Jonathan Saipe

Improving Search Engine Click-Through Rates

24 November 2008, Jonathan Saipe

Optimising your website title tag and meta description tag effectively is quite possibly one of the most overlooked aspects to increasing search traffic and improving click-through rates (CTR) in search engine results pages (SERPs).

Title tags

Your title tag is the window to your website

Given that your website title tag forms the main link in SERPs, it is crucial that the right 65 characters (10-15 words) are used to summarise your page in order to encourage a click.

The title tag is therefore the first thing searchers will see that connects their search to your website and needs to act as an emotional trigger compelling the searcher to click on it (as opposed to the nine other links on the search engine result page).

When compiling a title tag, you need to decide on its purpose of which there are various choices:

  • Is a brand statement my focus?
  • Should it be utilitarian?
  • Should it act as a bread crumb trail to aid website usability?
  • Is the aim to act as a call-to-action?
  • Am I solely focused on keyphrase content? (as opposed to keyword stuffing!)

Any of the above could apply in isolation or in combination.

For example, shouting your brand to the world is great if your goal is hype, but more often than not it wont necessarily help your search rank. You may therefore want to more closely consider what keyphrases you use in the title tag.

Equally if you are within the b2c sector and targeting consumers – particularly window shoppers – you may decide that the title tag should be written with the both targeted keyphrases and a strong call-to-action in mind. (See our article on keyphrase selection and user behaviour types).

Don’t keyword stuff

We strongly advise that you don’t stuff keywords or keyphrases into your titles. Firstly it can have a direct negative impact on your search rank, but secondly it can affect user expectations and subsequent behaviour: if a searcher does click a keyword stuffed link, there is a strong probability that the target page will lack quality or relevance resulting in the searcher hitting the back button in order to look for the next best search result. Given that search engines monitor bounce rates, this will ultimately do your search rank no favours.

Adding your main keyphrase followed by a synonym or two – or your secondary/tertiary on-page keyphrases (which may include a qualifier keyword) – is acceptable, providing it is within the realms of human consumption and search engine algorithm acceptance.

Meta description

With your meta description, you have the opportunity to write slightly more content – usually one or two sentences of around 150 characters or 15-20 words ending in a call-to-action.

Your web page meta description more often than not comprises the two lines beneath the main link in SERPs, and should therefore not only describe the web page effectively but should also contain a call-to-action, again to encourage a click.

Whether the call-to-action is implicit or explicit, ensure that you are not only describing the web page in question to increase relevance, but also compelling the searcher that a click will be worth it. Adding sale prices, special offers, unique selling points (USPs) or other benefit-led content, will all encourage a click.

It is perfectly acceptable to include around 3 of your targeted keyphrases relevant to that page providing your aren’t keyword stuffing or shoe-horning them into the meta description at the expense of human consumption.
And finally don’t copy your title tag and use it as a meta description.

To conclude

A well written title, with a relevant meta description, can yield more traffic even in the 7th or 8th position on the search engine result page versus a search result in a top 3 position that contains a poorly written title or meta description.