How This Content Team Improved Organic Search Click-Through Rates Across 10,000 Pages
No two industries are the same – let alone two web pages.
That’s why having data that’s specific to your articles can lead to significantly higher engagement and conversion rates, compared to working off of data from other websites.
Similarly, an SEO strategy based on what worked for other brands won’t necessarily get you the results you’re looking for.
McCall Robison, Content Marketing Director at Best Company, is responsible for improving engagement and page hits across more than 18 industries and 10,000 web pages. She’s noticed that “[What works] definitely differs by industry.”
Recently, she agreed to share her tips on testing titles and building an organic search strategy that drives clicks across different niches and content types.
Different Industries Call for Different Approaches
Best Company’s publications cover a huge range of industries, including business services, health and lifestyle, careers and education, and insurance. Within each vertical, Best Company is responsible for producing content on a variety of subcategories. The home products and services section of one of their publications, for example, might include content on home security, solar energy, internet providers, pest control, etc..
Creating an SEO strategy can be challenging with such a broad spectrum of topics. According to Robison, “Title tags that work well for the solar industry are very different from the title tags that work well for the home security industry.”
Industry-specific insights are the key to effectively optimizing content and maximizing each article’s return on investment. Robison uses ClickFlow to test titles and better understand what drives clicks in specific niches.
“Without a tool like ClickFlow, it would be very difficult to see what works for one industry versus another,” she explains. “We might just make changes across the board if they worked for one industry.”
This, she acknowledges, would be a bad idea. “That isn’t how it works for us. It depends on the industry that those pages are in.”
Making site-wide changes based on what works for just one industry could lead to engaging titles being rewritten in less effective ways.
The article’s subsequent poor performance could then leave the team with more questions than answers: Did the title change make a difference? Are other factors affecting the change in click-through rate? How should they select a title for new content?
However, Robison and her team can avoid this issue because they can quickly and easily track results by article and industry. With ClickFlow, they have the data at hand to understand what kinds of titles cause people to click for everything from personal loans to online dating apps.
An Article-by-Article Analysis Pays Off
It’s not just industry that Robison takes into account when considering potential title tags and meta descriptions. The time of year, an article’s content, and other factors all have the potential to affect click-through rates – and, therefore, the tests that should be run.
Best Company publishes, among other types of content, reviews by real customers. The products and services listed on their website can have anywhere from one to several thousands of user reviews. But although lots of reviews can build reader trust, Robison and her team have discovered that they don’t always increase page hits.
“We’ve figured out that 100 reviews in the title definitely seems to get a higher click-through rate,” Robison says, “whereas if we have thousands of reviews, sometimes we won’t put that big of a number. I think viewers may get overwhelmed by such a large number of customer reviews, so putting a more digestible figure seems to be more effective.”
She has also noticed a seasonal effect with some titles.
“When you’re looking for a review, you obviously want it to be up to date,” she says. “This is especially important if it’s early on in the year, for example, January through March. Using the year in the title tag has been great for the success of our click-through rate because it shows we have relevant and timely data and information.”
Toward the end of the calendar year, however, including the current year isn’t always as effective; it no longer feels as relevant.
Plus, there are usually plenty of other articles with the year in the title showing up in the search engine results pages. Given the limited character count for title tags, prioritizing it doesn’t always make sense.
In fact, when Best Company tested using an article title without the year in fall and winter, they found that the click-through rate increased by 23%.
Learn More: 8 Quick SEO Wins You Can Get by Using ClickFlow
How Best Company Tests & Optimizes Content Across 18 Industries
With hundreds of priority pages for optimization, having a process-driven approach in place helps Robison and her team identify good tests and understand the results. Here’s how they do it:
1) Test Strategically
Despite having thousands of web pages, Best Company only runs tests on a few hundred of them. In part, this is because Robison has a minimum traffic requirement for her team’s tests.
“We like to make sure that the page we’re testing on reaches a certain threshold of clicks,” she says, “that way you’re not testing a page that has minimal data to work with. If you’re testing a page with few clicks, even if there was an improvement or a decline in the click-through rate, you wouldn’t know if that was because of the title tag and the meta description change or if there was some other factor at play. There’s just not enough data.”
She also recommends that websites think of variables they want to test across the site, rather than experimenting without hypotheses or goals.
“Make a list of a handful of broad possible tests that you want to try,” she says. “For example, for us, it was putting the year in the title tag, using review counts, and asking questions. Then, do enough tests that use those methods and if a lot of them improve, it’s a pretty good indicator that what you did on those tests worked.”
That way, she explains, you’re testing an approach rather than an individual title for a specific article.
For example, at one point the title tag layout “Is (brand name) Good? [Customer Ratings & Reviews]” was working well for Best Company in the insurance niche. And this was clear after running multiple tests with the same title tag layout.
2) Run Quarterly Analyses
Every quarter, Robison’s team reviews its performance and testing approach. “We look back at the quarter’s tests for each industry and do an inventory of what worked during the quarter, what didn’t, how it compares to all the tests we’ve run for that industry, and the learnings we take away from that,” she says.
To keep each team member’s and each industry’s tests separate, the team uses ClickFlow’s tagging feature. This helps keep the dashboard clear and simple, Robison explains. Even with 12 people using the same tool, it doesn’t turn into “chaos.”
It also makes it easy to review tests from previous quarters and years. “We have so many tests built up at this point, because we’ve been using the tool for quite a while,” she adds, “so I think what’s nice is being able to go into the archives and make sure that we’re not making the same mistakes that we’ve made before.”
3) Set Goals for the Next Quarter
The team wraps up the quarterly review by deciding on the strategy for the next quarter. “We will always make a goal and have an idea in mind of what we want to try next,” says Robison.
Frequent reevaluation helps Best Company to avoid content decay and ensure that articles’ click-through rates remain as high as possible. Sometimes, what worked just a few months ago is no longer the ideal title tag.
In fact, just three months after seeing success with “Is (brand name) Good? [Customer Ratings & Reviews]”, Robison’s team found that some web pages did better with a different title tag structure. This led them to improve click-through rate and impressions by over 40% for certain articles.
Improving Click-Through Rates by Up to 600%
Title and meta description tag testing have helped Robison and her team understand what works best for the vast number of industries they cover, as well as how what works best varies depending on the content and the time of year.
Before working with ClickFlow, Best Company used to manually run title and meta description tests using Google Search Console, Google Sheets, and color-coding. While the process worked, Robison describes it as “a pain.” She says, “You have to get pretty meticulous doing it that way and it’s time consuming.”
Since switching to ClickFlow, however, the team has gained industry-wide and article-specific data that has allowed them to be more strategic about their content optimization program.
As a result, the team has consistently improved their per-article click-through rates by up to 600%, with many pages getting hundreds of extra views per month.
“We’ve found insights that work for certain industries and findings we can apply across the board. It’s been really rewarding to see what works and be able to constantly customize and improve our title tags and therefore, our pages’ click through rates,” Robison says.