Your search engine listing has a big impact on the traffic ultimately driven to your site. It's not enough to rank highly if you can't convince people to click. A number of methods to improve your listing are available to you.
Elements to Include
Your listing is made of up your page title, meta description (usually), and a URL. All of those should be tweaked as part of your search marketing efforts. To stand out, include:
- Keywords in your titles, descriptions and URLs: Google and Bing will bold words in a listing that match the search query.
- Your brand name: People like to click on familiar sites.
- A call to action within the description: Something like, "Book your vacation now!"
- Your selling points: Do you have a big selection, unique tools, or expert reviewers? Do you offer the lowest prices or free shipping?
- Top products, departments, features, subheadings, or a first sentence from an article in the description: Remember that you can only have about 150 characters before you text will get truncated.
Now that you've made your listings, you need to see if they work. Paid search allows for lots of testing with some pretty clear results of what works. Testing your organic listings is much harder, but still worthwhile.
- PPC Ad Testing: Because paid ads are so easy to test, use them to get some general ideas. Do people respond better to 15 percent off or free shipping?
- A/B Testing: If your site allows, you can do some A/B traffic testing of your listings. To reduce the influence of other factors, tests should be run concurrently on a set of pages you can split into reasonably equal groups. Comparing just the traffic pulled from A and B will take rankings and click-through rates (CTRs) into account.
- Search Queries Report: One of good newer tools for testing is in Google Webmaster Tools. The "search queries" report will actually give you a number for your CTR and average position for specific dates.
Bells & Whistles
Not every listing can have a bell or a whistle, but make sure you're ready to take advantage of these features that make a listing stand out:
- Microformats, microdata, or RDFa code: Events, reviews, people, and more can be tagged to appear as part of a search listing. You can see these in action with upcoming shows on MySpace band pages, the star ratings on Yelp restaurant listings, and a sample of a person's friends appear with some Facebook profiles.
- Google Breadcrumbs: These appear on many deep pages of some sites. They won't appear unless have navigational-based breadcrumbs on the actual page. You can mark up your breadcrumbs to ensure they show properly.
- Sitelinks (Google) and deep links (Bing): These links appear beneath the home page listing of some sites. Your site has to be highly relevant for the search query to show sitelinks. It's hard to influence them. Watch your link text to try to change any poorly worded sitelinks, and you can also request to block any problem links.
People scan search results quickly, so anything you can do to make your listing stand out helps. Try to put yourself in the customer's position when determining what would appeal over the rest of the listings.
Finally, don't be content that you've found something that works. Keep testing to see what really drives more traffic to your site.