Hi, my name’s Ben and I’m here to tell you two things: 1) that click-through rate (CTR) is one of the most important metrics going and 2) three great ways to improve your CTR virtually overnight.
When it comes to optimising websites, one of the things that always surprises me is just how little importance gets put on CTR, with clients (and SEOs too – you know who you are) preferring to focus on more tangible topline results like impressions, clicks and average position.
In terms of search engines, your click-through rate is a metric arrived at by measuring the percentage of impressions (when people see your content in results) that go on to become clicks (they actually go on to visit your website).
It’s measured both against keywords and pages but, for argument’s sake, we’re going to be talking about page CTR today.
Before anything happens though, you need to make sure that you have something which accurately measures your CTR.
In what I assume was a bit of downtime between plotting world domination and the next brain-bending algorithm update the bods at Google kindly gave Search Console the ability to track CTR.
Seen here: bods at Google
First, if you haven’t already, you should get Search Console set up on your site. Google has some nice clear guidance on how to do that.
Right, now that’s done, how do you improve your site’s CTR? Well, that requires three separate page components:
- Title tags
- Meta descriptions
Ah, the humble title tag. It might be a simple bit of markup <title> but it’s actually vitally important for driving traffic from search engines to your site. And there’s a lot that goes into making a really good title tag, too.
Something that seems self explanatory but is nevertheless central for optimising your title tags is to make sure that they’re not too long. Fashion giant Etsy did a huge data-driven study of all their title tags back in 2016 and found that shorter title tags perform better. We suggest that you keep yours no longer than 55 characters, lest Google chop the end off your tags in the search engine results it displays. (Although if your title tag is a single word, that also seems to be a problem for Google, so don’t get carried away.)
In the 80-odd years since David Ogilvy changed advertising forever, marketeers, advertisers and now SEOs have searched endlessly for that perfect headline. And in essence, that’s what your title tags are – the headline for that web page. They’re the first (and, more often than not, last) thing users will see before they decide to click on your page. While obviously you need to craft your tag according to the page content, here are some pointers to help you snag more users:
a) Numbers: The irresistible rise of Buzzfeed taught marketers one very important lesson: people love numbers. You do too – that’s probably why you clicked on this link and why you’re reading this now.
b) Questions: According to Backlinko and their incredible data-driven test that saw them analyse 5 million search results – you can read it here and we will refer to it again as it is the gold standard for CTR tests – titles that contain a question have a 14.1% higher CTR than titles that don’t.
c) Emotion: According to the same study, titles that appeal to emotions have a 7% higher CTR than titles that don’t.
According to, yet again, Backlinko, titles that contain a keyword have a whopping 45% higher CTR than titles that don’t. We’re going to touch on SEO in some more depth a little later on so keep this in mind.
4) Finally, a vibe check
After reading all of the above, I bet you’re raring to go and change all your title tags to strongly emotive questions in listicle format but, hold up there cowboy, just think for a second. Sites can and will contain lots of different types of pages, like service pages, product pages, blog pages, contact pages etc etc etc and you need to make sure that you’re using the right kind of title for the page. Service page titles are, by their nature, more flat and descriptive than blog pages, which perfectly lend themselves to numbers and questions.
As the other side of the coin to title tags, your meta descriptions are another very useful tool in the endless struggle for more web traffic and can be an important factor when leveraged correctly.
One of the big advantages of the meta description is that you have a lot more space to play with. Meta descriptions aren’t pixel limited like title tags are, but we recommend a length of no more than 155 characters.
If title tags are the headline of your SERP (search engine results page) snippet, meta descriptions are essentially the body copy. In much the same manner as a tweet, you get 155 characters to tell users what the page is about, and why they would want to visit it.
The clever clogs over at SearchEngineLand give these three pointers for writing meta descriptions:
a) Be descriptive: roughly outline what the page is about. You don’t need to go into detail but you do need to prepare users for what they’re going to find.
b) Be persuasive: this technique is sometimes referred to as ‘click incentivising’ and, in a nutshell, it states that you need to give users a reason to click on the link. Is there a special offer? Is there something that sets you apart from the competition? This and more can really help drive up CTRs.
c) Inspire curiosity: this point really feeds off of the top two and, while slightly more intangible, is no less important. Really good meta descriptions don’t just describe and persuade, they make the user curious to read what’s actually on the page, priming them for positive sustained interactions with your content. This is especially true for informational pages and queries, but less so for transactional things like service and product pages.
It’s also worth remembering that Google loves to append its own meta descriptions derived from the content on your page if it thinks it can do a better job of meeting the user’s query.
To avoid search engines just lumping in some chunk of text from the middle of your page, always try and ensure that you’ve got the primary keyword for that page in the meta description or, if you can’t do that for whatever reason, try and make one sentence of the page’s intro text into a makeshift meta description replete with keyword ready to be pulled through into search results
This brings us nicely to my third and final point.
Yes, you probably are aware that SEO can drive more traffic to your site. I’m not here to repeat that to you yet again. But there are some interesting interactions between SEO and CTR that are worth looking at in a little more detail.
First, though, let’s talk about keywords. As you might have picked up from what’s written above, keywords are essential factors for increasing your CTR.
The question “So which keywords should I pick?” is not a quick one to answer – although we do in our SEO Keywords for Accountants blog post – so all I will say here is that you need to do you due diligence and make sure that, prior to optimising your CTR, you’ve picked a relevant keyword for each page that targets that page’s audience specifically.
Keywords aside, SEO has a profound effect on CTR, which also has a profound effect on SEO. There is some debate as to whether CTR is itself a standalone ranking factor (neatly summed up by Dan Taylor) but what is certain is that the ranking algorithm does consider it when it comes to ranking your page and that pages with a better CTR are much more likely to be favourably weighed in search engine results pages.
The converse to this is that as your gain places in the SERPs, your CTR can increase markedly. Our friends at Backlinko (yes, again) discovered that moving one spot up the SERPs can increase your CTR as much as a staggering 30%, with a few caveats.
The important takeaway here is that for maximum positive impact on your CTR, you should really be doing SEO on your site in general and the page you’re focused on in particular.
Luckily for you, PracticeWeb offers an industry-leading SEO service for accountants to help with all that.
If you like the idea of appearing ahead of the competition in search results, and getting people clicking through so you can start to work your persuasive magic on them, get in touch.