Most Google searches yield thousands if not millions of webpages and documents. These results are organized on aptly-named search engine results pages (SERPs), which give users a long list of potential answers. People often don’t realize how little time they spend choosing a result to click on. Meanwhile, marketers are clamoring to get their website on the very first SERP, knowing that most users don’t venture beyond that.
So if your audience is making snap decisions on where to click, and SERPs list dozens of competitors alongside your listing, how do you stand out? Where can you get the extra nudge to grab your ideal customer’s attention? Let’s take a look.
More than 70 percent of all SERP clicks happen on the first page of results, and the top five results receive more than 67 percent of those clicks. And with users spending mere seconds browsing a SERP, it’s crucial to nab one of those top spots. But there’s a bit more to it than that.
You could rank highly, but people are still likely to choose only one result to click on. What makes the difference between your listing and a competitor’s? To answer this question, it’s helpful to look at how Google portrays search results. For most listings, Google includes the title of the page, a partial URL, a date if available, and a brief description of the content. Users can take all these into consideration when choosing where to click.
To stand out, then, you need to craft a meta title and description that Google can show to users instead of a randomly generated piece of content. If your webpage isn’t optimized for search engines, you could have a cut-off title or irrelevant bit of text in your description — neither of which is compelling to users. Choose page titles that focus on the benefit a visitor will receive, and create a concise, intriguing meta description that “sells” your content to users.
Google’s primary goal is not to provide a fair and equal listing of results, but to deliver information to their users as quickly as possible. To that end, they rolled out the Featured Snippet, which pulls content from the most relevant search result and displays it right there on the SERP.
Obviously, this feature led to a new urgency among marketers to reach this coveted “position zero.” They feared that users would simply read the snippet and go on their merry way, or ignore all other results in favor of the snippet’s source link. However, research shows that most users still click the top result below the snippet.
Still, it’s worth getting your content in the Featured Snippet if only to steal some clicks from the top result. (Per Google, you can either be in one or the other for the same webpage.) To get your content into this spot, your content typically must be optimized to answer a question. Use a tool such as Answer the Public to generate longtail queries, or look at Google’s own “People also ask” box for ideas. Craft information-rich content in short paragraphs that Google can easily pull into a snippet. And of course, ensure that your entire site is SEO-friendly. (Tip: optimize your content for voice search as well!)
Custom meta descriptions improve the click appeal of your page, but they’re also not perfect. As Google increasingly prioritizes user intent in their algorithm, it becomes more important to teach search engines not only what your content is about, but why users should see it. That’s where schema markup comes in.
Schema markup allows you to tag each piece of content on a given page according to its purpose. This is useful for identifying data sets, articles, product listings, and creative works to Google. With this markup, Google can show your content to people seeking those particular types of information. Schema markup also improves your chances of making it into local results and featured snippets.
To stand out in SERPs, you need to tap into click psychology. Users are looking for quick, easy answers, so give them what they want. Clear titles, compelling descriptions, and information-rich listings all drive traffic toward your site. While basic SEO can help you rank higher on SERPs, using the techniques described above can help your content get in front of more eyes — potentially even ranking for keywords you’re not targeting! All in all, you should use your full SEO toolkit to get the best results for your business.
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