Don’t Ignore the Value of the Click Through Rate

Obviously anyone who has ever run an AdWords or adCenter campaign knows when the click through rate (CTR) increases, they’re probably doing something right – whether it be ads tailored seamlessly or ideal keyword targeting. The CTR is significant because it tells you when an ad is compelling a user enough to take action and visit your website. What’s more, Google likes to reward advertisers for a high CTR by showing your ads more often at a lower cost.  Google will display the “better performing” ad – whichever ad does and will continue to make them more money. So everyone wins. Google makes money, you garner a potential customer and your potential customer finds what he or she wants on your website. Simple enough, right?

So why wouldn’t you pay just as much attention to the CTR in organic search? Not only does it naturally send more traffic to your site (without having to pay Google I might add), but if AdWords is any indication – and it often is – CTR is obviously important to Google. Take a hint from Google itself … please.

Optimization or CTR?

Maybe I’m cynical, but I feel as though people still wrestle with the following questions: should I stuff keywords in the title and/or meta description so I rank well for that keyword? Or should I consider the ramifications of mediocre meta descriptions and titles? While any SEO, including myself, would allege you can’t have a positive CTR if you’re not ranking well … with millions of options to choose from, users won’t be fooled anymore. The game has changed … stop being in denial and start improving.

So back to the original question: “optimization or CTR?” I’d venture to say it’s impossible to separate the two. If your site is well-optimized, you will inevitably compel users to click through. If you are compelling to users, it is likely your site is well-optimized for the search engines as well. That is, after all, Google’s intention. The keyword in the description doesn’t affect how well you rank at this point, but it does inevitably draw the user’s eye to your result, even if subconsciously. Searchers are naturally drawn to things that stand out. Take advantage of this. That’s not just optimization, that’s improving CTR at its best.

How else can you stand out? By being different. Here’s your chance to revert back to traditional advertising: proclaim your unique selling point (USP). Don’t just be different, let users know you’re different. Finally, keep in mind people don’t expect to have to think too much about it – they actually like being told what to do. A strong call to action (CTA) is beneficial for all parties involved. Take advantage of your opportunity to tell users to “buy now!” or “call today!”. Keyword(s), USP and CTA – all the makings of an exceptional CTR – and well-optimized landing page.

What’s more, when you have a decent CTR, Google knows it. The consequence? It really isn’t a consequence at all – quite the opposite actually. A high CTR tells Google users are intrigued by your results listing and are wanting more – which is ultimately what they are looking to provide with search results – and provide they will (in other words, don’t be fooled into thinking they aren’t using this CTR data as a strong ranking signal).

How (and Where) to Get CTR Data

One of my favorite features of the new Google Analytics is the functionality of syncing your Google Webmaster Tools account for impression and click through data.

While this information was already available in Google Webmaster Tools, now we can see it right in Google Analytics. Regretfully, neither tool provides you with the entire puzzle – while it’s essentially the same information, in some cases where Webmaster Tools data provides, Analytics lacks and vice versa. While Webmaster Tools gives you keyword compared to landing page data, Analytics does not. I’m hopeful it’s inevitable at one point or another. Then again, Analytics allows you to compare to the past while Webmaster Tools only lets you go back so far. Remember to look at both for any missing piece of the puzzle. And remember that when used together, the tools can serve as a great resource for understanding how well your pages’ titles and meta descriptions are performing in the SERPs for specific keywords over time.

So where exactly can you find this data I’m referring to? In Webmaster Tools, simply navigate to “Your site on the web” > “Search queries.” You can then choose a specific keyword and view associated data, including the CTR based on what position the keyword appears.

Webmaster Tools Search Queries

Likewise, you can navigate to the “Top pages” tab and see which keywords are associated with your top landing pages. You can also see the click through rate for each of the individual pages, which is more likely to give you better information on the meta description as a whole rather than for one specific keyword (this can likewise be found in Analytics).

Looking for it in Analytics? First make sure you’re in the new version. Then navigate to “Traffic Sources” > “Search Engine Optimization” > “Queries” (or “Landing Pages”). If you track by specific keywords or “queries” – you will need to know which page is ranking for the specific terms – or you could just use Webmaster Tools for this data (recommended). For recent, actionable data, you will most likely want to reference Webmaster Tools because, as previously mentioned, it amalgamates landing pages and keywords. Analytics is best used when you’re looking to compare a specific dataset to a previous time period (i.e. after you’ve made a change to your meta description).

Google Webmaster Tools & Analytics Synced

Taking Advantage of Date Comparisons in Google Analytics

So we have all of this data, now what can we learn from it? More importantly, what can we do with it? Just as you would tweak and test headings and ad text in AdWords, learn to test your meta descriptions just the same. Did you have an ad that performed exceptionally well? Why not try it out as a meta description? It’s important to not just assume it will work the same in either medium – don’t forget to monitor closely – but it’s certainly worth a shot.

Make sure you track all of your changes and keep records of what you have tried. I recommend keeping a spreadsheet of titles and meta descriptions with date ranges of when you ran them and how CTR improved or declined. Don’t consider a decline a failure, it shows you what doesn’t work – and is an impetus to more closely mirror the ones that do work. The most important thing to remember is not to be satisfied with what you have and to not be paralyzed by the data provided. When you think you’ve done enough testing, keep going. If you continue to test and improve your results, the outcome will be worth it, every single time.

In addition to keeping a spreadsheet – of which you should try to never forget to update I might add – you could make use of the “Create New Annotation” function in Google Analytics (an oldie, but goodie) to be reminded of when exactly you changed a meta description or two right in the Analytics interface. You will then have a reminder of when you made a particular change that you can easily reference when looking at the chart comparison.

In looking at the comparisons you want to consider the large variety of factors likely to inflict a change in click through. Beyond the obvious meta description tweak, did you enable rich snippets on the pages (also recommended to improve CTR)? Did you move in regards to ranking positions? There are many different factors to consider – be sure to keep note of them all.

While optimizing your CTR can seem like a daunting task, Google is going out of their way to make it easy on webmasters. With a number of tools, all kinds of data and a few of the tips I mentioned above, it’s easier than ever to achieve the high click through rate you’ve always wanted. Remember to pay attention to what signals Google thinks are important and always keep testing!

Comprehensive Multi-Channel Conversion Reporting in Google Analytics

Now that Google Analytics has blessed us with the Multi-Channel Funnel reports, you’ve got unprecedented access to your website visitors. But how do you segment this traffic effectively?

I’ve developed the following “Comprehensive” report to break it down. Don’t use this or exact revenue or traffic reporting, but rather for resource allocation. As in, “Should we put more money towards SEO or Facebook next year?”

Let’s have at it!

Getting Started

Go to the New Version of Google Analytics.

Under the Conversions tab at the left, click on Assisted Conversions.

The “Basic Channel Grouping” will appear, with all of the default Organic Search, Paid Advertising, Email, etc. channel groupings:

Go to the Channel Groupings blue link right below the graph. Click on “Copy Basic Channel Grouping template”.

This gives you Google’s default template. Now the fun begins!

Here’s the master list you’ll be going for:

You’ll need to edit most of the default groupings. But you can leave some the way they are.

*I’ve provided text copies of the form fields below each screenshot so you don’t have to type them in!

Creating Each Channel

1. (not provided)

This filters organic traffic where Google blocks the keyword. We want to remove this first because it can pollute the unbranded organic reports.

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. (not provided)
  2. google

2. Organic – Unbranded

This only displays traffic excluding your brand name. You’ll have to create a custom regular expression here that you will use in a couple other channels.

So take the lowest common denominator of your brand name and any popular products or people bringing in search traffic. We’ll use WebpageFX, Bill Craig (our President), and CrawlerFX, and any searches for “.com” for this example. Here’s that regular expression:


This regular expression matches anything containing webp OR craig OR crawler OR .com (with the . escaped), so theoretically anyone that has heard about us before.

Make a similar one based on your traffic, and have it ready.

For our Organic – Unbranded report, we want to EXCLUDE keywords matching this regular expression and INCLUDE the organic medium.

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. organic
  2. (your regex)

3. Organic – Branded

This is the same configuration as Organic – Unbranded, but we’re INCLUDING the branded traffic, rather than excluding it. Scott has pointed out that this step is unnecessary because any keywords not matching Organic – Unbranded would necessarily fall in this group. But I like symmetry 🙂

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. organic
  2. (your regex)

4. Paid – Display

We want to pull out our Google Display ads before we get into the rest of the paid traffic so it doesn’t mess with the unbranded reports. This example just pulls ads on Google’s Display Network, as that’s the one we use most often.

Fields to copy and paste:


5. Paid – Unbranded

Use the same nifty regular expression you wrote for the Organic Channels. Google’s Basic Channel Grouping – Paid Advertising regular expression is awesome and captures all of the “cost per -” acronyms you can think of! So we’ll use that while excluding branded traffic.

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. ^(cpc|ppc|cpm|cpv|cpa|cpp)$
  2. (your regex)

6. Paid – Branded

Exact same as above except INCLUDE the branded traffic. Again, I like symmetry!

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. ^(cpc|ppc|cpm|cpv|cpa|cpp)$
  2. (your regex)

7. Direct

You shouldn’t need to touch this one. Google’s default Direct grouping gets it right.

Fields to copy and paste (if needed):

  1. (direct)
  2. (not set)
  3. (none)

8. Email

This one captures any traffic marked as Email. If you’re not using custom Google Analytics tracking codes in your email marketing, start!

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. email|eblast|newsletter (or however your email marketing is tagged)

9. Referral

Once again, Google’s default grouping gets it right.

Fields to copy and paste (if needed):

  1. referral

10. Twitter

We want to take out Twitter and Facebook traffic from all of the other Social Networks. So go into the purple Social Networks default channel grouping and copy out the Facebook and Twitter definitions that Google has already provided, and paste them somewhere.

Then paste them back into their own channel grouping to separate that traffic:

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. ^(.*\.)?twitter\.com$

11. Facebook

Same with Facebook as with Twitter. Now if you’re running Facebook ads or specific promotions on Facebook, I would tag your URLs with custom Analytics code and create a separate channel for that. Because this will include ALL traffic from Facebook, paid or not.

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. ^(.*\.)?facebook\.com$

12. Other Social Networks

This grouping, minus the deleted Facebook and Twitter, will match Google’s default exactly. You shouldn’t have to do anything but rename this one if you did steps 10 and 11 right.

Fields to copy and paste:

WAY too many!

13. Feed

If you’re running shopping feeds and tracking them via a custom URL, this will display it for you. Have I mentioned to start tracking outside advertising with custom Google Analytics tracking codes?

Fields to copy and paste:

  1. feed

One more thing: Set other traffic as source/medium

This sets any traffic not matched by our above rules as a source/medium. You’ll be able to see which of your traffic channels are not covered, then create custom segments based on those!

Save Channel Grouping and Voila!

Now you can see which channels drove the most Assisted and Last Interaction conversions, so you can allocate accordingly for 2012:

*Note: you’ll be able to view conversion values. I removed them for the client I used as an example.

Happy testing!