If you followed the steps in my last post, search engines have indexed your site and people are now visiting you via Google. That’s great! The next question is, how do you make the most of this?
While you may want more visitors, you want the right visitors—people who are looking for exactly what you have to offer, and who will be happy to find your site.
That’s why in this post I’ll go over how to improve the way your web pages show up in search results, how to encourage more people to click on your pages, and how to make sure they are happy once they reach your site.
How do search engines display your site?
People see only a small bit of your website in the search results. That small bit convinces them to click on your site—or not. So, by improving your listing in the search results, you can make more people click.
Here’s how a website typically appears:
This listing is made of different parts: the Page Title (Chipmunk), the Site Title (Wikipedia) and the Page Description, which is the paragraph of text underneath.
With Jimdo, you can decide what you want your page titles, page descriptions, and site title to be—and you can adjust them in your SEO settings. Let’s drill down a little deeper.
If Google thinks a page on your website matches a search phrase, it will show the page title in the search results. That’s why it’s important to give each page on your website a unique page title and make sure it matches the actual content that’s there. By default, your Page Title will be whatever the page is called in your website navigation (Home, About, Contact, etc.), but you can change this if you’d like.
While every page can (and should) have a different Page Title, you only get one Site Title for your entire website. This is typically the name of your website, and will be added to the end of each Page title after a dash. You can set your Site Title by clicking on Site Performance in your Menu.
So for example, people might see your ‘About Us’ page in search results like this:
About Us — Benny’s Best Burgers
Every page on your website has its own topic. That means it has its own keywords and it deserves its own description. The description doesn’t make your page rank better, but it is visible in the search results and provides a “teaser” to encourage people to click.
If you haven’t written a description, Google automatically shows some text from the page. Usually that is the bit of text that made Google think your page is a good match for the search phrase.
A description should be short or it will get cut off in the search results. As a general guideline you can aim for about 150 characters, including spaces. In your SEO settings, Jimdo will show you a Google preview so you can see how your description will look in the search results.
CTR: Do people click on your page?
So now we've covered how your website appears in search results. The next step is to think about whether or not people actually click on it when they see it. What we want to improve here is the CTR: the clickthrough rate.
Let’s say your page is shown to 100 people in Google. If one of those people clicks on your page in the search results, that gives you a clickthrough rate of 1%.
As a general rule, the clickthrough rate increases as your page appears higher on the first page of search results. The reason for that is pretty simple: people don’t usually want to scroll very far, so they go with one of the first options.
Tip: To follow these next steps, you'll need to set up Google Search Console (formerly known as Google Webmaster Tools). This is a free tool from Google that gives you all sorts of information about who is visiting your website. Haven't gotten around to this yet? No worries. Here are instructions for how to do it.
You can see the CTR for your site in Google Search Console:
- Log in on your Search Console account
- Go to Search Traffic > Search Analytics
- Click the CTR checkbox in the top bar
You can now see the CTR for your pages. To give that some context, it’s good practice to also uses the checkboxes for Impressions and for Position. You can then see how often a page was shown to searchers and at what average position. You can filter by page or keyword.
If your page wasn’t shown to searchers often, try selecting a longer time period. By using more data, the patterns become clearer.
Bounce rate: Do visitors stay on your website?
It’s one thing to get people on your page. But if we want that to help your business, we need to keep them there. Getting someone to step into your store doesn’t help if they then step out again immediately.
If someone arrives at your website but then doesn't click through to any other pages, we call that a bounce. Your bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that visit only one page on your site and leave again.
You can find this information in Google Analytics:
- Log in on your Google Analytics account
- Go to Behavior > Site content > All pages
- You can now see a column that shows the bounce rate for each page
The hard truth is: every website has a bounce rate. We at Jimdo have it, and really big sites like Amazon or Facebook have it as well. So we may not be able to stop people from ‘bouncing’, but we can try to understand what makes them click away. Knowing that, we can try to bring our bounce rate down.
Why people bounce
If people bounce, it’s usually because what they see on your site doesn’t match what they are looking for. Don’t take this the wrong way: it doesn’t mean your site isn’t good. It just means that it doesn’t match that searcher’s wishes.
Page doesn’t match search intent
Let’s say I am looking for the ultimate cappuccino. (aren’t we all?) If I search for ‘ultimate cappuccino’ on Google, I might end up on the site of ‘Ultimate: the best instant cappuccino powder’. The moment I realize I am looking at instant cappuccino powder, I go back to the search results: this was not what I wanted.
Sometimes your site will offer something that people aren’t looking for. The only thing you can do there is make your site and your descriptions as clear as possible.
Page doesn’t match description
Of course, I keep looking for the ultimate cappuccino, and I might see a description in Google that reads: ‘The ultimate cappuccino: winner of the Cappuccino Award 5 years in a row’. Now, that sounds promising! But when I get to the site, it turns out they tasted their own cappuccino, didn’t compare it to any others, and decided to give it an award. Back to the search results I go: this was not what was suggested to me!
Writing a fantastic description can improve your CTR, but if your page can’t deliver on that promise, those visitors will bounce.
Improving your bounce rate
If you want to improve your bounce rate, use Google Analytics to find pages that have a large number of visits and a high bounce rate. Ask yourself what people might expect when they see that page listed in Google. Does your page deliver on that? If not, you can either change the description or change the page itself.
Testing CTR and Bounce Improvements
To improve the CTR for your pages and lower the bounce rate, it's time to experiment! Here’s how you can set that up:
- Use Google Search Console to find a page that is shown to searchers often, but that might have a low CTR or a higher-than-normal bounce rate.
- Write a new page description for it.
- Let Google update the listing (see box at right for how to do this ).
- Use Search Console and Analytics to track the CTR and bounce rate every week
- Run this for several months to gather enough data
To prompt Google to update the listing, follow these steps:
- Log in to your Search Console account
- Go to Fetch as Google
- Submit to the index
- Wait until the change is visible in search results
Don’t test all your pages at once. By testing one page at a time, you can be sure that any changes in CTR or bounce rate are the results of your experiment. You may see some weekly fluctuations. Those should be steady for all pages, but different for your test page.
Run your experiment for at least a month. Again, you want to make sure that any results you see are not a coincidence.
CTR & Bounce Rate: Looking at the results
So, you see results in your experiment. How should you interpret them?
High CTR, lower bounce rate
This is perfect. People see your page, many click it and only very few leave straight after visiting that page. Don’t change anything.
High CTR, high bounce rate
It seems your description and page title really make searchers happy, but the page then doesn’t offer what they are looking for. Check if you aren’t making too many promises.
Low CTR, low bounce rate
Once people reach your page, they like it. That’s good. However, not many people click on it in the search results. Can you make your description and page title more appealing?
Low CTR, high bounce rate
This is the bad scenario. Hardly anyone clicks on this page. And if they do, they usually leave without looking at anything else on your site. Probably best to go back to the drawing board with this page.
Getting the right people to your website is what good search engine optimization is all about. With a little SEO work, you can help search engines match your site to the right audience, and entice people to click on (and stay on) your pages. Any other SEO head-scratchers? Let me know in the comments.
FRANK VAN OOSTERHOUT
Community Flow Explorer
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