Tag Archive | "Rates"

Secure your SMX West pass now & save big. Rates increase next week!

Don’t miss out: Your chance to lock in the lowest rate on a seat at SMX West expires next week! The West Coast’s largest search marketing conference is coming to San Jose, California, March 13-15, and we want you to join us for three days of actionable, cutting-edge search marketing tactics…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

3 days of SEO and SEM tactics at the lowest rates. SMX East prices increase next week!

Super early bird rates expire next week for SMX East, the East Coast’s largest search marketing conference. Attend for three days of actionable, cutting-edge search marketing tactics presented by experts that will leave your competition in the dust. Here’s what to expect October 24–26 in NYC:…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

How "Message Match" Can Lift Conversion Rates by 212.74% [Case Study]

Posted by bsmarketer

Google offered to build a free mobile website for our past client. But rather than take them up on that very generous offer, they hired us to rebuild it for them (at about $ 20,000+ times Google’s initial estimate).

Smart or dumb?

The problem is that shoving an outdated legacy design onto a smaller screen won’t fix your problems. In fact, it’ll only amplify them. Instead, the trick is to zoom back out to the big picture. Then it’s a fairly straightforward process of:

  1. Figuring out who your customers are
  2. What they want
  3. And how they want it

That way, you can align all of the critical variables (thereby making your “messages match”) in order to improve their experience. Which, if done correctly, should also improve your bottom line; in the end, our client saw a 69.39% cost per conversion decrease with a 212.74% conversion rate lift.

Here’s how you can do the same.

How AdWords pricing works

AdWords is an auction. Kinda, sorta.

It’s an auction-based system where (typically) the highest bidder receives the best positions on the page. But that’s not always the case. It’s possible for someone to rank in the coveted 1–2 positions above you and actually pay less per click than you. (Not to mention convert those people at a higher percentage once they hit your site — but we’ll leave that until later.)

Any marketer worth their salt knows what’s coming up next.

The Quality Score begins to dictate effective pricing. It’s not the end-all be-all PPC metric. But it’s a helpful gauge that lets you know if you’re on the right path to prosperity and profits — or not. It’s a blend of several factors, including the expected click-through rate, ad relevance, and landing page experience. Ad Rank is used in conjunction to determine position based on an ad’s performance. (That’s the 30-second explanation, anyway.)

Years ago, Larry Kim analyzed Quality Score in-depth to determine just what kind of impact it had on what you pay. You should read the full thing. But one of the key takeaways was this:

Note that if your Quality Score is below average, you’ll basically pay a penalty — up to 64% more per conversion than your average advertiser. In a nutshell, for every Quality Score point above the average 5/10 score, your CPA will drop by 16%, on average. Conversely, for every Quality Score point below the average of 5/10, your CPA will rise by 16%.

gSbiVlC.png

(Image source)

Fast forward to just a few months ago, and Disruptive Advertising’s Jacob Baadsgaard analyzed their 2,000+ AdWords accounts (with millions in ad spend) to filter out a similar analysis. They ended up with strikingly similar results:

In fact, our results are strikingly similar to those reported by Larry Kim. If your quality score increases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion decreases by 13% (Larry puts it at 16%). If your quality score decreases by 1 point, your cost-per-conversion increases by 13%.”

45KHbG9.png

(Image source)

Coincidence? Unlikely.

But wait, there’s more!

Jumping platforms for a second, Facebook introduced a “Relevance Score” recently. AdEspresso analyzed 104,256 ads over a 45-day period and saw a similar correlation between a higher Relevance Score and lower CPC rates. The inverse is also true.

szonvTY.png

(Image source)

Okay. Three different analyses, by three different people, across two channels, with three similar results. What can we learn from this?

That the alignment of your ads, your keyword or audience targeting, and your landing pages significantly influence costs (not to mention, eventual results). And what’s the one underlying concept that affects these?

Your “message match.”

How to get message match right

Oli from Unbounce is a masochist. You’d have to be anyway, in order to spend a day clicking on 300 different paid ads, noting message match along the way.

The final tally?

98% of the 300 ads Oli clicked on did NOT successfully match. That’s incredibly bad, as this doesn’t take any PPC ninja skills. All it takes is a little attention to detail. Because what is message match?

You use the same headline, description or value proposition, and image from your ad:

great message match ad

(Image source)

And include those same elements on the landing page people visit:

great message match landing page

(Image source)

Sure, you probably don’t want to use clip art in your ads and on your landing pages in 2017, but at least they’ve got the basics down.

When you think about this concept holistically, it makes perfect sense. In real life, the majority of communication is nonverbal. Fifty-five percent, in fact, comes down to your expressions, gestures, and posture.

Online you lack that nuance and context. It’s difficult (if not impossible) to strike the same emotional chord with a text-only headline limited to 25 characters as you can through audio and video. It (literally) pays to be as specific and explicit as possible. And while it could take hours to distill all of this down, here’s the CliffsNotes version.

Step #1: Your audience/keywords

AdWords generated about 68% of Google’s revenue in 2014. Last year they made $ 75 billion. So we’re talking billions with a B here.

A lot of that comes down to a searcher’s (1) intent and (2) urgency, where you bid on classically bottom-of-the-funnel keyphrases and convert ~2–10% of those clicks.

iIxPzsq.png

(Image source)

(Facebook’s kind of a different beast, where you instead build a funnel for each step.)

Even though it sounds trite, the best ways to come up with keyphrases is a deeper understanding of what makes your potential customers tick (besides doing the obvious and dropping your competitor’s domain name into SEMrush or SpyFu to see what they’re all bidding on).

A nice, actionable example of this is The Ad Grid from Digital Marketer, which helps you figure out which potential “hooks” should/would work for each customer type. build-traffic-campaigns-img5.jpg

(Image source)

From there, you would obviously hit the keyword research market with your Keyword Explorers and SEMrushes and then distill all of your information down into one nice, neat little package.

Again borrowing from the excellence of others, my favorite approach would be single-keyword ad group (SKAG) from Johnathan Dane at KlientBoost.

For example, one Ad Group would have a single keyphrase with each match type, like the following:

  • Broad: +marriage +proposal +planners
  • Phrase: “marriage proposal planners”
  • Exact: [marriage proposal planners]

This, unsurprisingly, seems time-consuming. That’s because it is.

Don’t worry, because it’s about to get even worse.

Step #2: Your ads

The best way to scale your PPC ad writing is to create a formula. You have different variables that you mix-and-match, watching CTRs and other metrics to determine which combination works best.

Start with something simple, like Johnathan + Klientboost’s example that incorporates the appropriate balance of keyphrase + benefits + action:

New-Ad

(Image source)

For bottom-of-the-funnel, no-frills keyphrases, sometimes simple and direct works best. You don’t have to get overly clever with reinventing the wheel. You just slap in your keyphrase in that little headline space and try to emphasize your primary value prop, USP, or benefit that might get people to click on your ad instead of all the others that look just like it.

Ad writing can get difficult and messy if you get lost in the intangible fluffiness of jargon.

Don’t.

Instead, focus on emphasizing concrete examples, benefits, and outcomes of whatever it is you’re advertising. Here are some of Digital Marketer’s hooks to borrow from:

  1. How does it compare the before and after effect?
  2. How does it make them feel emotionally/?
  3. How (specifically) does it improve their average day?
  4. How does it affect their status or vanity?
  5. Is there quantifiable proof of results?
  6. What’s the expected time to results (i.e. speed)?

You can then again strip away the minutia by boiling everything down to variables.

B4jsCwp.png

For more reading on this topic, here’s a deeper dive into scaling PPC ad writing on WordStream.

Step #3: Landing page

Okay — here comes the fun part.

Marketing efforts in general fail when we can only (or are only allowed) to make surface-level changes. Marketing doesn’t equal just advertising, after all.

Made a ton of updates to an AdWords account? Great. You’ll still struggle until you can take full control over the destinations those ads are sending to, and create new dedicated pages for each campaign.

In an ideal world, each of your SKAGs created above would have their own specific landing page too. If you’re good at math, that landing page total in your head just jumped another 5X most likely. But as we’ve alluded, it’s worth it.

You start with a single new landing page template. Then think of each element as its own interchangeable variable you can mix and match (get it?). For example, the headline, hero image, bullet points and CTAs can evolve or update for one type of customer:

Attorney insurance quotes

And be quickly duplicated/cloned, then switched out for another to increase message match as much as possible:

Dentist insurance quotes

Perfect. Another incredibly time-consuming task to add to your list to get done this week.

Fortunately, there are a few tricks to scale this approach too.

Possibility #1: Dynamic Text Replacement

Unbounce’s ready-made solution will allow you to create a standard landing page, and then automatically (or dynamically) switch out that content based on what someone just searched for.

You can enter these dynamic text fields using their visual builder, then hook it up to your AdWords account so you literally don’t have to lift a finger.

1QB4ZJG.png

(Image source)

Each section allows you to specify default text to use (similar to how you’d specify a fallback font for all browsers for example).

Possibility #2: Advanced Custom Fields

This one requires a little bit of extra leg work, but it makes technical people smile.

My company used Advanced Custom Fields + Flexible Content to create these variable options on the backend of WordPress pages, so we (and clients) can simply mass-produce unique content at scale.

For the example used earlier, here’s what switching out the Hero section on the earlier landing page example would look like:

Click and upload an image to a pre-formatted space. Select a few radio options for page placement. Easy-peasy.

Here’s what the headline and subhead space looks like:

Now making changes or updates to landing pages (to get message match right) takes just a few seconds per page.

We even build out these options for secondary calls-to-action on a page as well, like footer CTAs:

This way, with the click of a button, we can set up and test how different CTA options might work.

For example, how does simple and direct…

GuZqW8P.png

…compare with one of the hooks that we came up with in a previous step?

1fSB5Rt.png

For extra credit, you can combine these customizable features based on your inbound traffic segmentation with your exit intent (or overlay) messaging.

q4Y2EgA.png

How increasing PPC message match drives results

So back to the results.

After updating the ad account and making major modifications to our client’s landing page infrastructure, here’s what improved message match can deliver (in a competitive industry with mid-five figure monthly spend).

In 2015, before all of this work, the cost per converted click was $ 482.41 and conversion rate across all accounts was only 4.08%.

IfClUhB.png

During the same 30-day period in 2016 (after all of this work), the cost per converted click fell to only $ 147.65 and the conversion rate jumped to 12.76%.

2EZ7BjO.png

That means way more leads, for far less. And this just scratches the surface, because in many cases, AdWords conversions are still just leads. Not true sales.

We haven’t even discussed post-lead conversion tactics to combine all of this with, like marketing automation, where you would combine the same message match approach by sending targeted content that builds on the same topics or hooks that people originally searched for and converted on.

Or layering in newer (read: less competitive or expensive) options like Facebook, automatically syncing these leads to your aforementioned marketing automation workflows that are pre-configured with the same message match in mind.

The possibilities are endless, and the same laser-focus on aligning message match with each channel has the potential to increase results throughout the entire funnel.

Conclusion

When a sale is moved from offline to on, we lose a lot of the context for communication that we commonly rely upon.

As a result, the focus tends to shift more towards clarity and specificity.

There’s no greater example than looking at how today’s most popular online ad platforms work, where the costs people pay are directly tied to their performance and ability to “match” or align their ads and content to what people are looking for.

Clever vs. clear?

Who cares — as long as your messages match.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

5 Lead Generation Ideas to Help You Increase Your Website’s Conversion Rates

Posted by lkolowich

It’s been years since the power’s shifted away from marketers and advertisers and in favor of Internet consumers. Now more than ever, people are empowered to choose their own experiences online. They’re actively avoiding ad content — and instead of living by advertisers’ rule books, they’re deciding what to click on, what to read, what to download, and what to buy … and what not to.

And they have a lot of choices.

When inbound marketers like us are looking to generate more leads from our website, we need to think not just about how to capture people’s attention, but how to capture it in a way that makes people want to learn more from us. A smart lead generation strategy includes creating valuable offers and experiences that fit seamlessly into the context of what people already like and want to do online. It’s the consumer’s world; us marketers are just living in it.

People read calls-to-action that say things like “Sign up here!” as basically synonymous with “We’re gonna spam you.” If you’re recycling these same old lead generation tactics over and over again, it’s quickly going to become white noise. But calls-to-action that fit into the context of what a person’s doing already? That’s smart marketing.

If you want to increase the conversion rate on your website, you need to get smart and creative with your lead generation tactics. Asking for blog subscriptions and gating high-quality content like comprehensive guides, ebooks, and whitepapers behind landing pages still works, but you have to be smart about where you’re offering them on your website. And they shouldn’t be your only lead generation plays.

There are many ways to get creative with lead generation to make sure you’re reaping the benefits of the traffic you’re working so hard to get. Here are some lead generation ideas for B2B and B2C marketers to try. Test them out, tweak them according to your audience’s preferences, and share your own ideas you have in the comments.

1) Put your calls-to-action in people’s natural eye path.

CTA placement can have a profound effect on the number of leads you’re generating from your site. And yet, not many marketers are spending a whole lot of time thinking about, testing, and tweaking CTA placement to optimize their conversions. Many claim that as long as they place their primary CTA above the fold, they’re good to go. (Side note: Even though putting primary CTAs above the fold is often considered a best practice, even that is still up for debate.)

Start your CTA placement tests by putting them where people’s eyes naturally go on a webpage. An eyetracking study found that when people read a webpage, we naturally start by looking in the upper lefthand corner of the page, and then move our eyes in an F-shaped pattern.

f-pattern-eye-tracking.jpg

[Image credit: Nielsen Norman Group]

Here’s what that looks like:

f-pattern-wireframe.jpg

[Image credit: Envato Studio]

You can capitalize on this natural eye path by placing important information in these key spots. Here’s an example of what that might look like on a website:

f-pattern-with-content.jpg

[Image credit: Envato Studio]

Notice how the business name is placed in the top left, which is where a person would look first. The navigation bar takes over the #2 spot, followed by the value proposition at #3 and the primary CTA at #4.

Does this order look familiar to you? When you’re browsing the web, you might have noticed that many of them put the primary CTA in the top right corner — in that #2 spot. Here are a few real-life examples:

prezi-business-homepage.png

[Prezi’s homepage]

uber-homepage.png

[Uber’s homepage]

barkbox-homepage.png

[BarkBox’s homepage]

In the last example from BarkBox, you’ll notice that the secondary CTAs still follow that F-pattern.

Keep this in mind when you’re placing your CTAs, especially on your homepage and your other popular webpages — and don’t be afraid to experiment based on how it makes sense for your own marketing story should be told.

2) Use pop-up and slide-in forms the right way.

Pop-ups have been vilified in the last few years — and quite understandably, too. Far too many marketers use them in a way that disrupts people’s experience on their website instead of enhancing it.

But pop-ups do work — and, more importantly, when they’re used in a way that’s helpful and not disruptive, they can be a healthy part of your inbound strategy. So if you’re wondering whether you should be using pop-up forms, the short answer is yes — as long as you use them in an inbound-y way. First and foremost, that means offering something valuable and relevant to the people visiting that site page.

When you’re considering what type of pop-up to use and what action should trigger them, think about how people are engaging with your pages. When someone reads a blog post, for instance, they’re typically going to scroll down the page to read the content. In that case, you might consider using a slide-in box that appears when someone’s scrolled a certain percentage of the way down the page.

Here’s a great example from a post on OfficeVibe’s blog about how managers gain respect. While I was scrolling, a banner appeared at the bottom of the screen offering me a live report of employee engagement — an offer that was perfectly relevant, given the post was aimed at managers.

officevibe-banner-pop-up.png

It felt helpful, not disruptive. In other words, it was a responsible use of a pop-up.

Similarly, someone who’s spending time reading through a product page might find value in a time-based pop-up that appears when a visitor’s been on the page for a certain number of seconds, like this one from Ugmonk:

ugmonk-pop-up.png

The most important takeaway here is to align what you offer on a pop-up with the webpage you’re adding it to, and make sure it’s actually adding substantial value.

If you’re looking for a good free tool to get started with inbound-y pop-up forms, I’d recommend you try HubSpot Marketing Free. We built the Lead Flows feature within this free tool to help marketers generate more leads across their entire website without sacrificing user experience.

3) Add anchor texts to old blog posts that align closely with your gated offers.

It’s common for business bloggers to add an end-of-post banner CTA at the end of every one of their blog posts, like this one:

hubspot-banner-cta-example.png

In fact, you might already be including CTAs like this on your own business blog posts. At HubSpot, we include an end-of-post banner CTA on every single one of our posts, and we also add slide-in CTAs to blog posts that prove themselves to convert visitors into leads at a high rate via organic traffic.

But let’s admit it: At first glance, these types of CTAs look a little bit like ads, which can result in banner blindness from our readers. That’s why it’s thanks to a recent study conducted by my colleague Pam Vaughan that our blogging team has added one more, highly effective lead generation tactic to their arsenal: anchor text CTAs.

In Vaughan’s study, she found that anchor text CTAs are responsible for most of our blog leads. On blog posts that included both an anchor text CTA and an end-of-post banner CTA, she found that 47–93% of a blog post’s leads came from the anchor text CTA alone, whereas just 6% of the post’s leads came from the end-of-post banner CTA.

What’s an anchor text CTA, you might be wondering? It’s a standalone line text in a blog post linked to a landing page that’s styled as an H3 or an H4 to make it stand out from the rest of the post’s body copy. On HubSpot’s blog, we’ll typically put an anchor text CTA between two paragraphs in the introduction, like this:

hubspot-anchor-text-cta-example.png

What makes anchor text CTAs so effective? Let’s say you search for “press release template” in Google, and you click on the first organic search result — which is currently our blog post about how to write a press release, which I’ve screenshotted above.

As a searcher, the next thing you’d probably do is quickly scan the post to see if it satisfies your search. One of the first things that’ll catch your eye is an anchor text that reads, “Download our free press release template here” — which happens to be exactly what you were looking for when you searched “press release template.” There’s a pretty good chance you’re going to click on it.

This is where relevancy becomes critical. The anchor text CTA works really well in this case because it satisfies the visitor’s need right away, within the first few paragraphs of the blog post. The more relevant the anchor text CTA is to what the visitor is looking for, the better it’ll perform. Simply adding an anchor text CTA near the top of every blog post won’t necessarily mean it’ll generate a ton more leads — and frankly, you’ll risk pissing off your loyal subscribers.

If you decide you’d like to experiment with anchor text CTAs, be selective about the posts you add them to. At HubSpot, we typically add them to old posts that rank well in search. We purposely limit our use of anchor text CTAs on brand new posts — because most of the traffic we get to those posts are already leads and some of the biggest fans of our content, whom we want to have the best possible user experience. (You can read more about anchor text CTAs here.)

4) Support the launch of a new campaign with a launch post and other blog posts on related topics.

Every time you launch a new marketing campaign, posting the good news on your blog should be a key part of your launch plan. It’s a great way to let your existing subscribers know what new content, products, and features you’re putting out there, and it also helps introduce these launches to brand-new audiences.

At HubSpot, we’ve found the best strategy for promoting campaigns on the blog is to write one official launch post, followed by a handful of follow-up posts that are relevant to the campaign but are written in the style of a normal blog post. We typically scatter these follow-up posts over the weeks and months following that initial launch.

When done correctly, launch posts and their supporting blog posts have very different formulas:

  • A launch post is between 150–300 words long. It includes a captivating introductory paragraph on the general topic or pain point the campaign is about, followed by a paragraph or two describing how the offer can help and a list of 4–6 bullet points on what the offer includes. It includes one or two in-line text CTAs leading to the campaign, followed by a banner CTA at the end of the post.
  • A supplemental blog post can take on any post format and length typical of what you’d normally publish on your blog, such as a how-to post, a list-based post, or a curated collection post. It includes an end-of-post banner CTA leading to the campaign, and an anchor text CTA in the introduction, if applicable.

Let me show you an example. Earlier this year, HubSpot partnered with Iconosquare to write an ebook on how to use Instagram for business. A few days after we launched the offer online, we published a launch post on HubSpot’s Marketing Blog specifically promoting it to our own audience. Here’s what that launch post looked like:

hubspot-launch-post.png

Notice it has a brief introduction of the topic, an introduction of the ebook as a helpful resource, a bulleted list of what’s inside the ebook, two in-line text CTAs pointing toward the ebook, and an end-of-post banner CTA.

Once we published that initial post, we published a series of follow-up blog posts about the same topic — in this case, Instagram for business — that supported the launch, but promoted it much more subtly. These posts covered topics like:

In each of these cases, we used keyword research to find long-tail keyword phrases related to our offer topic, and then wrote blog posts related to those highly searched terms and included CTAs to our offer.

The goal here? Both to expose our own audience to more content related to the offer and to expose our offer to a new audience: specifically, people who were searching for related topics on search engines, as we’ve found visitors who find our posts through organic search tend to convert at higher rates.

When you’re planning out your next campaign, be sure to include both a launch post and supportive, follow-up blog posts like these — and plan them all out using a blog editorial calendar like the simple one HubSpot’s blogging team uses with Google Calendar.

5) Use social media strategically for lead generation.

Top-of-the-funnel marketing metrics like traffic and brand awareness isn’t all social media is good for. It can still be a helpful — not to mention low-cost — source for lead generation.

In addition to promoting new blog posts and content to your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social sites, be sure to regularly post links to blog posts and even directly to the landing pages of offers that have historically performed well for lead generation. You’ll need to do a lead generation analysis of your blog to figure out which posts perform best for lead generation.

When you link directly to landing pages, be sure the copy in your social posts sets the expectation that clicking the link will send people to a landing page, like Canva did in this Facebook post:

canva-facebook-page.png

Contests are another way to generate leads from social. Not only are they fun for your followers, but they can also teach you a whole lot about your audience while simultaneously engaging them, growing your reach, and driving traffic to your website.

In addition to posting links to lead generation forms, you’ll also want to make sure you’re using the real estate for lead generation that’s available to you on the social networks that you’re using. On Facebook for example, use the feature available for Pages that lets you put a simple call-to-action button at the top of your Facebook Page. It can help drive more traffic from your Facebook Page to lead generation forms like landing pages and contact sheets.

dollar-shave-club-facebook-CTA.png

Here are more lead generation tips for Facebook, and for Twitter.

In addition to optimizing your webpages and social presence for leads, always be looking for opportunities to increase the traffic of your highest-converting pages by optimizing these pages for the keywords they’re already ranking for, and linking to these pages internally and externally.

I hope this list has helped spark some ideas for lead generation tactics to test for your own audience. If you’ve tried any of the tactics I’ve listed above, tell us about your experiences in the comments — and feel free to add more ideas to the list.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

Do Website Engagement Rates Impact Organic Rankings?

Posted by larry.kim

[Estimated read time: 11 minutes]

Your organic click-through rate is ridiculously important. While it may not be a direct ranking signal that’s even part of Google’s core algorithm, I believe CTR is an indirect signal that definitely impacts rank. And if you improve your click-through rate, you should see your rankings and conversions improve.

zwSzBjT.png

Although having a high organic CTR is crucial, having positive website engagement metrics is even more critical. What value is there in getting hundreds or thousands of people to click on your brilliant headlines if those people don’t stick around for more than a few seconds?

If Google values dwell time, is there a way to see it? YES! Today I’ll share some data that shows the relationship between engagement rates (such as bounce rate and time on site) and rankings.

One important note before we get started: Please don’t focus too much on the absolute bounce rate and time on site figures discussed in this article. We are only looking at figures for one particular vertical. The minimum expected engagement will vary by industry and query type.

Does Google measure dwell time? How is that different from bounce rate & time on site?

Yes. We know Google measures dwell time, or how much time a visitor actually spends on a page before returning to the SERPs.

In 2011, Google announced a new option that allowed us to block domains from appearing in our search results. If you clicked on a result and then returned to the SERP from the website within a few seconds, Google’s blocked sites feature would appear. Clicking it would let you block all results from that site.

BIGq8j8.png

Google told us they would study the data and considered using it as a ranking signal.

Although that feature is no longer with us, we know it was based on whether (and how quickly) you bounced back. So we know Google is definitely measuring dwell time.

The problem is, we don’t have a way to measure dwell time. However, we can measure three engagement metrics that are proportional to and directionally equivalent to dwell time: bounce rate, time on site, and conversion rate.

Does Bounce Rate Impact Organic Position?

OK, let’s get the official Google line out of the way. Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted the following in 2015: “we don’t use analytics/bounce rate in search ranking.” Matt Cutts said similar in the past. Pretty clear, right?

However, I’m not saying that bounce rate is used as a direct ranking factor. And Google definitely doesn’t need Google Analytics to compute dwell time. What I believe is that, in some Rube Goldbergian way, bounce rate does in fact (indirectly) impact rankings.

Does the data back that up? We looked to see if the bounce rate of the pages/keywords we were ranking for had any relationship to their ranking. Check out this graph:

AlKMZrc.jpg

This is very peculiar. Notice the “kink” between positions 4 and 5? In mathematical terms, this is called a “discontinuous function.” What’s happening here?

Well, it seems like for this particular keyword niche, as long as you have a low bounce rate (below 76 percent) then you’re more likely to show up in positions 1 through 4. However, if your bounce rate is higher (above 78 percent), then you’re much less likely to show up in those coveted top 4 positions.

Am I saying bounce rate is part of the core search algorithm Google uses? No.

But I think there’s definitely a relationship between bounce rate and rankings. Looking at that graph, it leads me to believe that it’s no accident — but in fact algorithmic in nature.

My guess is that algorithms use user engagement as a validation method. Think of it more like a “check” on click-through rates within the existing algorithm that hasn’t been quantified.

Undoubtedly, click-through rates can be gamed. For example, I could promise you the digital equivalent of free beer and have a ridiculously high click-through rate.

mTdVQnw.png

Image via Fox.

But if there’s no free beer to be had, most (if not all) of that traffic will bounce right back.

i6kf2UY.png

Image via Fox.

So I believe Google is measuring dwell time (which is proportional to bounce rate) to check whether websites getting high CTRs actually deserve it and if the clicks are indeed valid, or if it’s just click bait.

One other question this discussion obviously raises is: do higher rankings cause higher engagement rates, as opposed to the other way around? Or could both of these be caused by some a completely unrelated factor?

Well, unless you work at Google (and even then!) you may never know all the secrets of Google’s algorithm. There are things we know we don’t know!

Regardless, improving user engagement metrics, like bounce rate, will still have its own benefits. A lower bounce rate is just an indicator of success, not a guarantee of it.

Does time on site impact organic position?

Now let’s look at time on site, another metric we can measure that is proportional to dwell time. This graph also has a “kink” in the curve:

bPX6HyN.jpg

It’s easy to see that if your keyword/content pairs have decent time on site, then you’re more likely to be in top organic positions 1–6. If engagement is weak on average, however, then you’re more likely to be in positions 7 or lower.

Interestingly, you get no additional points after you cross a minimum threshold of time on site. Even if people are spending 2 hours on your site, it doesn’t matter. I think you’ve passed Google’s test — passing it by even more doesn’t result in any additional bonus points.

XsMfz83.png

Image via Fox.

Larry’s Theory: Google uses dwell time — which we can’t measure, but is proportional to user engagement metrics like bounce rate, time on site, and conversion rates — to validate click-through rates. These metrics help Google figure out whether users ultimately got what they were looking for.

Conversion rates: The ultimate metric

So now let’s talk about conversion rates. We know that higher click-through rates typically translate into higher conversion rates:

b1JZh0U.jpg

If you can get people really excited about clicking on something, that excitement typically carries through to a purchase or sign-up.

So what we need is an Engagement Rate Unicorn/Donkey Detector, to detect high and low engagement rates.

BL2Y1jX.jpg

Before we go any further, we need to know: what is a good conversion rate?

hUKUs58.jpg

On average across all industries, site-wide conversion rate for a website is around 2 percent (the donkeys), while conversion rates for the top 10 percent of websites (the unicorns) get 11 percent and above. While absolute conversion rates vary wildly by industry, unicorns always outperform donkeys by 3–5x regardless of industry.

Remember, conversion rates are a very important success metric because you get the most value (you actually captured leads, sold your product, got people to sign up for your newsletter, or visitors did whatever else it was you wanted them to do), which means the user found what they were looking for.

How do you turn conversion rate donkeys into unicorns?

DpOGnS6.png

Image via Fox.

The way you don’t get there is by making little changes. The difference between donkeys and unicorns is so huge. If you want to increase your conversion rates by 3x to 5x, then small, incremental changes of 2 or 3 percent usually won’t cut it.

What should you do?

1. Change your offer (in a BIG way)

Rather than A/B testing button color or image changes, you might be better off trashing your current offer and doing a new one.

Ask yourself: Why in the world are 98 percent of the people who see your offer not taking you up on it? Well, it’s probably because your offer sucks.

212pg36.png

Image via Fox.

What can you offer that will resonate enough that +10 percent of people would be excited about signing up for it or buying it on the spot?

Be open-minded. The answer is probably something adjacent to what you’re currently doing.

For example, for my own company, five years ago our primary offer was to sign up for a trial of our software. It was somewhat complicated, people had to learn how to use the software, and not everyone made it through the process.

Then I had an epiphany: Why don’t I just grade people’s accounts without having them do a trial of our PPC management software, and just give them a report card? That increased my conversion and engagement rates by 10x, and the gains persisted over time. There is much more leverage in changing the offer versus, say, the image on an existing offer.

2. Use Facebook Ads

You can influence users even before they do searches. Brand awareness creates a bias in people’s minds which has a ridiculously huge impact on user engagement signals. We can do this with Facebook Ads.

You want to promote inspirational, compelling, memorable content to your target market. Although they’ll consume your content, they won’t convert to leads and sales right away. Remember, love takes time.

HPBB75w.jpg

Image via Fox.

Rather, your goal is to bias them so in the future they’ll do a search for your product. If it’s an unbranded search, having been exposed to your marketing materials in the past, they’ll be more likely to click on and choose you now.

Facebook and many other vendors have conducted lift studies that prove that Facebook ads impact clicks and conversions you’ll get from paid and organic search.

QKIwx3t.jpg

You won’t get away with promoting junk. You have to promote your unicorns.

For this, we’ll use Facebook’s:

  • Interest-Based Targeting to reach people who are likely to search for the things you’re selling.
  • Demographic Targeting to reach people who are likely to search for the stuff you’re selling, maybe within the next month.
  • Behavioral Targeting to reach the people who buy stuff that is related to the stuff you’re selling.

For example, let’s say you’re a florist or jeweler. You can target Facebook ads at people who will celebrate an anniversary within the next 30 days.

MVVCF24.jpg

Why would you want to do this? Because you know these people will be searching for keywords relating to flowers and jewelry soon. That’s how you can start biasing them to get them to have happy thoughts about your business, increasing the likelihood that they’ll click on you, but more importantly, convert.

It’s not just Facebook. You can also buy image display ads on Google’s Display Network. You can use Custom Affinity Audiences to target people who have searched on keywords you’re interested in, but didn’t click through to your site (or you can specify certain categories related to your business).

3. Remarketing

xt7pjzP.jpg

Image via Fox.

People are busy and have short attention spans. If you aren’t using remarketing, essentially you’re investing a ton of time and money into your SEO and marketing efforts just to get people to visit one time. That’s crazy.

You want to make sure the people who gave you a look to see what your site was about never forget you so that subsequent searches always go your way. You want them to stay engaged and convert.

Remarketing greatly impacts engagement metrics like dwell time, conversion rate, and time on site because people are more familiar with you, which means they’re more likely to be engaged with you for longer.

There’s a reason we spent nearly a million dollars on remarketing last year. Investing in remarketing:

  • Boosted repeat visits by 50 percent.
  • Increased conversions by 51 percent.
  • Grew average time-on-site by 300 percent.

These are huge numbers for a minimal investment (display ads average around $ 10 for 1,000 views).

It’s your job to convert or squeeze as much money as you can from people who are already in the market for what you sell. So use remarketing to increase brand familiarity and increase user engagement metrics, while simultaneously turning the people who bounced off your site in the past into leads now.

4. Clean up your bad neighborhoods!

If you’ve tried all of the above (and other ways to improve engagement rates) and still have bad neighborhoods on your websites that have low CTR and/or user engagement rates — just delete them. Why?

I believe that terrible engagement metrics will lead to a death spiral where your site gets less clicks, less leads, less sales, and even lower rankings. And who wants that?

Now, I don’t have any proof of this, but the software engineer in me suspects that it would be very difficult for Google to compute engagement rates for every keyword/page combination on the Internet. They would need to lean on a “domain-level engagement score” to fall back on in the event that more granular data wasn’t available. Google does something conceptually similar in AdWords by having both account-level and keyword-level Quality Scores. It’s also similar to how many believe that Google considers links pointing to your domain and also individual pages on your site when computing organic rankings (a moment of silence for our beloved Google PageRank Toolbar). Dumping your very worst neighborhoods — only if all attempts to resuscitate have failed miserably — would, in theory, raise a domain-level score, if it existed.

Obviously better CTRs, higher engagement rates, and improved conversion rates lead to more leads and sales. But I also believe that improvement in these metrics will lead to better organic search rankings, creating a virtuous cycle of even more clicks and conversions.

Conclusion

It’s becoming increasingly clear that organic CTR matters. But you might not realize that high CTRs with low engagement rates aren’t that meaningful.

XqlFpK0.jpg

Image via Fox.

So no cheap tricks, guys! Don’t invest in sites that specialize in gaming your click-through rates. Even though they might work now to an extent, they won’t work well in the future. Google is good at fighting click fraud on ad networks, so you can expect them to apply those same learnings to fight organic search click fraud.

I would prioritize click-through rate and conversion rate (or engagement) optimization at the very top of the most impactful on-page-SEO efforts.

At the very least you’ll get more conversions. But if I’m right, you’ll not only get more conversions, but you’ll get better rankings, which will lead to more conversions and even better rankings.

So use the tactics and strategies from this post to diagnose your engagement rates, and then start optimizing them!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

Act now: SMX Advanced super early bird rates expire this Saturday

SMX Advanced rates increase Saturday. Register now for the lowest rates. Here’s what’s in store: 30+ sessions, keynotes and workshops featuring results-producing strategy and tactics on paid search, SEO, analytics, mobile and social media; panel discussions, single-speaker TED-style presentations…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

Google Organic Click-Through Rates in 2014

Posted by Philip_Petrescu

We’ve all been there. Trying to improve our organic rankings so we can get more traffic from the search engines. And every time we do that, we are left with some big questions in our minds:

  • How much traffic would I actually get if I rank on the first page?
  • Is it worth my time trying to rank above the fold?
  • How much more traffic will I get if I rank first in the organic results?

I’ve been there, too. I felt overwhelmed and frustrated every time I had finally reached a number one organic ranking in Google only to find out that the traffic coming from the search engine was not making the big difference I was expecting.

So I started searching for a way to find out how much organic traffic I could get for ranking on the top positions in Google.

But I faced a big challenge. These days, with “not provided” being almost 100%, it’s very hard to measure how many people reach your website searching for a certain keyword.

So I turned to the best source that I could get this data from, Google Webmaster Tools, which allowed me to see how many people click on my website when searching for the keywords I am interested in. This saved me a lot of time and allowed me to make better choices in the future with the keywords I was targeting.

Sounds like something you would be interested in?

Read on to find out more about how my initial findings turned out into a full fledged organic CTR study and how you can use this data to make better and more informed decisions in the future.


TL;DR:
 This will be a long post, so for those of you who are anxious to see the results of this study, scroll down to the CTR Study section below. Alternatively, you can download the complete study in PDF format or check out the free Google CTR History tool we have built to aid with this study.

Previous CTR studies

This is not the first study of its kind. There have been a number of studies in the past that have tried to find out the CTR for organic results. It all started when
AOL released more than 20 million search queries made by more than a half-million users in 2006.

A number of studies
followed after that, including those from Enquiro (now Mediative) in 2007 and later by Chitika and Optify in 2010. More recent studies have been performed by Slingshot in 2011 and then Chitika and Catalyst in 2013 respectively.

Here is a comparison of the Click Through Rate for each study:
D6Mn7Te0QWruYBrK0hupxs7us0qfL7rZ109_hW2O

It’s important to emphasize the major differences in the methodologies applied for each study, as they are the main ingredients responsible for the dissimilarity of the results:

l_ErtCTdaKQRC9SiERMy-bKy_FgpHUmDVD99Xx1T

It’s worth noting that the studies conducted by Mediative (former Enquiro) and Chitika, have been executed through unique methods that cannot be truly compared to any of the other studies. Mediative’s study relies on survey data and eye-tracking research, while Chitika’s studies are based on ad impressions served within their network.

Also relevant for a comparison is how CTR is defined for the other three studies previously conducted:

  • Optify defines CTR as “the percentage of users that clicked on each position, given that a user clicks on a top 20 organic ranking.” Their study makes the assumption that all searches result in a top 20 organic click.
  • In the Slingshot SEO study, CTR is calculated as “total visits (via Google Analytics) divided by total searches (via Google AdWords Keyword Tool) for a given keyword over a stable period.”
  • For the Catalyst study, CTR is defined as “the percentage of impressions that resulted in a click for a website (via Google Webmaster Tools).”

Our study retrieves the CTR data from 
Google Webmaster Tools so comparing it with the Catalyst study would be the most accurate.

So why a new study?

First of all, the Google search results have evolved significantly since these studies were performed. Besides having a fresh set of data, we also wanted to make this study unique.

  • Unique
    This study is unique because we have segmented the queries to be able to see how the CTR is affected by different types of searches. For example, we have segmented the keywords by category (industry), search intent, number of words (long tail) and whether the keywords are part of a branded search or not.

    Another important section of this study is trying to find out what impact some features that appear in the SERP (such as ads) have on the organic results CTR. 

  • Accurate
    To make sure that we get relevant and accurate results, this study is based on search data coming from Google Webmaster Tools for 465.000 keywords and 5.000 websites.
  • Transparent
    This study was intended to be as transparent as possible. Thus, we have included our step-by-step process below so you can see how we arrived at our results. 

    More than that, we also decided to give away the entire set of data so you can do your own research. To protect our clients, the actual keywords have been anonymized in the data set. 

  • Up to date
    As we have seen with previous studies, the organic CTR changes in time due to various factors. It can be affected by the holiday season, or by more features that are constantly being added in the SERPs.

    This is why we decided to transform the initial study into a free tool that anyone can use to segment the data and watch how the CTR changes in time.

Read on to see how different types of search results influence users’ behavior and what role the user intent has in determining the distribution of clicks.

Our methodology

Here’s how we obtained this data in case you want to do a similar analysis for your own websites:

  1. Download average search query data from GWT

    The initial data was obtained from Google Webmaster Tools (GWT) with the default filter: Web. This includes only traffic coming from non mobile devices. Our data set includes only keywords that have at least 50 impressions per month.

    We then changed this filter to Mobile and downloaded the table again to get CTR data for mobile devices.

    The Avg. position column from GWT displays an average of all ranking positions that this keyword has appeared in. This data was used to build the section of the charts.

    Y4saunNahkQSZAQKVVkr8EHpmwVVEBq_d9QhFY92 

  2. Download exact search query data from GWT

    In GWT, when you click on a keyword in the Search Queries table, you will be sent to a report called Query Details. This report provides the CTR for each exact ranking position for that keyword.

    For example we can see here that every time this keyword was ranked first in the search results, the CTR was 56%. That’s because 2,947 people searched for it (Impressions) but only 1,644 people actually clicked on it (Clicks).
    xdgGKSBCzA2OiYtKWcVZ597s-1ucSXMg22dNMU_o 

  3. Exclude from exact data the queries with less than 500 impressions per month

    This was done to ensure that we get accurate CTR results. A filter was also applied to include only the keywords that had at least 10 impressions per month for each exact position they appeared in.

     

  4. Categorise queries based on brand, search intent and number of words

    We wanted to see how the CTR changes for searches that contain branded keywords. Most brands rank first for their brand keywords and it is believed that people tend to click on that first result.

    For this study we have defined brand searches as searches that contain the entire domain name of the website in the query.

    The same thing happens when people include a search intent in their query. It is believed that people act differently when they are interested to buy something as opposed to looking for information about something or when comparing different things.

    How can we figure this out? We look for certain words in the search queries, trying to guess what the intent was for that search.

    There are three types of search intents that were included in this study:

    Informational
    This includes searches that contain words like: what, when, where, how, who, restaurant, hotel, flight, definition, define, review, news, weather, time, phone.

    Commercial
    This includes searches that contain words like: buy, purchase, order, shop, coupon, cheap, cheapest, expensive, pricing.

    Location
    This includes searches that contain words like: near, nearby, from, directions, how long to, how far away from, how fast, train station, airport, ferry, route, highway, toll, plane tickets, flights, maps, driving directions.We have also tracked long tail queries (more than one word) separately to see how they affect the CTR.

      

  5. Find out if the SERP contains ads

    We matched the entire set of keywords from Google Webmaster Tools with the ones we track for each client in AWR Cloud. This way we were able to get more information about the features included in the SERP, such as the number of ads and their position and if any Universal features were included in the search results.

     

  6. Create graphs for easier data analysis

    We first used Excel to display this data in charts but in the end we ended up creating an in house tool because we realized that it would be interesting to see how the CTR changes over time.

Assumptions and limitations

The sample data set that was extracted from GWT belongs to our clients. Their businesses, although variate, may belong to certain industries that are different than the industry you are in. Therefore the results may not be the same for every business.

This study measures the CTR that was observed for a special time frame (within the month of July 2014). That means we cannot predict how the CTR changes for keywords that have higher volumes in different periods of the year.

In this study, we also made the assumption that the data collected from GWT with the above methodology is accurate.

The CTR study

This is the reference chart for the click-through rate (CTR) of organic desktop searches in Google for July, 2014.

Xez3QYwJG4xzZ9ep9iM7oODaMM4dzkbFqSJKGApu

11rZlDsf1tbgOHDy3XDFEbh-c9yTIqQgHGCwPT9a

It is important to mention that these numbers reflect the CTR across all the searches included in this study. They do not account for the user intent, the features that appear in the SERP, or whether the keywords used in the search included a brand name. These will be addressed later in the study when we segment the data.

On average, 71.33% of searches result in a page one organic click. Page two and three get only 5.59% of the clicks. On the first page alone, the first 5 results account for 67.60% of all the clicks and the results from 6 to 10 account for only 3.73%.

5edKFlyYEHnYWskGGfiM-iMxHxUN-_e_Iq2rS-6d


“These numbers serve as a useful reminder of the importance of organic rankings, and reconfirms the importance of the top few positions on Google. Although the first spot is still the most valuable for CTR, it seems to have become less so. I’d guess that part of the reason is that the increased use of ads, universal search results and Google’s own comparison and shopping results have reduced the prominence of top slot.”  
Graham Charlton - Econsultancy

In case you wonder where the other 23.08% of the clicks are, here are some possible scenarios:

  • Some people may find the ads displayed above the organic results more relevant.
  • Some people may not find what they are looking for in the first 10 results so they click on results from the second or third page instead.
  • Others may not find what they are looking for at all so they refine the search adding more words to the query to be more explicit.
  • With Google providing more and more instant answers people may very well find the answer to what they are looking for in the displayed search results so there is no need for them to click on any of the results.

Mobile

Mobile traffic is getting bigger and bigger day by day. Here we can see the CTR for searches coming from mobile devices compared with the searches from desktop devices.

Given the fact that you can see fewer ranking results above the fold on mobile, people have assumed that the CTR would be higher for the first results on mobile devices. Let’s see if that is the case:

rc0l1Y-vhS6NCtnIR4pNegYAWp_HgkNVBGZUvUkS

Not only is the CTR slightly lower on the first page, but the CTR for mobile searches actually rises on the 2nd and 3rd page, which is opposite to what we would expect and see from mobile searches.

“I would’ve expected mobile to drop off much, much faster than desktop. These rates seem to imply that the first positions on a mobile results page are less significant than we thought. Does that mean people are scrolling more?”  
Ian Lurie Portent

Branded vs. unbranded

One might assume that when users are making generic searches on Google, they end up making a brand selection from the results retrieved. They choose from the handful of options received, the source of information or provider to trust in for satisfying their need.

But what happens when 
branded searches are made? If the users are clearly looking for information related to a specific brand, will they follow the same behavioural pattern as for generic searches?

YG_GkLNPYwuBuRBTNhhhNMla4Jzl_-buiMV-RrJw

For branded searches the first result is almost always associated with the brand’s website, which makes it the obvious choice for most users and very hard to miss. This would justify the big CTR difference between the first position and the rest of the SERP.

This big difference in CTR may also be affected by the fact that brand searches usually display a pack of 6 site links just below the first result, making it more prominent in the search results.

“People will seek click on a brand in the first position for a search on that brand way out of proportion to all other positions.”  
Danny SullivanSearch Engine Land

“The CTR data coming straight from Google suggests that we should be even more conservative when estimating potential search traffic. Most of our keyword research is going to revolve around non-branded terms. If you study the data, you’ll see a dramatic difference between CTR for the #1 position of branded vs. non-branded search. Our views of how many clicks you will get with an average position of 1 may be skewed because of this. But now with this segmentation data, I know I will be viewing traffic potential even more conservatively based upon CTR of only non-branded keywords.”  
Dan ShureEvolving SEO

Search intent

Most of us have some sort of intent when we search for something. We may need to find the location of a restaurant or a better price for that big TV we always wanted to get in the living room.

It is believed that people who search for keywords with high commercial intent (“buy 4k LCD TV”) are more likely to click on the first results than people who perform basic informational searches (“where is the nearest thai restaurant”).

Let’s see if search intent does indeed affect how people click on the results.

PtiCgS5rH6GyRqBzCulpGIHjI-zRi7aMchp26pDy

This chart reveals that people tend to click more on the first results when their search has a specific intent. So we wanted to dig deeper and see which of the search intents affect the CTR and how.

“Google uses a lot of
context cues beyond the keyword so if I type ‘restaurant’ the intent isn’t there, until you realise it is midday and I’m on the street searching on my iPhone. This might explain the significant uptick in clicks on positions 1-3 for searches with intent.”  Tom AnthonyDistilled

The “Specific Intent” in the chart above is the set of all keywords found in the Informational, Commercial and Location sections and the “Other Intent” means all the other keywords.

The following chart compares these three search intents and how they affect the CTR:

HBwpbP__Rmd7CGhYdj2tsJy80vo3U6q0k_CE0IR3

Google is getting better and better at figuring out search intent. Nowadays, many of the search results contain instant answers so people no longer need to click on a website to find out what they’re looking for. The answer is already there.

Commercial intent searches usually trigger ads that have colorful pictures of the products we search. It’s usually a lot more tempting to click on these pictures than on the first organic results.

“Search results for commercial intent keywords usually contain more features (eg: pricing, ratings, shopping results) which might dilute the CTR across the page.” 
Richard BaxterBuiltvisible

“It’s interesting that commercial intent searches have a lower organic CTR than informational searches. We’ve seen the opposite hold true for paid CTRs. This may be because commercial intent KWs are more likely to trigger ads, which lower the organic CTR.”  
Mark IrvineWordStream

Estimating organic traffic based on CTR

Remember the initial goal of this study? To find out how many organic visits one could receive for ranking in the top results on Google. We are now closer to reaching our goal.

By knowing the CTR for each position in the organic search, we can now calculate the organic traffic potential of a website. Depending on the ranking of a keyword and how many people click on that website, we can easily calculate how many people would reach that website from organic search.

Theoretically, by taking into account all these factors, one could easily estimate the amount of organic traffic. The formula is quite simple:


Traffic = Search Volume * CTR

But things get a little complicated when taking into account that each keyword is different.

As this study showed, searches for branded keywords have a higher CTR. Search intent also affects organic CTR significantly and long tail keyword searches show higher CTRs for first page listings.

Let’s see an example for an unbranded keyword with a volume of 1,000 searches per month where you rank first in the organic results with no ads above you:


1,000 x 24.8 / 100 = 248 (visits per month)

where 24.8 is the CTR for the 1st position for unbranded keywords.

Applying this formula for each keyword, enables you to estimate the amount of organic search traffic for any website.

Where can you get this study from?

This post contains only parts of the actual study. To find out how ads affect the CTR of organic results and more, download the
complete Google Organic CTR Study in PDF format.

You will also get access to the entire data set that we used for this study if you want to do your own research.

Future developments of the study

We will be constantly adding new features to this study, such as more ways to segment the data or insights on how different features that may appear in the SERP affect the CTR. These new additions will be featured first in the
free Google Organic CTR History tool, so make sure you check it out.

The first thing we want to tackle next is how the features that appear in the Universal results (such as news, videos, places, etc.) affect the CTR. We will then dig deeper to see how the CTR is affected by carousels, answer boxes and other knowledge graph features that appear in the SERP.

Your turn

Is there something in particular you would like to see in further updates of this study?

Post your comments below and let’s find out how we can improve this tool to benefit the entire community.

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

How to Improve Your Conversion Rates with a Faster Website

Posted by Zoompf

credit-card-on-computer

Back in August the team at Zoompf published a joint research study with Moz analyzing How Website Speed Actually Impacts Search Ranking. In this research, a surprise result showed no clear correlation between page load time and search ranking. This confounded us, since we expected to see at least some small measure of correlation, especially after Google announced in 2010 that site speed would have a partial impact on search ranking. We did, however, observe a correlation between “Time to First Byte” and search ranking, and we delved into more detail in our follow-up post.

In these two articles, it was noted by our readers that while page load time may not appear to directly impact search ranking, it still has an obvious impact on user experience and will likely have an increasing impact on search ranking in the future. In other words, page load time should still be considered a priority to the success of your site.

But how big of a priority is it really? Of course it depends: The slower your site is now, the greater your user experience lags behind your competitors. Additionally, the more traffic your site receives, the more benefit you’ll receive from performance optimization (we’ll dig into that more below).

The good news is that, unlike the impact on search ranking, there is a wide body of independent research showing clear causation between improved site performance and increased conversion rates, user engagement, and customer satisfaction. It also just makes sense—we’ve all visited slow websites, and we’ve all bailed out when the page takes too long to load. On mobile we’re even less patient.

What may be surprising, though, is just how big of an impact a slow performance can have on your conversions. Let’s look at that first.

The research

research_books

Back in 2006, Amazon presented one of the first studies linking a clear causation between page load time and online customer revenue, summarized in Greg Linden’s presentation Make Data Useful. Through A/B testing, Greg showed every 100 millisecond delay in page rendering time resulted in a 1% loss of sales for Amazon.

In more recent research, Intuit presented findings at Velocity 2013 from their recent effort to reduce page load time from 15 seconds to 2 seconds. During that effort, they observed a dramatic increase in conversions for every second shaved off their page load time, in a stair step that decreased with increasing speed. Specifically:

  • +3% conversions for every second reduced from 15 seconds to 7 seconds
  • +2% conversions for every second reduced from seconds 7 to 5
  • +1% conversions for every second reduced from seconds 4 to 2

So in other words there was tremendous value in the initial optimization, and diminishing value as they got faster.

In another recent report, Kyle Rush from the 2011 Obama for America campaign site showed through A/B testing that a 3-second page time reduction (from 5 seconds to 2 seconds) improved onsite donations by 14%, resulting in an increase of over $ 34 million in election contributions.

In fact, there’s a wide body of research supporting clear economic benefits of improving your site performance, and clearly the slower your site is, the more you have to gain. Additionally, the higher your traffic, the larger the impact each millisecond will yield.

How fast should I be?

Whenever we talk with people about web performance, they always want to know “How fast should I be?” Unfortunately this one is hard to answer, since the result is subjective to your business goals. Those in the performance industry (of which, full disclosure, Zoompf is a member) may push you to hit two seconds or less, citing research such as that from Forrester showing that 47% of users expect pages to load in two seconds or less.

We prefer a more pragmatic approach: You should optimize to the point where the ROI continues to makes sense. The higher your traffic, the more monetary difference each millisecond gained will make. If you’re Amazon.com, a 200-ms improvement could mean millions of dollars. If you’re just launching a new site, getting down to 4-6 seconds may be good enough. Its really a judgment call on your current traffic levels, where your competition sits, your budget, and your strategic priorities.

The first step, though, is to measure where you stand. Fortunately, there’s a great free tool supported by Google at WebPageTest.org that can measure your page load time from various locations around the world. If you receive a lot of international traffic, don’t just select a location close to home—see how fast your site is loading from Sydney, London, Virginia, etc. The individual results may vary quite a bit! WebPageTest has a lot of bells and whistles, so check out this beginner’s guide to learn more.

Where do I start?

Improving the performance of your site can seem daunting, so it’s important you start with the low hanging fruit. Steve Souders, the Head Performance Engineer at Google, has famously stated:

“80-90% of the end-user response time is spent on the front-end. Start there.”

This has come to be called the Performance Golden Rule. In layman’s terms, this means that while optimizing your web server and database infrastructure is important, you will get a higher return on your time investment by first optimizing the front-end components loaded by your users’ browsers. This means all the images, CSS, JavaScript, Flash and other resources linked as dependencies from your base HTML page.

You can see the Performance Golden Rule well illustrated in a typical waterfall chart returned by tools like WebPageTest. Note how the original page requested is a very small subset of the overall time. Generating this original base page is where all the back-end server work is done. However, all the other resources included by that page (images, CSS, etc.) are what take the large majority of the time to load:

waterfall_frontend

So how can you speed up your front-end performance and reap the rewards of a better user experience? There are literally hundreds of ways. In the sections below, we will focus on the high-level best practices that generally yield the most benefit for the least amount of effort.

Step 1: Reduce the size of your page

Bloated content takes a long time to download. By reducing the size of your page, you not only improve your speed, you also reduce the used network bandwidth for which your hosting provider charges you.

An easy optimization is enabling HTTP compression, which can often reduce the size of your text resources (HTML, CSS, and JavaScript) by 50% or more. WhatsMyIP.org has a great free tool to test if compression is turned on for your site. When using, don’t just test the URL to your home page, but also test links to your JavaScript and CSS files. Often we find compression is turned on for HTML files, but not for JavaScript and CSS. This can represent a considerable potential performance boost when your server is configured for compression properly. Keep in mind, though, you do NOT want your images to be compressed by the server as they are already compressed. The extra server processing time will only slow things down. You can learn more in this detailed guide on what content you should compressing on your website.

If you find your server is not using compression, talk to your server admin or hosting provider to turn it on. Its often a simple configuration setting, for example see the mod_deflate module for Apache, IIS 7 configuration docs, or this article on enabling on WordPress sites.

In addition, images can often contribute to 80% or more of your total page download size, so its very important to optimize them as well. Follow these best practices to cut down your image size by 50% or more in some cases:

  • Don’t use PNG images for photos. JPEG images compress photographs to significantly smaller sizes with great image quality. For example, on Windows 8 launch day, the Microsoft homepage used a 1 megabyte PNG photograph when a visually comparable JPEG would have been 140k! Think of all the wasted bandwidth on that one image alone!
  • Don’t overuse PNGs for transparency. Transparency is a great effect (and not supported by JPEG), but if you don’t need it, you don’t always need the extra space of a PNG image, especially for photographic images. PNGs work better for logos and images with sharp contrast, like text.
  • Correctly set your JPEG image quality. Using a quality setting of 50-75% can significantly reduce the size of your image without noticeable impact on image quality. Of course, each result should be individually evaluated. In most cases your image sizes should all be less than 100k, and preferably smaller.
  • Strip out extraneous metadata from your images. Image editors leave a lot of “junk” in your image files, including thumbnails, comments, unused palette entries and more. While these are useful to the designer, they don’t need to be downloaded by your users. Instead, have your designer make a backup copy for their own use, and then run the website image versions through a free optimizer like Yahoo’s Smush.It or open source tools like pngcrush and jpegtran.

Lastly, another good way to reduce your page size is to Minify your Javascript and CSS. “Minification” is a process that strips out the extra comments and spaces in your code, as well as shortening the names of functions and variables. This is best seen by example:

Example: Original Javascript

 /* ALERT PLUGIN DEFINITION
  * ======================= */
  var old = $  .fn.alert
  $  .fn.alert = function (option) {
    return this.each(function () {
      var $  this = $  (this)
        , data = $  this.data('alert')
      if (!data) $  this.data('alert', (data = new Alert(this)))
      if (typeof option == 'string') data[option].call($  this)
    })
  }
  $  .fn.alert.Constructor = Alert

Minified Version (from YUI Compressor):

var old=$  .fn.alert;$  .fn.alert=function(a){return this.each(function(){var c=$  (this),b=c.data("alert");if(!b){c.data("alert",(b=new Alert(this)))}if(typeof a=="string"){b[a].call(c)}})};

Your minified pages will still render the same, and this can often reduce file sizes by 10-20% or more. As you can see, this also has the added benefit of obfuscating your code to make it harder for your competitors to copy and modify all your hard earned work for their own purposes. JSCompress is a basic easy online tool for Javascript, or you can also try out more powerful tools like JSMin or Yahoo’s YUI compressor (also works for CSS). There’s also a useful online version of YUI which we recommend.

Step 2: Reduce the number of browser requests

The more resources your browser requests to render your page, the longer it will take to load. A great strategy to reduce your page load time is to simply cut down the number of requests your page has to make. This means less images, fewer JavaScript files, fewer analytics beacons, etc. There’s a reason Google’s homepage is so spartan, the clean interface has very few dependencies and thus loads super fast.

While “less is more” should be the goal, we realize this is not always possible, so are some additional strategies you can employ:

  • Allow browser caching. If your page dependencies don’t change often, there’s no reason the browser should download them again and again. Talk to your server admin to make sure caching is turned on for your images, JS and CSS. A quick test is to plug the URL of one of your images into redbot.org and look for the header Expires or Cache-Control: max-age in the result. For example, this image off the eBay home page will be cached by your browser for 28,180,559 seconds (just over 1 year).

expires_header2

Cache-Control is the newer way of doing things, but often times you’ll also see Expires to support older browsers. If you see both, Cache-Control will “win” for newer browsers.

While browser side caching will not speed up the initial page load of your site, it will make a HUGE difference on repeat views, often knocking off 70% or more of the time. You can see this clearly when looking at the “Repeat View” metrics in a WebPageTest test, for example:

broswer_caching

  • Combine related CSS and JS files. While numerous individual CSS and JS files are easier for your developers to maintain, a lesser number of files can load much faster by your browser. If your files change infrequently, then a one time concatenation of files is an easy win. If they do change frequently, consider adding a step to your deploy process that automatically concatenates related groups of functionality prior to deployment, grouping by related functional area. There are pros and cons to each approach, but there’s some great info in this StackOverflow thread.
  • Combine small images into CSS sprites. If your site has lots of small images (buttons, icons, etc.), you can realize significant performance gains by combining them all into a single image file called a “sprite.” Sprites are more challenging to implement, but can yield significant performance gains for visually rich sites. See the CSS Image Sprites article on w3schools for more information, and check out the free tool SpriteMe.

Step 3: Reduce the distance to your site

If your website is hosted in Virginia, but your users are visiting from Australia, it’s going to take them a long time to download your images, JavaScript and CSS. This can be a big problem if your site is content-heavy and you get a lot of traffic from users far away. Fortunately, there’s an easy answer: Sign up for a Content Delivery Network (CDN). There are many excellent ones out there now, including Akamai, Amazon CloudFront, CloudFlare and more.

CDN’s work basically like this: you change the URL of your images, JS and CSS from something like this:

http://mysite.com/myimage.png

to something like this (as per the instructions given to you from your CDN provider):

http://d34vewdf5sdfsdfs.cloudnfront.net/myimage.png

Which then instructs the browser to look out on the CDN network for your image. The CDN provider will then return that image to the browser if it has it, or it will pull it from your site and store for reuse later if it doesn’t. The magic of CDNs is that they then copy that same image (or javascript or CSS file) to dozens, hundreds or even thousands of “edge nodes” around the world to route that browser request to the closest available location. So if you’re in Melbourne and request an image hosted in Virginia, you may instead get a copy from Sydney. Just like magic.

To illustrate, consider the left image (centralized server) vs. the right image (duplicated content around the world):

In closing

While front-end performance does not currently appear to have a direct impact on search ranking, it has a clear impact on user engagement and conversions into paying customers. Since page load time also has a direct impact on user experience, it is very likely to have a future impact on search ranking.

While there are many ways to optimize your site, we suggest three core principles to remember when optimizing your site:

  1. Reduce the size of your page
  2. Reduce the number of browser requests
  3. Reduce the distance to your site

Within each of these, there are different strategies that apply based on the makeup of your site. We at Zoompf have also introduced several free tools that can help you determine which areas will make the biggest impact, and we also support a free tool to analyze your website for over 400 common causes of slow front-end performance. You can find them here: http://zoompf.com/free.

Happy hunting!

Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don’t have time to hunt down but want to read!


Moz Blog

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

SMX East Agenda Posted – Register Now To Save With Super Early Bird Rates!

Join the most accomplished search marketers in the world at SMX East, October 1-3 in NYC. Check out the agenda, featuring three days of tactic packed sessions, keynotes and the highest-level networking anywhere. Six in-depth workshops offered on September 30. Secure your spot, get the lowest rates…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

Secure Your Spot at Search Marketing’s Big Dance – SMX Advanced Rates Increase Friday

Super early bird rates for SMX Advanced expire end-of-day Friday, March 29. Register now for your ticket to the only conference designed exclusively for experienced search marketers. Cutting-edge tactics and networking with internet marketing thought leaders make SMX Advanced the must-attend…



Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.


Search Engine Land: News & Info About SEO, PPC, SEM, Search Engines & Search Marketing

Posted in IM NewsComments Off

Advert