliff-hanger” point with ellipsis (…). Google puts those in by itself if it cuts off your meta description for being too long, but you can write your own short description and just put the ellipsis on it yourself. For example, “Find out why these headphones aren’t always the best choice if you are…”
  • Capitalize your important words, especially nouns and power words. Don’t capitalize every word or it looks stupid (e.g. you wouldn’t capitalize “stop words” such as “an”, “of”, “the”, etc.)
  • Use curiosity without being super click-baity. The real trash clickbait stuff like “you won’t BELIEVE what happened next!” or “doctors don’t want you to know this!” makes you look really cheap, and I would only use if you are in a shady industry like adult or casinos.

Use Featured Snippets aka getting “Position Zero”

Featured Snippets are one of the power features of Google Search that not a lot of people know about. I’m sure you’ve all seen these a thousand times before. It’s a small box of “rich content” (usually pulled by Google from Schema Markup, though not always) that appears above all other search results.

Note that I said all other search results. Yes, the rich snippet appears even above the first result. This is why it is sometimes known as “position zero”, since you are actually at the top of the screen.

Note also another key point here: when it shows a Featured Snippet, Google often but does not always show it from the first search result. Sometimes it decides a website in the second or third (or lower) position better deserves the snippet.

That means you can have a page ranking 4th on the page but still have your content and link sitting above the first position – because you hijacked the spot and took “position zero”! How cool is that?! This screenshot shows what I am talking about.

featured snippet example

A featured snippet takes top spot – even if you are not #1 in the SERP!

 

Are there really so many search results with featured snippets though? Is it worth it? Absolutely! Ahrefs did a study and found that 14 million out of 112 million query results had a featured snippet. That’s 12.5% – so these special query results are definitely worth fighting for!

featured snippet queries

Data from Ahrefs

Not all snippets are created equal however! There are four main types of snippets:

  • Bullet list (e.g. “cheap web hosting companies”)
  • Numbered list (e.g. “how to make scrambled eggs”)
  • Paragraph (e.g. “how to tell if eggs are off”)
  • Video (an embedded Youtube video, normally a “how to” type query, e.g. “how to trim a beard”).

So you might be wondering – how do I get my content to appear in the Featured Snippet?

How to get Featured Snippet positions

There are a few things you can do.

First, have a look in a Search Engine Marketing tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to see what keywords you are ranking for that have Featured Snippets.

You want to target the keywords that have decent search volume, that you are on page 1 for, and you are not currently featured in the snippet.

Next, check what kind of featured snippet is in that keyword query. Is it a bulleted list? A numbered list? A paragraph? (Let’s leave videos for now – that is Youtube marketing, a whole different subject).

You want to make sure you have content that is formatted in a way that matches the featured snippet.

For numbered lists, make sure you have an OL (Ordered List, <ol> in HTML) near the beginning of the article, containing List Items (i.e. <li> tags). For a bulleted list, you want the same but using an Unordered List tag (<ul> in HTML), again containing List Items.

You also want to make sure the search query is in text close to the list! This bit is crucial. If someone is searching “How to make scrambled eggs”, then you want a paragraph near the beginning of the article containing those words (e.g. “This is how to make scrambled eggs”), followed by the numbered list.

Trying to get a paragraph snippet can be a bit tricky since a Paragraph tag (<p>) doesn’t specify much and they are used all over the place.

So the approach would depend on the keyword. But they are usually found in response to “how to” type queries. So be sure to use some content near the beginning of the article that answers how to queries related to your keyword.

That is how you show Google the context around your content, so that it knows that you are answering that specific question.

Apply Schema Markup

Schema markup can be hugely important in attracting clicks and visitors. This is basically a more advanced form of a Featured Snippet. Instead of Google trying to infer from clumsy old HTML markup, you can use specific tags that give Google much more information about the meaning of your content.

This is a huge and complex topic, and the markup you use will vary depending on what sort of content you are featuring (local business directories, movie times, recipes, and so on).

Google has a tool that helps you get started: their Structured Data Markup Helper. You can put your website in and it will help you find schema markup for you automatically!

Adding the markup itself can be done pretty easily within WordPress.

Use Breadcrumb Navigation

Breadcrumb navigation can display either in the website you are currently on, or in the search results. They show where in a website hierarchy or categories a page is.

This is what it looks like for example in Amazon:

breadcrumb navigation amazon seo

Breadcrumb navigation on amazon.com

Breadcrumb navigation can also appear in search results for some sites, and looks like this:

breadcrumb navigation

Breadcrumbs can be considered a form of structured markup, or schema. And Google LOVES this stuff. It helps them understand your website, and it helps users understand your website.

The navigation path in the SERPs forms a sort of clue to your readers about the context and category of the page they are considering clicking on.

Anything that makes it more clear what your page is about and why it is important will help readers and Google. So make sure you have this turned on.

It can be activated and configured easily in Yoast SEO (which you should be using already, and if you are not, go install it now).

Check your Reports

Don’t forget to check your analytics! There is no point in trying to optimise your click-through rate if you’re not even measuring it.

You should already have Google Search Console set up on your website. If you don’t – do it now!

It isn’t the best tool in the world, but it’s free, and it does a good job. If you login to Search Console and go to Performance, you can see your queries, impressions and clicks.

It doesn’t let you see CTR straight away, but you can add a filter. Add one, set it to CTR, and show CTR is less than 1% – those are your problem performers.

Focus on your Worst Performers

If you follow the previous step and are regularly checking your bad performers, these are your focus areas. It is much easier to improve a CTR from 0.5% to 1% than it is to improve it from 2% to 2.5%.

So focus on your worst performers! Especially those that are relating to your key “money pages”, i.e. pages that are product reviews, have affiliate links or are targeting keywords with “buyer intent”.

Use the tips in this article to improve the CTR of those pages.

As you improve these “low hanging fruit”, you can then identify the next batch of bad performing keywords and queries. And so on and so on!

Use descriptive URLs

Your URL (Uniform Resource Locator, i.e. the actual address that people click on or see in their browser) is a very important part of your web presence.

Think about it for a minute. If you are searching for “Improve Click Through Rate”, would you be more likely to click on

http://somerussianinternetsite/clickthroughrate/money/iwantyourcreditcard/someurl.aspx?stealthistraffic&bot=l33twinnAr&traffic=stolen?

or

https://citizenaffiliate/how-to-improve-clickthrough-rate/

Your URLs should look short, simple and safe. No need for nested folders, weird file types, and lots of query string parameters (all that weird junk after a ? in a URL).

I wrote a big article on URLs here if you want to know more.

But the simple solution is to pick a good domain, use WordPress, and whatever you do, do NOT use the default WordPress permalink option. Instead, make your page URLs be based on the page title of the article.

Improve your Landing Pages

Landing Page is a frequently misused and misunderstood term. Some people think “landing page” just means “home page”, or “squeeze page”, or something else. This is all wrong. A landing page is simply a page where traffic first arrives at your website.

It could be anything.. even your contact page or your 404 page!

Google Analytics will show you your landing pages. Pay particularly close attention to them, because most of them will be places that people have arrived from a search result page (SERP).

The appearance, content, performance and functionality of your landing pages are crucial. That’s because Google pays very close attention to how people behave when they first arrive at your website from a Google asset – and the biggest Google asset of all is obviously Google SERPs!

Check the bounce rate of your search landing pages, i.e. pages that people land on when coming from search results. If people are quickly leaving, Google will definitely notice that and consider it as a bad sign.

RankBrain will push you further down the ranks, which will reduce your CTR rate further, which sends more bad signals. And you’re in a bad downward spiral.

You might want to consider ways to improve your dwell time as well as reducing your bounce rate.

Check everything on mobile

Remember that heaps of traffic these days is on mobile. According to this website, around 50%! So if your site isn’t mobile friendly, you’re in big trouble.

If your site doesn’t work well on mobile, 50% of your visitors will be out of there quick smart. This will lead to a high bounce rate and dwell time, which will push you down the rankings. And the further down you are, the less your clickthrough rate will be. And again we are in a downward spiral.

Mobile friendliness is also now not just an indirect ranking signal, but a direct one!

Google automatically tests the pages on your site for mobile-friendliness. And they will directly rank you lower if you don’t do well on the test (like they do for speed, see below).

So that’s even more reason to focus on the mobile responsiveness of your website.

So check your website’s mobile friendliness out on Google’s test page. Here’s what you will hopefully see:

mobile friendliness test

Make sure your site is fast

You site doesn’t just need to look good on mobile too – it needs to be fast. Real fast.

This isn’t 1998 anymore, where we people would wait 20 seconds for a Flash intro for a website to load on their 33.6K baud modems. People expect websites to load fast and they get out of their quick if they’re not.

Like mobile friendliness, page speed is both an indirect and a direct ranking signal.

It’s indirect because if your site is slow, people will leave and they won’t come back. Google notices that – and will penalize your ranking.

But it’s a direct ranking signal too! Google tests your page for speed and gives it a score from 0 to 100 (actually two scores, one for desktop and one for mobile).

And those scores are used by Google to put your ranking up or down. So make sure your site scores well!

You can check out your scores on Google’s testing website here. And if it’s not good, you need to fix it – real quick.

You can try and do it yourself, but it’s very frustrating. I’ve found it much easier to pay a tech-head to do it – like one of these guys.

Be careful about branding

Pay attention to the appearance of your links in the SERPs. Not just the words in the title, but also any branding at the end.

You see, tools like Yoast will usually slap on a separator (a hyphen or a pipe symbol – this one: | – right?) and your website name or brand at the end of the title.

seo title branding separator

Now this may or may not be a good thing.

If you want to get people to see and remember your brand name, and strongly associate that with your content, then that can be a good thing. Brand building is very important.

But if you’re just starting out, establishing your brand is not a priority. You just really need those SERP clicks! And the more your SEO title is focused around specifically answering people’s questions, the better.

So if you’re starting out, I think adding the brand onto the end of your SEO title isn’t a good move. You want every character to be focused on answering searcher intent.

As you get more traffic and start climbing the rankings, you can go into Yoast or whatever and update the link to include the separator and brand name.

Research your competition

Getting the very top of the search results is hard. It needs established authority, killer on-page and off-page SEO, and technical SEO. But it also needs what I call “behavioural SEO”: how people interact with your site and the SERPs.

I’ve made the case that a good click-through rate will really help you climb the SERPs, and a bad one will push you back.

So look at what the people at the top are doing! You should be constantly looking at the top five results for the keywords you are trying to rank for.

Pay particular attention to:

  • their SEO title
  • meta description
  • breadcrumb navigation or schema markup
  • featured snippets (and which SERP position has taken Position Zero).

It’s also worth having a visit to their sites too. Do they load quickly? Do they answer searcher intent? Is their content long and good?

It’s possible that those people got their despite their click-through rate rather than because of it. But more likely they are following practices that you can copy, improve on, and ultimately beat.

Measure your progress

There’s no point trying to get to the top if you don’t even know when you get there! If you have Ahrefs or SEMrush, make sure to regularly check not just your competition, but your own site’s performance. If you don’t, that’s fine. Google Search Console does a pretty good job to be honest.

As mentioned previously, focus on low performing pages. It’s a hell of a lot easier to move from 20 to 10 than it is to go from 10 to 1. Position 10 doesn’t get much traffic but it gets way more than 20.

If you find something that’s worked and has given you results, take note of it! And go and apply it to other pages.