One of the misconceptions of search engine optimization involves relying on “search engine result positions” to drive traffic. Some SEO professionals are even proud to advertise themselves as having placed web sites in top positions for competitive and long tail phrases.
Well, that is good news. However, getting a top ranking position for those keywords is not the end of the story or a campaign. There is what we call the “%CTR” of key phrases from the Google search engine result.
Why is this important? If you manage to get some of those competitive and long tail keywords to the top of the search engine results, your SEO effort is worthless if your %CTR is close to zero.
For example, suppose a top ranking keyword is getting an average of 1000 impressions per day, but only a 1% CTR from search engine result. This translates to:
Organic visitors from search engine result = %CTR x 1000 = 1% x 1000 = 10 visitors per day!
What is worse is that if your conversion rate is as good as 2% (which might sound OK for most sites), your approximated monthly conversion is:
Conversion from organic search = Conversion rate% x Organic Visitors x 30
Conversion = 2% x 10 x 30 = 6
This means that even though your website is getting 1000 impressions per day (which is desirable) for a high ranking keyword, it is highly possible (as shown in the sample computation above) that you will STILL be making very few sales or conversions from it if the %CTR problem is not solved.
Background of the cause: Poor CTR from SERP
No matter how good is your website ranking or even your services, potential visitors coming from Google’s search engine results will still ignore you if they are not clicking on search engine results that lead to your website.
Why? A very low CTR affects your traffic. Diagnosing the CTR (click through rate) problem is a bit tricky, and often is not straightforward. Instead, it needs to be investigated; there is some required data you will need to gather.
If your website is ranking at the top of the results or even ranking for many phrases (long tail terms), and is not getting the expected traffic, then suspect that a poor or low CTR from the search engine results is affecting the traffic.
One of the best sources of data for troubleshooting website performance issues (like low %CTR from search engine results) is Google Webmaster Tools.
It is highly important that you add and verify your website before you proceed to a technical analysis. If you need some details on how to add and verify your website in Google Webmaster Tools, the search engine provides a tutorial that is well worth reading.
Google Webmaster Tools has improved their features a lot recently. Recently, they strengthened the important section known as “Search Queries.”
One of the improvements involves reporting the “impressions” and “clicks” data coming from search engine results for every keyword found in Google for your website.
To see this report, you need to follow the procedure below:
Step 1. Log in to your Google Webmaster Tools.
Step 2. Under “Sites,” click the site you need to analyze.
Step 3. In the “Dashboard,” expand “Your site on the web.”
Step 4. Click the ”Search Queries” link.
By default, Google Webmaster Tools will show the keywords in order of “impressions.” For example:
In the above report, it says that:
1. In a period of one month, the website appeared in the search result via 392 queries (keywords).
2. In these 392 queries, your website was viewed a total of 18,100 times by a potential visitor (searcher).
3. However, out of 18, 100 times the website was viewed, it was only clicked 1000 times.
This means that the overall %CTR from organic search for a period of one month is:
%CTR = Clicks/Total Impressions x 100%
%CTR = 1000/18100 x 100%
%CTR = 5.52%
There is no standard %CTR, but it is desirable for it to be as high as possible. What if the %CTR of the website were 10%? The total number of visitors would now be:
Total visitors = %CTR x Total Impressions = 10% x 18100 = 1810 visitors
By improving the %CTR alone, you will be able to increase your number of visitors per month (1810 – 1000 = 810) without the need to increase your site’s ranking by spending more on SEO services.
You need to analyze the search query report to prioritize problems contributing to a poor or low %CTR. The best way to analyze it is to export the report as a spreadsheet. The procedure is shown below:
1. Scroll down to the bottom of the report and look for “Download this table” link.
2. Click the link and the CSV file will be saved to your computer.
3. The report is in CSV format; however you can open it using common spreadsheet applications like MS Excel.
4. Sort according to impressions column (highest to lowest).
5. Since there are a lot of queries involved (392 keywords), you may limit the analysis to keywords with high impressions. In this case, remove the rows of keywords that have fewer than ten impressions.
6. Add a new column after “impressions,” and then prioritize problematic keywords by taking the percentages of impression contribution.
The formula is:
%Impression = Keyword Impression/Total Impression (adjusted)
Total Impression (adjusted) is the total impression for those keywords with more than ten impressions.
7. Add another column and compute the cumulative percentages. The spreadsheet should now look like the screen shot below:
The Excel sheet containing the above report can be downloaded here.
The prioritized keywords are those shaded in yellow. They make up the 20% of those keywords responsible for approximately 80% of the website traffic (see the %cumulative table).
By focusing on improving the click through rate of the top contributing keywords in terms of traffic to your website, you will significantly improve website traffic without needing to work on your entire website URL or content.
Now that you have the priority list of important keywords in your website, you need to verify them in the Google search engine and examine the title tag and well as the snippet shown.
The objective is to spot weaknesses in the search engine’s result presentation which can be improved by doing some onsite tweaks (such as title tag revision or snippet improvement).
As an example, there are three test queries done in Google. The above screen shot shows the actual title tag and snippet shown by Google.
With this information, it is time to verify the situation below (by answering the questions as accurately as possible based on what is presented). The illustration below is only for the first query; however, similar analysis can be done for the rest of the keyword queries.
For the first query:
1. What is the user’s intention when making the query?
The user intends to find the definition of the php preg_match function. Since this query is broad, it does not mean that the user intends to find a tool for it or any related details.
2. Does the title tag reflect the user’s intention for making the query?
No, because what is shown in the title tag is that the page is an online testing tool and does not convey a definition of the function.
Corrective action: revise the content to include the definition of the function. Then revise the title tag to “PHP preg_match test online and Function Definition.”
3. Does the snippet reflect the user’s intention for doing the query?
No, because the snippet presented in Google’s search engine result does not contain an exact match for the key phrase; instead, what is shown is a fragmented part of the source code.
Corrective action: in the revision of the content, make sure an exact match of the keyword is included in the text definition of the function. For example, “PHP preg_match is a function that is used when conducting regular expressions match in a string in a PHP programming environment.”
So when this text definition is indexed by Google, the exact key phrase and its definition will be clearly highlighted in the search engine result, which improves your site’s search engine presentation. This improvement in presentation will contribute to an improvement of your site’s click through rate, which helps to increase website visitors.
To get this done, you’ll need to do some minor onsite work addressing the issues above. For the above example, the improved URL is http://www.php-developer.org/testpregmatch.php