Now that Google has gone from ten listings to just seven in many of its search results pages (SERPs), it’s even more important for webmasters to do everything in their power to make their listings stand out from the rest. If you’re relying on Google to figure out what to share in your SERPs snippet, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to attract organic traffic to your pages!
The following are three strategies that can be used to make your SERPs listings stand out. While none of them are 100% fool-proof strategies for guaranteeing that search users will click on your site over another, they’re all worth putting into practice in order to increase your potential click-through rates.
Strategy #1 – Google Sitelinks
The primary reason for Google’s move to fewer results in the natural SERPs is the growing inclusion of “sitelinks.” As pictured below, sitelinks are indented search results that represent internal pages found on the primary listing’s site. In this example, a Google search for “Zappos” turns up both the company’s home page and a number of other resources that Google believes might interest users who are interested in this query:
Unfortunately, there’s no way to sign up for sitelinks – Google simply doles out the privilege to the sites it feels are worthy of inclusion in the program. As your site grows – in both its total number of pages and its relative traffic within its industry – Google will take notice and assign your SERPs listings designated sitelinks when appropriate.
Really, the only thing you can manage when it comes to sitelinks is which pages on your site should not appear in the Google SERPs. If there are pages you’d rather not have Google list in a future sitelinks listing, log in to your Google Webmaster Tools account and navigate to the “sitelinks” section found under the “Configuration” menu. There, you can list any pages on your domain that should not be included in this feature.
Strategy #2 – Google Authorship
Now, while it’s frustrating that you can control how and when your sitelinks will appear in the Google results, there is one thing you can do to make your listings stand out – and that’s taking advantage of Google’s new authorship rules in order to generate enhanced SERPs snippets.
Essentially, Google’s authorship rules allow you to send the Google indexing robots more information about the content on your site. Then, whenever your pages appear in the SERPs, Google can tie this information back to your authorship data – automatically adding pictures and extra data to your search listings.
In this sample SERP – generated for the query “SEO articles” – two results feature the enhanced listing format that can be created using Google’s authorship rules, while the other two do not. From a search user’s perspective, the two marked up listings – which include pictures, author information and links to further content – are much more visually engaging (and, therefore, much more likely to result in successful click-throughs).
For specific instructions on how to set up Google authorship, check out the Google+ page on the subject. However, as a basic overview, you’ll need to take the following steps to enable this powerful tool:
- Create a Google+ profile (if you don’t have one already)
- Add a profile image with a recognizable headshot to your Google+ account
- Add a byline to all of your website articles that contains the same name as the one that’s associated with your Google+ account
- Link your website content to your Google+ account using email verification or by directly linking your content to your Google+ profile (follow the instructions found here).
In most cases, these steps shouldn’t take you more than an hour to complete, and the impact they can have on your site’s performance in the natural SERPs should more than make up for any extra effort you need to go to in order to set up Google authorship. Add this powerful feature to your site today and watch your click-through rate soar!
Strategy #3 – Copywritten SERPs Snippets
Now, the obvious limitation of the two strategies we’ve discussed so far is that there are no guarantees that they’ll be deployed correctly in the Google SERPs. You could set up your authorship correctly and grow your site to a respectable level – but it’s out of your hands whether or not Google will choose to bless your SERPs listings with either sitelinks or enhanced authorship formats.
There is, however, one thing you can do to make your SERPs listings stand out from the competition – and that’s utilizing copywritten content in your site’s meta tags.
Meta tags get a bad rap these days, as they don’t really do much to improve your website’s optimization. For this reason, plenty of webmasters ignore them altogether or simply copy and paste the first few sentences of their page content into the meta description tag and call it a day.
However, this is shortsighted. Even if your site’s meta tags don’t contribute to its overall optimization, these fields – in particular, your title tag and meta description – are frequently pulled by Google to form the snippet for your site that appears in the natural SERPs. So if you’ve just copied a few sentences of content into this important field – or, worse yet, left it blank – you’re not going to wind up with a very compelling SERP!
Instead, use the power of copywriting to make your snippet as engaging as possible – causing your site to stand out from the others in your search results page. Consider the two sample snippets that follow to see how important this distinction can be:
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It’s pretty obvious which of these sample snippets is more likely to result in click-throughs, right? While the first example reads like a boring, throw-away description, the second snippet utilizes the principles of copywriting to engage visitors, speak to their emotions and then compel them to click through.
If you’ve been lucky enough to earn a spot in the Google SERPs, don’t waste this opportunity with dull, dry snippet text. Instead, study up on basic copywriting principles and then apply them to your site’s title tag and meta description field. While it isn’t 100% guaranteed that Google will pull your snippet information from these specific areas (rather than generating them using other content on your site), these fields are used in the majority of snippets – making this strategy a powerful way to get your SERPs listing to stand out from the other results on your page.
As internet business continues to become more and more competitive, it’s up to savvy webmasters to take advantage of any and all techniques that will give them the edge in the SERPs. Implementing any of the strategies described above on your site can be a great way to help boost natural search traffic to your site – ultimately improving your website’s bottom line for a comparatively small amount of effort on your part.