Spiff Up Your Search-Engine Listing

By Andy Crestodina

Pay attention to how you look when you rank.

People who talk about search-engine optimization are always talking about what to put in your title and on your pages. Use the right phrases in the right places, repeat them the right number of times, and you’ll rank higher.

But SEO is about more than just ranking high. It is also about what your search-engine listing looks like.

Rank High, But Rank Right
When you do an online search, you get a list of results. You can probably see about five of these results without scrolling.

Which listing you click on not only depends on which one is at the top; it also depends on what the listing says. Some results look better than others. And evidence shows that the way a listing looks affects the number of clicks itll get.

You want to make your listing look good. In fact, it is often this listing (and not your home page) that makes the first impression. So put as much thought into designing your listing as you would into designing your website.

Build a Better Search Trap
Suppose you have a mousetrap store in Springfield called Tom’s Mousetraps, and you want to reach people who search for “mousetraps in Springfield”. When people enter this phrase into Google and your listing appears, it might look something like this:

Great, you rank! But how does your listing look? Hmm.

Notice how the blue link gets cut off before the word “Springfield” appears. This is because Google shows no more than nine words in this link. A shorter title would bring Springfield back into the picture. And it would be bold, since it was part of the phrase the potential visitor searched for.

Also, notice how the two lines of black text are choppy, with missing pieces and incomplete thoughts. This is because Google is trying to pull the relevant content from several places on the page. Revising the page content and the page description would solve this.

With a few changes, the listing could easily look more like this:

This listing is easier to read. And it is more obviously relevant, so it is more likely to get clicked. The differences are subtle but important.

Think of your search-engine listing as an advertisement. Just as you would want your ad to look nice, you want your listing to look nice.

But not only does this revised listing look better, but it is also more likely to rank well because the keywords (“Springfield” and “mousetraps”) are more frequent and dense. In this example, what’s good for the rank is good for the clicks.

But I Don’t Control What My Listing Looks Like!
Yes, you do. Your listing is a combination of several elements of your site: your title, your meta tags, your page content, and your address. These are all things that you can change.

The blue link in Google is the website’s <title> tag. As we said, Google currently shows the first nine words of the title.

The next two lines of black text are taken from either the <meta> description or the page itself. These should be easy elements to change. With a content-management system like Mighty-Site, changes like these may take 5 or 10 minutes and won’t require the help of a programmer.

Big Picture
Designing the way your websites listing appears in search engines is just one way to improve your end results. Make sure it gets attention, looks good, and communicates clearly.

And don’t forget that you also need a complete web-marketing strategy. Think about it:

  • It doesnt matter what your listing looks like if you don’t rank. So we still recommend the SEO basics: good on-site content and link popularity.
  • Ranking isnt helpful if you rank for irrelevant or unpopular phrases. So we still recommend thorough keyphrase research.
  • All the ranking and traffic won’t help if you don’t convert visitors into revenue. So we still recommend excellent usability and compelling media, including video, animation, and nice interactivity.

Keep a big picture in mind, but pay attention to the important details, starting with the first impression.

Contact Orbit if you’d like help enhancing the look of your search-engine listings and making this part of your overall web strategy.

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