Search engine snippets are the forefront of your SEO.
Anything you can do to make them stand out will increase click-through rates and get you more SEO traffic. There are plenty of ways to enhance them (some less obvious than others).
I will show you how to get featured in Google’s Answer Box (featured snippets), add rich snippets, AMP Pages, and display your blog post’s publish date to make content look newer. You should follow all 11 steps if you want to significantly increase click-through rates, which can be measured in Google Search Console’s search analytics and for finding low CTR content.
Google uses click-through rates (CTR) as a ranking factor so this can also improve your actual rankings. There have been numerous studies supporting this. I highly recommend identifying lower performing CTR content and rewriting your SEO titles + meta descriptions in Yoast’s bulk editor, which is step 1. Comment if you have questions – it’s worth the time doing this!
Table Of Contents
- Identify Low CTR Content
- Improve SEO Titles/Meta Descriptions In Yoast’s Bulk Editor
- Craft The Perfect SEO Title (In Yoast)
- Craft The Perfect Meta Description (In Yoast)
- Include Dates In Your Snippets
- Add Rich Snippets
- Add Publish Dates To Blog Posts
- Add AMP Pages
- Get In Google’s Featured Snippets
- Get “Jump To Links” With A TOC + Structured Content
- Use Descriptive URLs
A snapshot of just a few things I’ll cover…
1. Identify Low CTR Content
Go to Google Search Console’s Search Analytics report and turn on the CTR filter. Look for pages with a high position (ranking) but low CTR – this means even though a page ranks high, nobody is clicking your snippet. Improving these snippets can easily result in more traffic. If you recently setup Search Console (using Yoast), wait a few weeks so you have enough data.
You can also use Google Search Console’s HTML Improvements to find SEO titles + meta descriptions that are too short, long, and whether you have duplicates. Be sure to fix these.
Why Aren’t People Clicking?
- Does the page/post rank high?
- Does your content match their query?
- Is your content better than the top results?
- Does the post show an outdated publish date?
- Does your Yoast SEO title entice people to click?
- Does your Yoast meta description entice people to click?
- Can you add rich snippets to show extra information like review stars?
2. Improve SEO Titles/Meta Descriptions In Yoast’s Bulk Editor
Go to Yoast > SEO > Tools > Bulk Editor. Here you can bulk edit SEO titles + meta descriptions without going through each individual page. Rewriting these to sound nicer is literally one of the easiest ways to increase CTRs. You can also fix HTML improvements here (from Search Console). The bulk editor doesn’t show the page’s focus keyword or have the “length bar” that tells you whether your SEO title/meta description is too short or long… so keep that in mind.
3. Craft The Perfect SEO Title (In Yoast)
Here’s how I write most headlines…
- Research 1 primary keyword
- Research 1 secondary keyword
- Craft a headline that includes elements of both, and stills sounds good
- Google your keyword and mention what makes your content different
I wanted to rank for keywords related to “WordPress Theme Packs” since people who search this are probably willing to drop $400, and as an affiliate I would get about $125 from the sale.
Step 1: Research a primary keyword…
Step 2: Research a secondary keyword which be close to your primary (a synonym)…
Step 3: Craft a headline that includes both but still sounds nice. You do NOT always have to include both keywords as exact matches otherwise you will find yourself turning your headline into a keyword list which looks spammy and results in a low CTR. Try using partial matches…
Good Headline > Keywords – you do not always have to target 2 keywords… sometimes targeting 1 keyword and writing a creative headline is the better option. The main thing is to Google your keyword and ask why people should click on YOUR link and not everyone else’s. Can you include the fact that you have a video, infographic, or tons of people used your guide?
Some of my highest CTR snippets…
Notice how my headline for my W3 Total Cache includes 2018 (because people are looking for the most recent plugin settings, AND because “W3 Total Cache Settings 2018” is a keyword that shows up in Google Autocomplete) and how it’s been used by over 100,000 people? I changed that just recently and that post now has 57% CTR!
This is called a featured snippet which I’ll cover in step 9…
4. Craft The Perfect Meta Description
This is your chance to tell people WHY they should click on your link and no one else’s. Here I say I have a pre-configured zip of my Yoast settings which they can import to their site. Small things like this help. You can edit meta descriptions in Yoast’s snippet editor or the bulk editor.
Tips On Writing Meta Descriptions
- Entice people to click on your link (situational to the topic)
- Include your keyword, and ideally a partial match of a secondary keyword
- Length should be between 150-160 characters (bar in Yoast should be green)
5. Include Dates In Your Snippets
By including a date (year) in the SEO title + meta description of time sensitive articles, you can rank higher for date keywords and increase CTR because people see your tutorial is current.
First, learn if people are searching date keywords…
Then include the date (year) in your SEO title + meta description…
6. Add Rich Snippets
You’ve probably seen these for reviews, recipes, and other supported data types…
There are 3 primary ways to do this:
- Use the WP Rich Snippets Plugin (premium and robust, what I use)
- Use the All In One Schema Rich Snippets Plugin (free but minimal)
- Use the data highlighter feature in Google Search Console
I use WP Rich Snippets when writing reviews, here’s an example of how they look…
You can see a side-by-side comparison of WP Rich Snippets vs. All In One Schema on my WordPress rich snippets tutorial but I would definitely use WP Rich Snippets if you have an affiliate or recipe site where they’re a key part of your SEO. You can see my SiteGround GrowBig review to see a preview of WP Rich Snippets which includes more settings, markup options, and tons of add-ons (this and the nicer design are the main benefits of this plugin).
7. Add Publish Dates To Blog Posts
Adding dates to snippets makes your content look new and increases click-through rates…
In your Yoast settings enable ‘date in snippet preview’ under SEO > Search Appearance > Content Types. I only have this enabled for posts since are more time sensitive than pages.
Now find the entry meta section of your blog (the part that shows up on the very top of posts) which for me is in the Genesis Simple Edits settings. You’ll want to add post modified date…
This is what it looks like…
Republish Content To Look New – now that dates are in your snippets, you can reset publish dates to current day by editing a post and clicking the update button. Yes, you can go through ALL posts and keep doing this. Just don’t abuse it, I try to only do it when I’m making an update.
8. Add AMP Pages
AMP (accelerated mobile pages) are a Google project that make your mobile pages load faster while adding that nice AMP stamp next to your mobile snippets. This will not only increase click-through rates but will also improve mobile speed and potentially your SEO / conversions. Adding AMP Pages effects the design of your mobile site so I suggest trying it out, and if you don’t like it you can uninstall the plugins and revert back to your old, non-AMP mobile pages.
Adding AMP Pages In WordPress
- Install the AMP plugin (adds the actual AMP pages)
- Install the Glue For Yoast & AMP (lets you customize the design)
- Add /amp/ to any page to see how it looks and make sure it works
- Go to Yoast’s Settings → AMP to change your design and enable custom post types
- Be sure the tweak your featured image on the top of your pages (see Yoast’s tutorial)
Fixing AMP Errors
9. Get In Google’s Featured Snippets
If you have content that quickly answers a question in paragraph, list, or table format, Google might reward you with a featured snippet. Google ultimately decides who and what shows up in the featured snippet but they will pull an answer from ANY 1st page result. You can influence this by targeting ‘question keywords’ and creating accurate, authority, structured content that is organized with a table of contents and subheadings as described in step 10.
If you want these snippets I would DEFINITELY watch Rand Fishkin’s video…
There Are 3 Types Of Featured Snippets:
- Paragraphs (about 63% of answers)
- Lists (about 19% of answers)
- Tables (about 16% of answers)
Tips For Getting Featured Snippets:
- Target queries that already have an answer box (but do a poor job)
- Identify question keywords (Keyword Explorer has an answers filter)
- Be literal with your keywords (eg. use an exact keyword match in your title)
- You must be on the 1st page of Google to show up in the answers box
- Make sure your content is as accurate as possible with references/links
- About 15% of queries have an answer box, there are plenty of opportunities
10. Get “Jump To Links” With A TOC + Structured Content
Once again, Google ultimately determines who gets these. The best thing you can do is create long, structured content with a table of contents, anchored subheadings, and organize your post in a logical way according to the topic. When I say long content (or “authority content”) I mean a solid article usually with 3,000+ words, accurately referenced with links.
Google says this is how you get them…
… ensure that long, multi-topic pages on your site are well-structured and broken into distinct logical sections. Second, ensure that each section has an associated anchor with a descriptive name (i.e., not just “Section 2.1”), and that your page includes a “table of contents” which links to the individual anchors… you won’t see it on the results all the time — only when we think that a link to a section would be highly useful for a particular query.
How To Create A Table Of Contents With Anchored Subheadings
Table Of Contents HTML looks like this…
<li><a href=”/your-permalink/#item-one”>Item One</a></li>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink/#item-two”>Item Two</a></li>
<li><a href=”/your-permalink/#item-three”>Item Three</a></li>
Each subheading’s HTML should look like this…
<h3 id=”item-one”>Subheading One</h3>
<h3 id=”item-two”>Subheading Two</h3>
<h3 id=”item-three”>Subheading Three</h3>
You should ALWAYS include a TOC when creating longer content.
11. Use Descriptive URLs
If your permalinks have this format: http://www.sample.com/?p=123 then you need should change these to be more SEO-friendly. They’re ugly, bad for SEO, and cause low click-through rates. I recommend using the “post name” format in WordPress under Settings > Permalinks…
A Few Words From Rand Fishkin About CTRs And SEO
A great video from Rand Fishkin on queries and CTR (best to start at 1:45)…
- Google uses “average time on site” and “bounce rate” as a ranking factor
- Attaching a keyword to your brand (StudioPress Genesis Themes) increases rankings
- Target keywords that bring people who will likely spend a lot of time on your website
I put 110% into these tutorials so I hope you find it helpful. If you have any questions, thoughts, or need help with your click-through rates or SEO, leave a comment and I’ll be glad to help out.