Recently we've got an official word that Bing is using clickthrough rate (CTR) as a ranking factor. Which means if users click on your site in the results it gets promoted higher, if not — it heads south.
It's surprising to see that no one seems to be giving a hoot about it. Should Google have spilled a bean like this we would have people running around screaming 'abandon the ship!' all over the place. But who cares about Bing, right?
Well here are at least 4 reasons why you should:
- As you know Bing started powering Yahoo search a while ago. This merger gives it around 31.6% market share in the US or 5.2 billion searches monthly. Not anywhere close to Google, but additional traffic has never hurt anyone.
- With Microsoft backing it up Bing does have the potential to take off and challenge Google one day. After all they serve good results, are constantly innovating, and who knows what inflated advertising budget can do, huh?
- Google may follow Bing. Although it's claimed to be an unrivaled search leader it wouldn’t be surprising to see Google mimic Bing and start using CTR in their ranking algo as well.
- Even if nothing of the above happens it’s still good to have high organic CTR because it means more traffic.
This wouldn't be the first time Google played a catch-up game: just remember the launches of Bing-like layout, optional background images on the homepage, Google Buzz, and well Google Instant (something Yahoo tried years ago). What the heck, Google's even testing full page previews in their search results, so the theory looks quite plausible.
So let's see what you can do to improve your organic CTR.
How to Improve your organic Clickthrough Rate
1. Check your CTR
Before you start improving something it might be a good idea to check if it needs fixing in the first place. There are several ways to measure your CTR, but the most adequate one seems to be via webmaster tools.
Sign up for Bing webmaster tools and give it some time to gather the stats. You can use the CTR data in Google webmaster tools instead, but it may set you on a wrong lead because of the differences in layouts, PPC and organic completion, and user behavior on the two search engines. If you're interested in the latter check out this study of Google v Bing usability.
Your best shot would be to analyze both sets of data (from Google and Bing) and use it to improve your CTR both on both.
2. Analyze your CTR
Once you have the data you can start analyzing it to see if you're satisfied with the level of clickthroughs you're getting. To get a rough idea of what the general CTR might be you can use the leaked AOL data from 2006 (it's outdated so don't take it for granted).
And the Chitika study of traffic distribution across top 20 results.
These should give you a general idea of the CTR values you should aim at depending on your position in the search results.
3. Improve your CTR
If you see that there's still room for improvement in your CTR department go for it.
General CTR optimization tips
Your first step would be to look at the SERPs for your major keywords and see how your site appears in the search results. Is your listing compelling enough, would you click it if it were not yours? What about your competitors? Are they doing a better job?
There are no hard and fast rules here. It all boils down to how well you understand the searchers intents and what you can do to hook them up with an appealing offer.
Study the PPC ads that show up for your keywords. These guys pay for each click where higher CTR means lower costs, so they know what they're doing (well most of them). Watch the ads for a while. PPC advertisers are vigorously testing different ads all the time, so those that stay long enough should be working well.
Check out this post on improving search listings, though it has more of a Google focus the tips should work on Bing as well.
Bing specific CTR optimization tips
The most significant peculiarity about Bing when it comes to CTR is the preview feature. When you hover your mouse over any of the results you get a page preview. Like this one:
According to the abovementioned study by Catalyst group only 1 user out of 12 (or 8.3%) who took part in the tests triggered the preview by accident, so there's no telling how much it affects your CTR. Still as Bing is gaining momentum and with Google testing full page previews you might want to invest some time into improving that part of your search listing.
Look at what pops up in your 'More on this page' preview for different keywords. Is this information compelling? If not, locate the sections of your page that where included into the preview and improve them.
Wash, rinse, repeat
Whatever changes you make to your search listing, take some time to measure results. Both Google and Bing display changes in your CTR overtime so it will be easy for you to see which changes worked and which didn't.
Your ultimate goal here is to come up with a listing that magnets clicks across all search engines. If you manage to achieve that you'll significantly boost your traffic without even gaining in rankings.
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