It’s Lonely at the Top of a Results Page When the Traffic Doesn’t Follow You

Many marketers slave over their websites from a conversion rate perspective. They experiment with different copy, use paid campaigns to “inject” customers into preexisting conversion paths, rotate different actions, go crazy with Google Website Optimizer , or (and this is our favorite of the bunch) have an IM-powered customer service agent appear out of nowhere ready to help you with whatever you need. But in all those steps, they’re forgetting about the conversion opportunity that must come first: the user selecting which site to visit from the search engine results page (serp). Search results are generally displayed 10 at a time, meaning that even the best of sites are up against 9 competitors (unless you’re lucky and have indented results). In most scenarios marketers will see a loose correlation between where a page is ranked and the traffic it receives. But what happens when you’re at the top and not seeing the traffic the good ‘ol golden triangle says you deserve?

Three Factors to SERP Conversion: Ranking, Title, and Meta Description

Okay-there might be more than three (for example, adding a paid campaign will enhance page presence, likely contributing to an organic click. Today, however, let’s stay focused on the obvious three.


It’s pretty clear that ranking has an impact on organic CTR-but just how much does it matter? Jim Boykin does a nice job analyzing leaked aol search data which shows that the first three results make up over 62% of overall clicks for the term! While this was before the days of Universal Search and pulling people’s eyes deeper into the serp with image and news results, we all know it pays to be on top.


The title tag is extremely influential when it comes time for engines to evaluate a page’s topical significance – but how can they be modified to help drive targeted traffic from the serp?

  • Keyword in the Title Tag:
    Just like in paid search, you want the keyword being searched for to be prominent in the result. You also get some additional visual weight as Google bolds the search term wherever it appears in the results set.
  • Get In Their Head:
    What type of visitor are you targeting with your page? Are they researching something? Or are they ready to buy? Think how you would want to deal with them in a sales context: would you use an education-based soft-sell? Or go for the jugular?
  • Be Brief:
    Title tags get truncated in organic results. You want to make sure you stay under 65 characters.

Depending on your business, you may also want to reinforce your brand name in the beginning of the title tag versus the end. For instance, here is how I usually suggest to format title tags:

“Keyword 1, Keyword 2, and Keyword 3 at”

If your brand generates connection with your customers, slide your brand to the top. Your keywords will suffer a bit in terms of SEO, but the trade-off may be worth it.

“Visit FancyBrand for Keyword 1, Keyword 2, and Keyword 3”

Meta Description Tag

A site’s meta description tag looks like this:

<META NAME=”DESCRIPTION” CONTENT=”Your keyword rich marketing sales-pitch meta description goes here”>

Why would this be important? It lets Google and other engines know what to display underneath your page’s title on the results page. The exception to this are instances where Google decides to instead use the page’s dmoz description. To make things even trickier, the outcome of this “gametime decision” varies from query to query. Even if you see your good meta description in the serp, that doesn’t guarantee you that another keyword query would pull from dmoz.

But there is a way that your META DESCRIPTION will win 100% of the time. Adding the META NOODP tag to your page will inform Google to ignore the dmoz data and take what you have for granted. This includes not using it to populate title information. It’s not instantaneous from the time you’re first crawled with the tag, but it’s quick. The tag is formatted as follows:


So What’s the Bottom Line?

Make sure you take advantage of all conversion opportunities, including from the serp itself. You’ve earned that top dog spot for a reason – but you’re going to have to work a little harder to get the attention of your customers.

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