Better search rankings are an admirable goal for any website. But the best rankings aren’t very useful if no one is clicking on your listings and helping you meet your conversion goals. The landscape of search engine results pages (SERPs) has changed dramatically over the years — a trend that’s likely to continue. When your listing is competing with images, maps, Google Knowledge Graph, and other dynamic SERP elements, it helps when your listing stands out from the crowd. To get an edge, use these tips to improve the appearance of your SERP listings:
Improve your Metadata — Oftentimes, your metadata is a user’s first impression of your site. You may have optimized your metadata while implementing your SEO strategy. But, it may be worth revisiting — especially description tags. Description tags don’t carry weight for determining SERP ranking, but they are critical in convincing users to click-through to your site. Write compelling descriptions that include a call to action and one or two keywords (if a user searched for these terms, they will be bolded in the description tag and draw the user’s attention). Many sites let Google pull text from the page to create a description, but this is usually unhelpful for users. Get a leg up and increase your click-through rates with punchy description tags.
Use Rich Snippets — Although rich snippets have been around for more than a year, adoption has been rather slow among websites. Rich snippets modify your description with relevant information and images. Not only is this very helpful for users, but it also makes your search listing pop on the page. Google has useful information for understanding and leveraging rich snippets on your website.
Optimize for Site Links — Site links appear under your listing and direct users to your most useful and popular pages. They are perhaps the best way to maximize a listing’s real estate on a SERP:
As you can see, a listing with site links gets nearly three times the space as a regular listing. Unfortunately, site links are an automated feature, so there is no code you can add to your site to generate them. But, if your site is well optimized, you increase the likelihood that Google will display them. Set up a Google Webmaster Tools account and submit your URL and site map for starters. You’ll also want to rectify any site errors you have.
By following these tips, you probably won’t increase the position of any of your pages, but you’ll attract more attention and clicks to for your listings; so it’s worth the effort.
Google’s most recent Webmaster Central Blog post, entitled Better page titles in search results covers the basics of how page titles and descriptions (called snippets) are generated.
A few things to note:
In the New Year, Webmasters should take note that Google has updated their Site title and description page (including an eight minute video of Matt Cutts discussing optimizing websites for Google and snippets). This page also offers a solution for Webmasters frustrated with titles and descriptions they did not write appearing in search engine results pages (SERPs). If you have found that your titles or descriptions appearing in SERPs are sourced from the Open Directory Project (ODP), or DMOZ, there is a solution!
The following code, inserted in the head section of your code, will tell all robots not to display information from the ODP with regard to your snippets.
If you are only having an issue with Google displaying ODP data, use the following code:
Please note that this code will need to be crawled by the robots before you may see a change in the SERPs.
If you are unfamiliar with the ODP / DMOZ:
The Open Directory Project (http://www.dmoz.org) is a human-edited directory of the Web that is maintained by a global community of volunteer editors and is touted as the most comprehensive directory out there. There is no cost to submit your site to the ODP.
Our previous blog post, Rich Snippets & Schema.org: Part I, compared snippets to Rich Snippets and touched on the foundation of Schema.org. Not only can implementing the suggestions of Schema.org increase your click through rate on the search engine results for your website pages, but a visitor delivered to your webpage from a Rich Snippet is more informed about the content on your page and has just made a decision to visit your content. This is the perfect opportunity to test your conversion rates and start (or ramp up) on-site testing.
By updating your website’s code to allow for Rich Snippets, you are able to partially control what can be shown in the major search engines in regard to results that include pages on your website.
The previous post showed an example for a recipe site:
The above All Reciples Rich Snippet shows a star rating, review count, time to cook, and calorie count to searchers looking for a pumpkin pie recipe.
This is only one way in which Rich Snippets could be optimized, another is the Event Schema. The following example shows a Rich Snippet including Katy Perry show dates and locations available through Ticketmaster for a search of “Katy Perry Ticketmaster”:
A searcher is thankful they don’t have to click through the Ticketmaster website or do an additional on-site search, assuming they are looking to click through directly to one of the upcoming displayed shows.
IMDB has updating their code so that their Rich Snippets feature a rating of each movie. The below Rich Snippet is for The Muppets 2011 movie (also being released over Thanksgiving, I assume the reviews are from pre-showings).
And interestingly, both the Android Marketplace and Apple’s App Store have updated their code so that their Rich Snippets display the votes for each app as well as a price.
Depending on your business, the above examples may seem more or less relevant; however, Schema.org is gaining momentum as more webmasters become familiar with the available types and more searchers enjoy the extra information in their searches.
Schema.org provides commonly used formatting types for Restaurants, Local Businesses, Products, Reviews, Organizations, Events, Creative Works, Recipes, and many more. As Search Engine Optimization professionals, we recognize the opportunity available to businesses today with the open communication created through Schema.org. The search engines have given businesses a way to tell them what information could be added to search engine results pages to make them better for everyone. The search engine, the searchers, and your business all benefit from the openness and availability of this information.