Page one or perish – how strong content can improve your SEO game

Ed Bussey

CSO, Content

A key component of any successful SEO campaign is great content. But as SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) become ever more complex and zero-click rates continue to rise, an uncomplicated approach targeting basic organic results is no longer enough to gain or retain online market share.

As competition for search engine real estate increases, SEO strategies must focus on an integrated approach – crafting the right content for each part of the SERP. From organic results to featured snippets and sponsored listings, identifying the most effective tools to attract traffic for a range of search scenarios can maximise page rankings and CTRs (Click Through Rates). But how can this be achieved for each element of Google’s search results page?

Organic results

Paid marketing may drive transient click-throughs, but it is organic SEO that can generate the vast majority of consistent traffic. Optimising your site for organic results is all about creating content that informs – not simply stuffing your pages with keywords and hoping for the best. While it’s important to ensure that Google can index your pages and that your pages are technically optimised for search, remember that Google’s algorithm rewards authoritative and relevant content and the top 5 organic results account for 67% of all traffic.

Guide content can be particularly effective when it comes to generating results for shoppers at the beginning of their purchase journey, whereas category descriptions are particularly effective at targeting users who are weighing up their purchase options. For example, Google search queries for ‘ultimate lamp shade’ and ‘luxury lamp shade’ both return prominent organic results for the homeware brand OKA. In the case of the search for ‘ultimate lamp shade’, there were no paid ad results, so Oka’s guide content, ‘How to choose a lampshade: the ultimate guide’, appeared third in the overall list, trumped only by two Pinterest results. In the case of the ‘luxury lamp shade’ query, the top organic result links to Oka’s ‘Luxury Lampshades’ category page which showcases their range, due to their authoritative and useful category description content.

Even among the list of ‘normal’ organic results, there’s more to standing out than simply appearing at the top of the list. For example, a search for: ‘best winter trail running shoes’, returns paid ad results, a featured snippet (more on this later), and 9 ‘ordinary’ results on page one. The third of these stands out by virtue of being a ‘rich snippet’ result, including additional information in the form of a review score, which makes it more conspicuous.

Rich snippets will usually contain more information – or more types of information – than a ‘normal snippet’, derived from having structured data on your site.

They offer a fantastic opportunity for retailers to make their product pages stand out by optimising them with the right content and technical details for search.

The impact of optimising your website with engaging and informative product and category descriptions, useful buying guides, and other consumer-centric evergreen content, complete with the correct metadata and semantic vocabulary for search, cannot be underestimated. Our client Puma achieved an uplift in SEO traffic of 30% for its menswear category pages, after we optimised their category descriptions.

Despite such clear benefits, over 82% of online retailers still don’t have fully optimised category descriptions for SEO – missing a big window of opportunity to maximise organic traffic.

Featured snippets 

Frequently commanding an attention-grabbing position just above Google’s organic results and below the Paid Ads block, an estimated 24% of Google search results now include some form of featured snippet. By highlighting content from one of the top-ranking web pages for any given search query, featured snippets have the potential to generate a notable increase in traffic for those sites that are canny enough to target them, maximising online visibility and boosting overall click through rates.

Securing a featured snippet basically means that your content has been highlighted by Google as the best solution to a problem, or the right answer to a question. There are also lucrative opportunities for SERP double-dipping (in which a retailer secures a featured snippet as well as a page 1 SERP listing for the same query).

Featured snippets can take different forms. Firstly, there are paragraph snippets, which provide searchers with a direct answer to a query, such as ‘best colour for dark hallways.’ Such paragraph snippets may be displayed alongside an image or row of images taken from another source. In the following example, the paragraph content has been sourced from a guide, ‘How To Brighten Up Dark Hallways and Stairs’, taken from the Dulux decorating tips blog, whilst the pictures shown reflect the top results for a corresponding Google image search.

Alternatively, featured snippets may appear as a table, a numbered list, or a bulleted list (in which Google formats the results into bullets to show a compressed view of the content).

For example, the query ‘what is the best non-comedogenic foundation’ returns a list of bulleted snippets from AdoreBeauty, a skincare and cosmetics retailer, linking to a guide titled ‘The 10 Best Non-Comedogenic Foundations in 2020’ on the retailer’s ‘Beauty IQ’ blog.

Appearing in featured snippets not only drives traffic and boosts conversions, it also cements a retailer’s reputation as an authoritative resource.

Google FAQs

Last year, Google announced additional support for FAQ and How-to structured data. This is still relatively neglected SEO territory, meaning that competition is weak. It is also easy to implement because it only takes a few minutes to upload an FAQ, assuming compatible content is available. FAQs are also ideally suited to voice search, which is among the fastest-growing search trends.

Searchers can use How-to search results in Google to see step-by-step information on how to accomplish specific queries directly in the search results.

You can avoid the risk of lost click-throughs (which can happen when users get the answers they need straight from the search results page and so feel no need to look further) by only providing part of the information on the source page, ideally linking to deep pages on your site. The trick is to provide enough information to establish your authority and pique interest without giving all the answers away on the SERP.

Best practice here is to use search data to define the FAQs users are asking about a specific topic or product and produce your own FAQ lists – typically each having at least 5 questions.

Google’s ‘People also ask’

Generally appearing on Google’s results page as ‘People also ask’ or ‘People also search for’, FAQs in search results can command significantly more Search Engine Results Page (SERP) real estate than other results, minimising the visibility of your competitors and enabling you to increase CTRs.

One of the interesting things about the ‘People also ask’ feature is its dynamism. Take the example search query ‘what to wear to a summer wedding’, which returns four initial FAQs (below the featured snippet paragraph). When a user clicks on one of these options, additional questions appear in the list, depending on which of the original queries the user has selected, and this process then continues almost indefinitely, rather like a ‘Choose your own adventure’ novel. This is because Google’s analysis of user research patterns pre-empts what may interest them further, depending on their next step.

Sponsored shopping results and ads

Even if your SEO basics are strong it may be worth complementing your organic base with paid search so that your brand can ‘own’ more of the overall search results and increase your authority. A joined-up approach to your organic and paid search has several benefits, and performance data from Google Ads and Google search console can be mined to surface new targeting opportunities. Furthermore, if you’re already optimising the Ecommerce Content on your website, Google will assign you a higher quality score that can lower your CPC (Cost Per Click) by as much as 12%, increasing the return on your paid search investment, or reducing your PPC spend considerably.

Is your SEO underperforming?

When it comes to best practice SEO, there’s simply no cutting corners on content. When formatted correctly, high-quality and authoritative content on your site offers ample opportunity to secure a strong and consistent stream of search engine traffic.

Even the most established SEO strategies will fail to deliver results if a site’s content isn’t meeting consumers’ needs. To gain a better understanding of whether your website is hitting the mark, request a bespoke (and complimentary) Ecommerce Content Score audit to see how your content measures up against best practices.

Actionable SEO training from our experts

Learn more