When it comes to SEO, it is all about trial and error, despite the fact that there are tons of best practices and theories out there. After all, where do you think those theories and best practices come from – experimentation. With SEO, you experiment so that you can learn and improve on your past failures as well as successes.
Google only reveals so much information. It can never tell you the whole story. This is why you have to experiment so that you can gain the data that you need to create out-of-this-world SEO strategies that perform. With that being said, here are six SEO experiments that push the envelope, what can be learned from them and what it means:
1. Click-Through Rates for Organic Search: Do They Matter?
SEO is constantly changing. This is particularly true thanks to machine learning elements like Google RankBrain, which is used by the search engine giant on each search. The question is, though, whether it has the ability to impact your search engine rankings. And, if it does, how and how much? What exactly is a good click-through rate when it comes to organic searches?
To determine the answer to this question, we looked at 1,000 keywords. During March, the average click-through rate was at 22 percent for the top position. In June, that percentage increased two percent and another three percent by August. At the other end of things, the lower positioned keywords weren’t panning out as well.
So, from a machine-learned algorithm, this is likely exactly what you should expect. Web users want to get the best possible answers with the least engagement – in other words, they want to be able to get quality answers for their search without having to go past the first page of the search results.
So, the answer to the original question – does the click-through rate for organic search matter? Yes, it absolutely does, quite possibly more than it has ever mattered before.
2. Is There a Link Between Organic Search and Organic Click-Through Rate?
Now that it is obvious that click-through rate is crucial, is there a relationship when it comes to organic search rankings?
It has been said numerous times that click-through rates are not used by Google for search engine rankings. However, some believe that clicks could have some type of indirect impact on search results. To find out, we need to separate the click-through rate and search engine ranking, which can be done by getting the difference from an observed organic search click-through rate minus an expected click-through rate.
From our experimentation, we were able to determine that pages that typically beat the expected organic click-through rate for a pre-determined position are more likely to rank within the top four search engine results positions. For instance, if a page were to beat the expected click-through rate by 20 percent, it would most likely show up in the 1st position in the search engine results.
Now, at the same time, the pages that did not beat the click-through rate were more likely to show up in the 6-10 positions. For instance, if a page were to fail by six percent, it would most likely show up in the 10th position in the search engine results.
As you can see from this data, it appears that organic search engine rankings are indeed impacted by the organic click-through rate.
3. Can Click-Through Rates Be Improved with Rewritten Titles?
Since you know that a higher click-through rate can reap you rewards, what can you do to raise your click-through rate?
Essentially, the best way to get your point across to your audience is through your SERP headlines because that is the one thing that you can count on everyone seeing. While you may create incredible content, they will never read it if they don’t click on your headline because it is boring.
Some people will try to write titles with the most important keyword at the forefront of the title and all titles must be 60 characters or less. It is one of those SEO best practices. However, this doesn’t always equate to an enticing, clickable headline, does it?
So, this led to our next experiment. We changed the titles of some posts to see how much the click-through rates changed. The new type of title that you want to try to create is all about lists and invoking emotions in the reader, such as the title of this article: 6 Mind-Blowing SEO Experiments You Must Give a Try.
When we changed the headline of the article that we used for our experiment, the click-through rate for the article increased a little over three percent as well as three positions in the search engine rankings.
So, it is possible that rewriting your article titles can help to give your click-through rates a much-needed boost. Take your old, boring titles and give them a creative boost that people will actually want to click on. Just don’t go overboard to where the content doesn’t back up the title.
4. Are Organic Search Rankings Effected by Site Engagement Rates?
While creating clickable headlines is incredibly important, the end goal is not only to create clickbait. Engagement metrics are also very important. After all, if your audience feels as if they have been cheated and go directly back to the search engine results page, Google is going to know.
So, you need to be able to focus on dwell time. Also, compared to bounce rate, time spent on your site is a far better proxy when it comes to dwell time. Many believe that dwell time is used by Google for click-through rate validation. This information ultimately helps the search engine giant to determine if users had a successful search.
So, are organic search rankings impacted by time on site, bounce rates, conversion rates and other engagement metrics? To find out, we compiled some relevant data. We looked to see if the bounce rate for are ranked keywords/pages had a connection to their ranking. It appeared that landing pages with a 76 percent or below bounce rate were more likely to appear within the top four positions in the search results, while landing pages with a 78 percent or higher bounce rate with more likely to appear in the 5th position or lower.
As far as time on site goes, if it’s decent, then positions one through six are likely. However, if it is weak, then positions seventh or lower are more likely. For conversion rates, higher click-through rates tend to result in higher conversion rates. This is because there is a better chance of someone making a purchase if you can actually get them excited enough to click through to your site.
This data proves that increasing engagement metrics/conversion rates can definitely boost organic search rankings.
5. Can Featured Snippet Selections Be Impacted by Engagement Metrics?
Featured snippets on Google search results can show up as text, images, lists, charts, as well as various other forms. The question, however, is how Google selects these snippets.
First, we need to determine whether or not organic ranking factors affect your website getting snipped. We took information from nearly 1,000 snippets and found that the answer was no. Google featured snippets from website content that ranked from anywhere from page 2 to the 70th position.
It is important to have clear, concise copy on the page, but word count is not the entire picture. Therefore, we decided to dig a little dipper on a particular page because it had searches that were linked to Bing Rewards. We found a very high click-through rate (above 21 percent), despite the fact it was in 10th position as well as a high time on site (more than 14 minutes), which is about three times more than the average.
Therefore, we have come to the conclusion that engagement rates absolutely play a significant role in Google’s overall selection of its snippets that are featured in the search results.
6. What’s the Deal with Social Shares and Organic Search Rankings?
There have been studies conducted by various organizations, such as Moz and SearchMetrics, regarding the relationship between social shares and organic search rankings. While many people say that social shares are correlated to your ranking, Google says that this is not the case. Others say that social engagement is more important. So, we have put it all to the test to see what the truth is.
Our data shows that Facebook posts with higher engagement rates (more than six percent) have click-through rates that will exceed expectations. So, if your Facebook engagement is five times higher than average, then your organic search click-through rate can be expected to be five times higher than average.
But why? More than likely, you can chalk it all up to emotions. Emotions are what make people share social media content to begin with, and emotions are what get people to share that same content when it is seen in the SERPs. This is particularly true when users see enticing headlines with higher-than-average click-through rates.
The relationship tends to be stronger with “blockbuster” content that drives far more traffic to your website than all your other content when it is put together. This type of content with high social engagement rates typically had high organic click-through rates and vice versa. With the other content, the relationship was not as strong. They would have high engagement rates sometimes, and low engagement rates other times. The same could be said of click-through rates – some were high, and some were low.
So, with that being said, the relationship between social engagement and organic rankings comes down to this: high social engagement rates are associated with higher click-through rates and vice versa. When it all comes down to it, it matters how engaging you have made your content.
Now, What Does All of This Mean?
As the aforementioned experiments have shown, SEO continues to evolve in a way that your content and website as a whole can be rewarded, but it is based on the way that web users engage with your website and your content. Therefore, you must always optimize for this (engagement) – optimize for your audience. You must remember that you are creating headlines and content for people, not computers, so create headlines that will make people want to click and then reward them with content that is enticing, memorable and sharable.
If you need help getting started or have any questions, give us a call at WebDetail.