Higher Google ranks no longer mean more organic clicks

Written by  in category 
March 11, 2015

This articles first appeared in SEOPowerSuite. The content was provided by:

Chris Pinkerton
Vice President, Client development at North America Mediative,@chrispinkerton
“With different layouts of search result pages, where searchers are conditioned to look and click changes”

Ehren Reilly

Director of Product at Glassdoor, @ehrenreilly
“It’s no longer viable to have high-quality non-proprietary content.”

Eric Enge,

CEO and Founder at Stone Temple Consulting, @stonetemple
“We ran a test, publishing 5 pieces of content that answered 5 common SEO questions. In 3 days, we saw our content included into Google’s rich answers.”

Barry Adams,

Founder at Polemic Digital, @badams
“If you waste crawl budget because of slow page loading, the right pages are unlikely to be crawled & indexed.”

Adam Audette

SVP Organic Search at Merkle, @audette
“If an ecommerce site makes $100k in revenue per day, a 1 second load delay equates to $2.5M in lost revenue annually.”

Marshall Simmonds,

Founder of Define Media Group Inc, @mdsimmonds
“Dark traffic is a problem for marketers because we’re not getting credit for the traffic that we’re creating. Be aware and try to analyze it.”

Christine Churchill

President and CEO of KeyRelevance LLC, @chrischurchill
“Research core phrases plus synonyms and words that frequently occur with your main terms. Then build a keyword matrix, assigning each of the keyword groups to different pages.”
Sha Menz
Link Removal Specialist, rmoov.com, @ShahMenz
“You don’t have a link penalty and think you’re safe? Don’t bet on it. You need to actively disavow and remove low quality links that you find during link audits even if you don’t have a penalty yet.”
Rand Fishkin
Founder, MOZ, @randfish
“Make pages for people, not engines” is terrible advice. Engines need the things we’ve always done, and we better keep doing that. People need additional things — and we better do that,

Are you still assuming the #1 Google ranking guarantees you the most organic clicks?

Well, here comes the bad news… While the click-through rate (the percentage of searchers that click on a site’s listing when they see it in search results) is surely still correlated with positions, lots of other factors can influence your organic clicks in Google of 2016.

Paid ads, local packs, carousel results, knowledge graphs and rich snippets — all these attention-grabbing SERP elements can drain away the clicks from your #1 ranking website.

The latest study by Mediative (that was tracking searchers’ eye movement and eventual clicks across different SERPs) showed that the way searchers interact with the SERP varies a great deal from query to query.

Here’s, for example, how the views and clicks are distributed on a SERP with a local pack, a paid ads pack and a carousel:

For search marketers, this change means two things:

1) Keyword search volume itself is no longer a reliable metric to predict how much organic traffic this keyword is able to generate for your website. Before investing effort into optimizing your site for a keyword, take a look at the search result page. See if there are many SERP elements that may be stealing clicks from your organic listing to get a better idea of the traffic potential of this word.

2) Besides trying to get higher search rankings, you need to pay attention to the extra click opportunities that the SERPs give. Can you squeeze into the local pack results? Can you utilize structured data to get a rich snippet listing? Shouldn’t you launch a Google AdWords campaign for this particular query?

Rich answers are on the increase — that’s both a threat and an opportunity

Another huge tendency in search is the increase of Google’s rich answers. According to a study by Stone Temple Consulting, Google returns rich answers to 35% of search queries these days. This is a 38% increase over the past 6 months, and we are clearly in for some further growth.

Quite often, rich answers are built based on public data (like “President of the USA”) or the data licensed to Google (like song lyrics). So, if your SEO strategy was built on public domain data… you better change direction right now, because getting search traffic from Google will only be getting harder for you.

But what if you have high-quality, unique, proprietary content that can help Google answer common searchers’ questions? Well, rich answers are an opportunity for you. According to Eric Enge of Stone Temple Consulting, for 75% of rich answers Google uses external data and includes a link to its source.

Getting your page featured in a rich answer can give you a massive traffic boost — CTR for clickable rich answers is ~2X better than that for the #1 ranking page on a SERP with no rich answer. And the best thing is, getting featured in rich answers is absolutely possible even if your site’s authority is not very high yet.

So, how about pushing your site to direct answers and thus making it rank higher than Her Highness Wikipedia? 🙂

  • 1. Start with long tail keyword research — you need to identify the commonly searched questions in your niche.
  • 2. Create a piece of content that directly answers these questions. Make sure to include the question itself, and a direct answer to it — keep in mind that for rich answers, the structure of your answer is more important than your site’s relevance and authority.
  • 3. Make sure your article is truly helpful and provides additional information on the matter. This will not only increase your chances of getting featured as a rich answer, but will help you entice more clicks.
  • 4. Make your content easy to find for people and search engines (make sure it’s available to Google bots and easily accessible through your site’s navigation; share links to it on your social accounts; submit them via Google search console, etc.)

Page speed is utterly important — optimize it today, don’t put it off till tomorrow

First things first: page speed is a ranking factor. All other things being equal, the site that loads quicker will outrank a competing site, hands down.

Second, slow-loading pages waste your site’s crawl budget (yeah, Google has allocated a specific time for crawling your website, and Google”s bot won’t stay on your website longer than that specific period). For a bigger website this means that the slower your pages load, the fewer of them get indexed by Google.

Tracking your organic traffic with Google Analytics gets even more difficult

If you’re staring in despair at your Google Analytics traffic report, unable to figure out where all this direct traffic is coming from… Your problem is “Dark traffic”.

According to Marshall Simmonds, when Google Analytics is unable to identify where your site’s visits are coming from, the visits are recorded as direct traffic. And as in the modern Web these un-identifiable visits keep growing in numbers, your Google Analytics reports get less precise: they report a direct traffic growth – while in reality you’re growing your organic, social and mobile traffic.

This makes tracking your marketing activities even more complicated.

So, first of all, you need to be aware of the cases when your traffic goes dark. According to Marshall, the common cases are:

  • Traffic from a secure site to non-secure;
  • Traffic from image search;
  • Traffic via links in applications;
  • A big portion of traffic from Facebook, SnapChat, WhatsApp;
  • Traffic from the Android search app.

Second, though checking the precise amounts of dark traffic is impossible, you can at least get a better idea of how it affects your site. To do that, Marshall recommends to:

  • Create a direct traffic report in Google Analytics
  • And then filter out the traffic to pages that are naturally visited “directly” — like your homepage or the front pages of important content sections which users are likely to bookmark.

5. Keywords are neither dead nor dying — they are still the basis of your SEO campaign

Keywords and keyword targeting are the most basic and longest-running concepts in SEO. And if you’re in search for quite some time, you may remember the days when SEO meant just having the right words in your meta keywords tag.

Sure, these times have passed and will never come back: search engines now use much more complicated algorithms to determine webpages’ quality and relevancy. But does this mean keywords are dead? Experts agree — keywords and keyword research should still be the basis of your SEO and content marketing campaigns. However, Google’s Hummingbird update shifts our focus from researching separate keywords to researching groups of related terms and synonyms.

Now that Google is able to recognize the meaning behind a search query, it gives a common answer to a number of “different-in-keywords” but “same-in-meaning” queries. So if you want to grab yourself a place in the Post-Hummingbird search results, you need your pages to be relevant not only to the core term, but for a whole group of its synonyms and related terms.

The aim of your keyword research is now in identifying not individual keywords, but the groups of thematically connected terms your pages will target.

This article first appeared on SEOPowerSuite’s Web site.
I strongly recommend this site to anyone wanting to better understand SEO. 

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