You can do SEO all you want, but if people aren’t clicking your snippets, you ain’t getting traffic.
We’ve all seen Google’s AMP stamps, rich snippet review stars… even jump to links and featured snippets like Google’s answer box. With so many ways to stand out in search results and increase click-through rates, don’t you think it’s about time we optimize YOUR snippets?
I’m not just talking meta descriptions here…
I’ll show how to increase click-through rates by optimizing snippets in Yoast’s SEO plugin, use publish dates to increase CTR for time sensitive articles, and increase the chances of being awarded a featured snippet. By increasing click-through rates you will also improve your actual rankings since Google uses click-through rates as a ranking factor. Here are 15 ways to optimize snippets for both desktop and mobile. Leave a comment if you have any questions.
Table Of Contents
- Add Publish Dates
- Republish Old Content To Look New
- Add AMP Pages
- Add Rich Snippets
- Avoid Ugly Permalinks
- Write Killer Headlines
- Use Specialist Characters
- Use Dates In Headlines (On Time Sensitive Articles)
- Get Featured Snippets (Google Answer Box)
- Get “Jump To” Links With A TOC + Structured Content
- Spend 2 Minutes Writing Your Meta Descriptions
- Identify Errors In Your Snippets (HTML Improvements)
- Bulk Edit Snippets With Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin
- Keyword Competition: Making Sure You Can Even Rank
- Measure Your Click-Through Rate Performance In Search Console
1. Add Publish Dates
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 > Titles & Metas > Post Types. I only have this enabled for posts since they tend to be 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 the result looks like…
2. Republish Old 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 to a time sensitive article.
3. 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.
How To Add AMP 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
Make sure you don’t have AMP errors in Search Console or your AMP stamp won’t show up on these pages. Errors are usually caused by older plugins that are not AMP compatible, for example, AMP doesn’t support JavaaScript so plugins that inject script tags will cause errors.
4. 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)
- Use the All In One Schema.org 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 it can 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).
5. Avoid Ugly Permalinks
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…
6. Write Killer Headlines
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
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…
- 30 Genesis eCommerce Themes (WooCommerce Ready)
- SiteGround GoGeek Review (Semi-Dedicated Hosting Is 4x Faster)
- WordPress Local SEO: Rank Higher In Google Maps / Local Results
You do not always have to target 2 keywords… sometimes targeting 1 keyword and writing a more creative headline is the better option (it’s situational). The main thing is to Google your keyword and ask why people would click on YOUR link and not everyone else’s. In this post I used a number and the word “stupid” which is an adjective I guarantee no one else is using.
Yes, this actually works…
— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) October 4, 2016
7. Use Special Characters
Check out these special characters which you can use in your SEO titles + meta descriptions. Just use these wisely… they can make you stand out but you don’t want to overdue it…
8. Use Dates In Headlines (On Time Sensitive Articles)
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 whether people are actually searching date keywords…
Then include the date (year) in your SEO title + meta description…
9. Get Featured Snippets (Google Answer Box)
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 (aka Google Answers):
- 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. Spend 2 Minutes Writing Your Meta Descriptions
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)
12. Identify Errors In Your Snippets (HTML Improvements)
In Google Search Console you can see which snippets are too short, long, and whether there are duplicates. You will need to verify your site with Search Console then check the HTML Improvements section. Click each item to see which pages have errors (these just mean you need to adjust the SEO titles + meta description to be the correct length). You can go through each individual page and fix these, or if you have a ton of errors you can use Yoast’s bulk editor.
13. Bulk Edit Snippets With Yoast’s WordPress SEO Plugin
Go to Yoast > SEO > Tools > Bulk Editor. This allows you to bulk edit SEO titles and meta descriptions without going through each individual page. You can use this section to fix HTML improvements in Google Search Console and rewrite meta descriptions to sound better. Just remember the bulk editor doesn’t show the page’s focus keyword or have the “length bar” that keeps track of your SEO title/meta description length… so just be sure to incorporate both.
I DEFINITELY recommend using Yoast’s bulk editor to improve your SEO titles + meta descriptions. It’s one of the easiest things you can do in WordPress to increase your CTRs.
14. Keyword Competition: Making Sure You Can Even Rank
You don’t want to target a keyword that is too competitive so you never rank at all. To learn a keyword’s competition I like to use the MozBar Chrome Extension which allows you to Google any keyword and see each result’s DA (domain authority) and PA (page authority). The higher these are, the more competitive the keyword. Try targeting keywords whose results are close to your own DA. MozBar has had some bugs but uninstalling/reinstalling seems to work.
Always Google your keyword and take a couple minutes to analyze search results before creating a page/post about the keyword… this can save you a LOT of time. The best keywords are those where if you Google them, relevant/quality content is lacking from search results.
15. Find Pages With Low Click-Through Rates In Search Console
In your Search Analytics report of Google Search Console you can see which pages/queries have the lowest/highest click-through rate. Just turn on the CTR filter (along with any other metrics you want to see) and browse through the list. Be sure you have a large enough sample size (in clicks). You want to look for pages that rank high but have a low CTR which means even though the page ranks high, nobody is clicking on your snippet. See if you can tweak your snippet to cater to people who are searching for specific queries that are giving you low CTRs.
A Few Words From The SEO Pros…
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.