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How to Improve Organic Clickthrough for Your Content

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How to Improve Organic Clickthrough for Your Content


The author’s views are entirely his or her own (excluding the unlikely event of hypnosis) and may not always reflect the views of Moz.

Google search result pages are becoming more diverse and even interactive, which makes any clickthrough study out there much less reliable, because no two sets of search results are the same.

But how much control do writers and content creators have over how their content is represented in search? As it turns out, they do have quite a few options when it comes to optimizing their search snippets!

The anatomy of a standard search snippet

The standard Google search snippet has changed over the years, but in essence all the key elements are still there:

  • The clickable title or headline of the snippet (in blue)

  • The description of that page (about two lines long — it was lengthened for no particular reason a few years ago, but now seems to be back to two lines)

  • The URL path (used to be in green, now it is black)

On a mobile device, there’s also a tiny logo next to the URL:

Here’s how much control you have over these standard elements of your search snippet (in the order they currently appear):

Logo

Google will use your site favicon when deciding which image to show next to your URL. This means that you have full control over this part of the search snippet.

URL path

These days, Google will do its best to show the meaningful URL path (almost like a breadcrumb) instead of simply the URL of the page. This consists of:

  • The domain: I don’t have any research to support this, but I personally always scan domain names when choosing what to click. That being said, your choice of a domain name may somewhat impact your clickthrough (if you do a particularly good job picking a snappy domain name that intrigues) and you do have full control over this part of the snippet. Tools like Namify specialize in finding exactly that type of domains that are short, memorable, and witty.

  • The breadcrumb or the truncated URL: You can use breadcrumb schema to force Google to use breadcrumb instead of the URL, and watch your Search Console to see if that helped clickthrough:

Title

Google used to rely on the page title to generate the title of the search snippet, but it has been rewriting that part more and more often recently.

That being said, it is still recommended to optimize your title to include keywords and entice more clicks — and hope Google will keep it intact.

Description

Google has been generating the search snippet description for years without using the associated meta description: recent studies show that Google ignores meta descriptions in about 70% of cases.

You may still want to create meta descriptions in case Google needs some clues, but expect them to figure this part out on their own.

Another way to try and trick Google into using your chosen snippet description is to create concise summaries of the content and add it at the beginning of the article. Using semantic analysis tools like Text Optimizer, you can also ensure these summaries are semantically relevant to the topic:

Now, let’s see how we can enhance that standard search snippet to let it stand out and attract more clicks.

Rich snippets for content-based pages

Rich snippets are search snippets enhanced with some additional details. Web publishers can control rich snippets by adding schema markup, so they are thus under website owners’ control.

Here are the types of rich snippets that will work for content-based pages:

FAQ page

Your page doesn’t have to be FAQ to qualify for this rich snippet. All you need to do is answer two or more subsequent questions somewhere on that page to use the code. There are several WordPress plugins — including this one — that help you code that section.

HowTo schema

The HowTo schema was introduced for the DIY niche as a way to feature snippets that include step-by-step instructions.

These days, I see HowTo rich snippets implemented for just about any tutorial:

Video schema

More often than not, these rich snippets show up only on mobile devices, but they seem to be very common. A video rich snippet includes a video thumbnail:

Video schema will help you ensure the rich snippet is indeed generated, although I’ve seen dozens of cases when Google creates a rich snippet once you simply embed a video on the page, no schema required.

That being said, using the rich code won’t hurt, especially given there’s an easy video schema generator for you to create a code easily.

Structured snippets

Structured snippets are less popular than rich snippets, even though they are very common on search.

Structured snippets import tabular data to formulate a more informative search snippet:

All it takes to qualify for this type of a snippet is to create an HTML table. It is a good idea to use tables for summaries, feature comparisons, lists, etc.

Image thumbnails

Image thumbnails are very rare on desktop. Yet on mobile devices, images show up inside most search snippets:

There’s no particular optimization tactic here, but there are best practices that may or may not help:

Dates

Google shows dates within a search snippet when they think this may be useful to a searcher. Obviously, dates may have a big impact on clicking patterns: Based on the research by Ignite Visibility, about half of searchers claim that dates in search snippets are either “important” or “very important” clickthrough factors.

Google has clear guidelines as to how web publishers can keep those dates fresh:

  • Don’t try to hide dates, because they are useful.

  • When updating a piece, re-publish it on a new date only when you’ve basically rewritten it.(I.e., don’t redirect, better to update the old piece and change the publish date).

  • Include an “Updated on” note on top of the article if you updated it (Google will pick up on that date).

  • Using schema “datePublished” and “dateModified” is not required but will be helpful.

Google will understand all of the following date formats:

  • Published December 4, 2019

  • Posted Dec 4, 2020

  • Last updated: Dec 14, 2018

  • Updated Dec 14, 2021 8pm ET

Mini sitelinks

Mini sitelinks are probably the most unpredictable element of a search snippet. Google may randomly pick links from navigation, tag, or category links, etc. There’s also no way to tell Google they made a poor choice.

Unlike sitelinks, which usually show up for the top-ranking result and mostly for branded searches, mini sitelinks can be generated for just about any result out there.

Mini sitelinks represent a very useful feature, though, because they increase your odds that your search snippet will get a click (by adding more clickable links to your snippet).

One way to increase your chances that Google will show mini sitelinks within your search snippet is to use an on-page table of contents (which is powered by HTML anchor links).

Here’s an example of the table of contents:

And here are the mini sitelinks they generate:

Featured snippets

As of January 2020, featured snippets were officially considered the #1 organic result (previously they were “position zero” — appearing before the top organic result).

It still remains a big question whether they get clicked more than “normal looking” search results, or whether they are comprehensive enough to get fewer clicks. However, recent research suggests they’re still important for SEO.

With that being said, featured snippets are not easy to predict, but if you choose to optimize for them, be sure to check my older Moz column that is still very valid: How to Optimize for Featured Snippets. Just don’t forget to monitor your clickthrough to ensure getting featured didn’t hurt.

Indented results

Showing intended results is a relatively new trend. So far it is not clear how exactly to get that type of search snippet, but you can track them in tools like STAT.

Complementing your product page with how-to content on the same topic may be a good idea (Google may decide to rank both as indented results). At least this is something to experiment with.

Monitoring and measuring

While rank monitoring is pretty straightforward, this kind of optimization is harder to monitor because your rankings remain the same. Here are two tools you can use:

1. Google Search Console

Google Search Console provides clear clickthrough data that can help you signal of positive or negative impact of your optimization efforts:

In the Performance tab, click in the date range filter (it usually defaults to three months), go to “Compare” tab and select “Compare last 3 months year over year”:

From there, you can click to “Pages” or “Queries” tab to identify pages or search queries that have lost organic traffic from the past year (especially if there was no substantial position change):

2. WebCEO

WebCEO provides a more convenient way to keep an eye on your keywords that are losing clicks. The tool has a separate tag and a notification system alerting you of any queries that see a decline in clicks:

3. Visualping

Another useful tool here is Visualping that you can set to monitor your exact search snippet to be alerted when it changes:

This is a great way to correlate your optimization with the actual change that happened (and then clickthrough change).

Using SiteChecker’s website monitoring tool you can also monitor your competitors’ pages and correlate their edits to an improved search snippet:

Conclusion

Whether it is good or bad news, organic traffic is no longer about rankings. In fact, you may well be ranking #1 (i.e. get featured) and notice a decrease in clickthrough once your page is promoted. But, you can experiment with all kinds of ways to improve your organic clickthrough without investing more into your rankings, even though organic CTR is much harder to predict these days.



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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

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The Ultimate Guide to Product Marketing in 2023

Product marketing is essential, even if you only sell one or two products at your organization.

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

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3 email marketing shifts to make in 2023

Whew! We made it to 2023! As we closed in on the end of the year in December, the finish line seemed awfully far away. Many marketers told me they were busier than ever. 

I myself was fielding calls for strategy help, working on business deals and managing the chaos all the way to the eve of Christmas Eve, something that rarely happens in my 20-plus-year career. 

Look back and celebrate, then move on

The first business for 2023 will be to step back, clear your head and take stock of all the great things you accomplished in 2022 despite the odds (i.e., coming out of COVID, going into a rebound and COVID round 2, moving into supply-chain shortages and other hiccups, facing down a potential recession) and how they affected the work you did to succeed.

And now it’s 2023. I hope you got your budget request approved and you’re ready to move ahead with a clean slate and new KPIs to hit. You’re probably wondering, “What can I do now to grow my program?

3 directional changes to grow your email program

Naturally, every marketer’s goals will be unique. We have different audiences, challenges, resources and goals. But I’m focusing on three major directional changes with my clients this year. Which of these could help you succeed this year?

1. Stop sending so many emails

Yeah, I know. That sounds strange coming from somebody who believes wholeheartedly in email and its power to build your business. But even I have my limits!

Email during this last holiday shopping season was insane. In my 20+ years in the email industry, I cannot remember a time, even during the lockdown days of COVID-19, when my inbox was so full. 

I’m not the only one who noticed. Your customers also perceived that their inboxes were getting blasted to the North Pole. And they complained about it, as the Washington Post reported (“Retailers fire off more emails than ever trying to get you to shop“).

I didn’t run any numbers to measure volume, isolate cadences or track frequency curves. But every time I turned around, I saw emails pouring into my inbox. 

My advice for everyone on frequency: If you throttled up during the holiday, now it’s time to throttle back.

This should be a regularly scheduled move. But it’s important to make sure your executives understand that higher email frequency, volume and cadence aren’t the new email norm. 

If you commit to this heavier schedule, you’ll drive yourself crazy and push your audience away, to other brands or social media.

If you did increase cadence, what did it do for you? You might have hit your numbers, but consider the long-term costs: 

  • More unsubscribes.
  • More spam complaints.
  • Deliverability problems.
  • Lower revenue per email. 

Take what you learned from your holiday cadence as an opportunity to discover whether it’s a workable strategy or only as a “break glass in case of emergency” move.

My advice? Slow down. Return to your regular volume, frequency and cadence. Think of your customers and their reactions to being inundated with emails over 60 days.

2. Stop spamming

In that Washington Post article I mentioned earlier, I was encouraged that it cited one of my email gripes — visiting websites and then getting emails without granting permission first. 

I could have given the Post a salty quote about my experiences with SafeOpt and predatory email experiences (“Business stress is no excuse to spam“) for visitors to its clients’ websites. 

Successful email marketers believe in the sanctity of permission. That permission-based practice is what you want to be involved in. Buying a list means you don’t hire a company to sell you one, whether it’s a data broker or a tech provider like SafeOpt. 

Spamming people doesn’t work in the long term. Sure, I’ve heard stories from people who say they use purchased lists or companies like SafeOpt and it makes them money. But that’s a singular view of the impact. 

Email is the only marketing channel where you can do it wrong but still make money. But does that make it right? 

The problem with the “it made us money” argument is that there’s nowhere to go after that. Are you measuring how many customers you lost because you spammed them or the hits your sender reputation took? 

You might hit a short-term goal but lose the long-term battle. When you become known as an unreliable sender, you risk losing access to your customers’ inboxes.

Aside from the permission violation, emailing visitors after they leave your site is a wasted effort for three reasons:

  • A visit is not the same as intent. You don’t know why they landed on your site. Maybe they typed your URL as a mistake or discovered immediately that your brand wasn’t what they wanted. Chasing them with emails won’t bring them back.
  • You aren’t measuring interest. Did they visit multiple pages or check out your “About” or FAQ pages? As with intent, just landing on a page doesn’t signal interest.
  • They didn’t give you their email address. If they had interest or intent, they would want to connect with your brand. No email address, no permission.

Good email practice holds that email performs best when it’s permission-based. Most ESPs and ISPs operate on that principle, as do many email laws and regulations.

But even in the U.S., where opt-out email is still legal, that doesn’t mean you should send an email without permission just because somebody landed on your website.

3. Do one new thing

Many email marketers will start the year with a list of 15 things they want to do over the next two months. I try to temper those exuberant visions by focusing on achievable goals with this question: 

“What one thing could you do this year that could make a great difference in your email program’s success?”

When I started a job as head of strategy for Acxiom, I wanted to come up with a long list of goals to impress my new boss. I showed it to my mentor, the great David Baker and he said, “Can you guarantee that you can do all of these things and not just do them but hit them out of the park?”

Hmmmm…

“That’s why you don’t put down that many goals,” he said. “Go in with just one. When that one is done, come up with the next one. Then do another. If you propose five projects, your boss will assume you will do five projects. If you don’t, it just means you didn’t get it done.”

That was some of the best advice I’ve ever received and I pass it on to you. 

Come up with one goal, project or change that will drive your program forward. Take it to your boss and say, “Here’s what I’m going to do this year.”

To find that one project, look at your martech and then review MarTech’s six most popular articles from 2022 for expert advice.

You’ll find plenty of ideas and tips to help you nail down your one big idea to drive growth and bring success. But be realistic. You don’t know what events could affect your operations. 

Drive your email program forward in 2023

The new year has barely begun, but I had a little trouble getting motivated to take on what’s shaping up to be a beast of a year. You, too?

I enjoyed my time off over the holidays. Got in some golf with my dad and his buddies, ate great food and took time to step back and appreciate the phenomenal people I work with and our amazing industry. 

What gets me going at last? Reaching out to my team, friends and you. Much of my motivation comes from fellow marketers — what you need, what you worry about and what I can do to help you succeed. 

If you’re on the struggle bus with me, borrow some motivation from your coworkers and teammates, so we can gather together 12 months from now and toast each other for making it through another year. 

It’s time to strap on your marketer helmet and hit the starter. Here’s to another great year together. Let’s get the job done!


Get MarTech! Daily. Free. In your inbox.



Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


About the author

Ryan Phelan

As the co-founder of RPEOrigin.com, Ryan Phelan’s two decades of global marketing leadership has resulted in innovative strategies for high-growth SaaS and Fortune 250 companies. His experience and history in digital marketing have shaped his perspective on creating innovative orchestrations of data, technology and customer activation for Adestra, Acxiom, Responsys, Sears & Kmart, BlueHornet and infoUSA. Working with peers to advance digital marketing and mentoring young marketers and entrepreneurs are two of Ryan’s passions. Ryan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Email Experience Council Advisory Board and a member of numerous business community groups. He is also an in-demand keynote speaker and thought leader on digital marketing.

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Promote | DigitalMarketer

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Promote | DigitalMarketer

Up until now, any “promotion” your customers have done has been passive. But in the promotion stage, your customers actively spread the word about your brands, products, and services. They tell stories, make recommendations, and share your offers because they truly believe in them.

Active promotion may be an affiliate or commission relationship—or just a free offer for sending some new customers your way. The point is, it’s a win-win for both of you.

One thing worth mentioning before we dive in; Happy customers don’t promote, SUCCESSFUL customers do. 

Our biggest question in the Promote stage is: How are you going to turn your BEST customers into your marketing partners? 

If you don’t have a referral program, an affiliate program, or a valued reseller program … who is willing to drive your message to the organization you need to build out these programs? This is word of mouth marketing, and it is very important so start thinking about how you want to build this. 

Look to your most successful customers, they’re going to be the people who actively promote for you. But then, let’s think about our customers who already have our prospects but are offering a different product or service. 

At DigitalMarketer we are a training and certification company, we are not a services based company. What that means is we don’t compete with agencies or consultants. This also means that there is an opportunity for us to work with agencies and consultants. 

When we realized this we decided to launch our Certified Partner Program, which you can learn more about at DigitalMarketer.Com/Partner. This program lets us work with the largest segments of our customer base, who have customers that we want but they’re providing a solution that we’re not providing. 

When we train our customers, they are able to use our company frameworks to work with their clients. If their clients want to learn to do their marketing themselves? We’re the first education company they see.

So who is that for you? Remember, it’s not the happy clients that refer, it’s the successful clients. If you want to create more promoters, make sure that you’re doing everything that you can as a marketer to ensure that you’re marketing great products so you can see great results. 

How can our example companies accomplish this?

For Hazel & Hems, they can add an ambassador program to grow their instagram following and increase credibility with viral posts. 

Ambassadors can earn affiliate commissions, additional boutique reward points, and get the chance to build a greater following by leveraging the Hazel & Hems brand.

For Cyrus & Clark, they can offer discounted rates to their existing clients if those clients are willing to refer them to their strategic partners. 

For construction companies, this could be a home builder recommending Cyrus & Clark services to the landscapers, real estate developers, and interior designers that they work with to serve their customers.



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