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3 Ways to Massively Raise Search Engine CTR

Search engine marketers are getting smarter by the day and capturing a solid amount of the page 1 clicks is becoming an ever increasingly difficult task. To stay ahead in search you have to be constantly testing and implementing new things; most people just try to “rank higher” but don’t realize you can optimize the listings you already have and capture more of that traffic.

The hardest thing to do on a search results page is to capture the searchers attention instantly. You can write the most clever title and description tags in the world, if someone else is grabbing the eye of the searcher before they see your listing it might already be too late.

Here are 3 ways to grab the attention of the searcher and provide more value in your search results:

1. Google Authorship

If your website has any type of blog component Google authorship is an absolute must and a great way to increase your click-through rate from organic search results. If you’re unfamiliar with Google authorship it basically allows you to place a thumbnail of yourself (or the author of the content) next to the search listing.

You can raise organic search CTR dramatically just by adding Google authorship for a couple of reasons:

  • It increases trust by showing a picture of a real person (whoever wrote the content)
  • Generally other search results will not have this so your listing will stick out like a sore thumb and draw the eye IMMEDIATELY
  • Google may improve ranking and visibility for doing this – they have been known to reward marketers for using their products and services in the past

Here’s an example of what Google authorship in action looks like:


Now compare that result to the typical text only listings like this:


Which one do you think would capture your attention first? Even if your website is ranked out of the top 3 you can still get MORE clicks in some cases just by having this thumbnail, it really can be that powerful.

Implementing Google authorship is simple; just go to this URL and follow the steps provided.


2. hReview Markup

Another way to sneak extra eye grabbing elements into search results is with hReview markup. Google is constantly evolving search and making changes to improve user experience and give the searcher the absolute best experience possible. One of the newer changes Google made allows markup from to show data searchers might be looking from from within the search results. This includes things like events, recipes, reviews, places, restaurants, and a whole lot more.

Most of the markup provided by is only going to be applicable to very specific types of sites, for example if you don’t run a food/recipe related website you wouldn’t benefit from the recipe markup. However, just about any website can benefit from the hReview markup by adding reviews to all of your posts and pages. The hReview markup displays a rating out of 5 in search results next to all of your pages with ratings on them. This is such an easy way to grab searchers attention you can sometimes pull a higher CTR in position 3 than the person in position 1! (Assuming they don’t have all these ninja optimization tricks applied to their website too…)

Here’s an example of what a search result listing with the hReview markup looks like:

hReview markup example

Pretty cool, right? So how do you implement this into your website? You can either implement the markup yourself or if you’re running WordPress you can use a plugin like Author hReview.


3. Video Sitemaps

If video is your preferred method of content delivery then you’re in luck; not only do videos rank extraordinarily well in search you can also get a thumbnail of your video next to ALL of your pages with videos on them. Have you ever been shown a YouTube result with a thumbnail of the video? If not here’s an example:

video thumbnail serp example

Getting that thumbnail can be a huge click-through rate booster because it grabs your attention even more-so than the Google authorship trick. Not only does it have a still image from the video, it also shows a play button and the length of the video…talk about piquing curiosity.

Until recently Google only showed these types of thumbnails for results on YouTube but lucky for us they realized allowing website owners to do this only improves user experience. Now, with video sitemaps you can get that same YouTube style thumbnail for ANY page on your website with a video on it. Creating a video sitemap is simple and very similar to a traditional sitemap – you can find the instructions for setting one up here.


Implementing these 3 things is so simple I really don’t know a more effective way to increase search traffic without increasing search impressions. What tips do you have for grabbing the eye of searchers that I missed?

5 CRO Lessons for Being a Better Marketer


You can learn a great deal from conversion rate optimization that applies to many other arenas of business and marketing. If you think about it, conversion rate optimization and marketing go hand-in-hand perfectly. When you optimize a landing page you’re collecting valuable data and getting a better idea of who your customer really is and what they respond to. (This information is invaluable when planning and implementing marketing strategies)

Not only will CRO make your business more revenue with the same amount of traffic (higher conversion rate) – it will also help you avoid wasting your marketing budget on things you know your audience won’t respond to.

Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned from CRO that have made me a better marketer all around:


1. Simplify Your Message and Avoid Clutter

Great landing pages do one thing well: convey a single message and get the visitor to take a desired action with as little friction as possible. The easiest way to achieve this is to create clean and uncluttered landing pages that highlight your offer or message in a compact to the point manner. Remember the amount of content/page elements for “compact and to the point” is going to vary greatly depending on the vertical and offer so be sure to test this thoroughly.

Remove any unnecessary distractions from the page like:

  • Extra banners/graphics
  • Navigation
  • Linked pages
  • Multiple forms or call to actions
  • Excessive text or bullet points

Here’s a landing page I really hate brought to you by Starbucks:

star bucks bad landing page example

This page might work well for Starbucks but my guess would be they can lift conversions significantly with some simple testing.

Here’s why I don’t like it:

  • It doesn’t convey any type of benefit for being a member
  • No clear explanation of what membership offers (complete waste of a headline)
  • No focus whatsoever – there’s no clear picture of “THIS is what I want the visitor to do”
  • Excessive images, links and other distractions that will either lead visitors away from the page or confuse them
  • Can’t create an account on the landing page
  • Call to action blends in with the rest of the page elements

It’s not all bad though; this is just a great example of how to clutter up a landing page and make it overly confusing. There are a couple elements I think they did a good job with:

  • The use of the “hero shot” at the top and the photo of the month give the page a human element that can be difficult for large companies to achieve
  • Register button is above the fold


2. Don’t Make Your Prospective Customers Work

I can’t believe how many otherwise excellent landing pages ask for EVERY SINGLE piece of data imaginable the first time a potential customer lands on their website. Even removing one or two fields from a form can lift conversion significantly, especially if it’s data that is really not necessary for your offer. For example, collecting addresses and phone numbers when your product is digital and you have no need to mail or call the person is pointless.

If you absolutely must collect a large amount of data on the initial signup try testing a 2-step signup process that breaks up the fields into 2 pages, that way the amount of data the end user has to input seems like less of a time commitment.

Pro tip: when using a 2-step signup process be sure to collect contact information on the initial form so you can remarket to them easily should they bail at some point in your funnel.

Here’s an example of a landing page that tries to collect too much data for this point in the relationship:

landing page with too many forms

This might be the longest email newsletter opt-in I’ve ever seen, 10 different fields for this is completely ridiculous. At this point the only data you NEED is the customers email address – you can ask for the rest of the information later once they become a subscriber.

The number of fields on this opt-in page makes signing up a chore and pushes the call to action button way down below the fold…not good. CRO tests have shown that 3-5 form fields is optimal for most landing pages, especially email newsletters. I would only collect the email address or name and email at most if I was concerned with the number of subscribers from this page.

In this test Marketing Sherpa wanted to raise conversion rates on an HP landing page by eliminating unnecessary fields from the opt-in form, so what ended up happening?

While the team’s original page had a 14% conversion rate among visitors from HP’s support pages, the new page had a 40% conversion rate — an increase of 186%.

This example goes to show that even if your page is doing well it can probably do better. Not only did HP already have a solid 14% conversion rate for the page in question, they were able to raise it to 40% by going from 15 fields to 5. What would a 186% increase in conversion rate do for your business?

3. Test, Test, Test and Test MORE

Assumptions are the most dangerous thing you can make when it comes to conversion rate optimization. You’ve heard it a million times but you have to remember your ABT’s – Always BTesting! As a marketer even though you may think your landing page is perfectly crafted it’s easy to make subconscious assumptions about what will work. Testing elements like call to actions that pop out, short bold headlines and benefit driven bullet points are all great and usually work but MIGHT not be the best for conversion on your particular page.

Try things you don’t think will work, try design elements that you wouldn’t have before, get crazy with your testing ideas. How do you think innovation in CRO and split testing happens? Approach your next test or redesign with a “no assumptions” attitude and you’ll be surprised what you learn testing variables you might never have even considered before.



4. Visualize Your Conversion Funnel

conversionKnowledge is power, this is especially true when it comes to CRO and split testing. One of the best ways to spend time working on your business is to sit down and really map out your conversion funnel from start to finish. Be as critical as possible and find any unnecessary steps or sticking points that are causing profit leaks.

Use software like Google Analytics to find where customers are dropping out of your funnel and try different approaches to increase conversion. Removing or adding one small step to your funnel can increase conversions dramatically. Can you make the process more painless? Easier? Less steps? Be as critical as possible and put yourself into the shoes of the consumer.


5. It’s Not Just About Graphics and Design

Graphics and the appearance of the page aren’t the only things that factor heavily into conversion rate, there are actually just as many non-visual elements that can make or break your page. These days marketers are spoiled with how easy it is to collect data about your visitors and customers, yet so few utilize it to it’s fullest extent.

It used to be difficult, if not impossible, to determine things about your visitors like:

  • What browser/operating system they use
  • Screen resolution
  • Where visitors are clicking
  • Length of visit per page
  • Flash/Javascript compatibility
  • Page load times

Now, in a few clicks you can install enterprise level software like Google Analytics for free and start collecting this type of data immediately. I’ll be the first to tell you Google Analytics alone will teach you a great deal about your visitors, but that’s another post in itself…

The point is to find what non-visual elements and components on your landing page aren’t working for the visitors you’re receiving. For example, if you primarily target people in foreign countries that generally have less powerful computers and slower Internet you definitely want to factor that into your page design. As a marketer you should understand how powerful knowing your customer is – if you know how they live, what they have available to them and their interests you can design high converting pages from the get-go.


What other “lessons” have you learned from your conversion rate optimization efforts? Let me know if the comments!


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