We all wish that every blog post could be a smash hit.
For most people, though, the blog page is a mixed bag. There are outstanding posts which might routinely attract thousands of visitors each month. Others, despite your best efforts, just didn’t generate any traction at all.
And then there’s ‘the rest.’ The average performers. The ones that just tick along, providing a regular, modest source of traffic without ever threatening to become top-performers or award-winners.
It’s easy to ignore these posts. Instead, we decided to run an experiment to see if we could get more out of them.
We were inspired by an email newsletter we received from SEO expert Brian Dean. In the email, Brian talked about a few simple changes he’d made, helping dramatically increase traffic to his blog posts – and it was all about increasing click-through-rate (CTR).
The search engine results page (SERP) for any given keyword is a competitive place. We’ve all heard the statistics about most clicks going to positions 1, 2 and 3 – but there’s an argument to be made that modern consumers are happy to comb the entire first page for a title that best reflects what they’re looking for. It’s a little more sophisticated than just going with result #1.
If you’ve got the most clickable, action-inspiring, insightful article title on the SERP, odds are you’re going to attract more clicks. For example, I’d like to think that the Wyzowl result (#2) on the below SERP is probably the most enticing.
Anywho, click-through-rate doesn’t JUST bring more eyeballs to your posts. Organic click-through-rate is also a key ranking factor that can help propel you up the SERP, creating a virtuous cycle. As Brian notes: “Pages that get clicked more in CTR may get a SERP boost for that particular keyword.”
We decided to follow his instructions for 8 of our ‘mid-range’ posts to see what kind of impact it had.
STEP ONE: We firstly identified 8 posts that were bringing in steady traffic, but were far from being top performers. These posts were generally bringing in around 100 views each month – some more, some less.
STEP TWO: We looked at these post titles and decided to rename them. Our guidelines for retitling were:
- Increase the emotional appeal of the title. Make it more impactful.
- Shorten the title to an optimal length of 50-60 characters.
- Focus on reader value – what can they get out of the post?
- Make sure the title carries a really positive sentiment.
Brian also suggests changing ‘list posts’ to ensure they include an odd number – it’s an odd quirk of the nuanced human brain, but, apparently, we like odd-numbered list posts more than even ones. Strange, huh?
Anyway, in order to make sure this was a fair test that solely limited the impact of the title tag, we decided to avoid editing any other facet of the post, whether it be the content, the image, the meta tag or anything else. All that changed was the title tag and, automatically, the URL. Any even-numbered list posts, then, stayed on an even-number!
When identifying which posts we’d run the test on, we realised that some of the titles were really poor. Some were overly long. Others were a little ‘keyword heavy.’ Some were just plain dull. If we hadn’t run this experiment, we might never have thought about them again. This was a great opportunity to revisit and refine old work, and it took just a few minutes.
Anyway, we gave these title tag a spruce up and ended up with new titles as follows:
STEP THREE: We made a note of the traffic these posts had accrued for each of the past three months, and republished them excitedly on the 8th September, 2016.
STEP FOUR: We forgot about the whole thing for four weeks before revisiting it, and logged how things had changed!
The whole exercise took us just a few minutes to setup. If it didn’t have the desired result, no problem, we thought. We’d lost nothing, and at least we tried.
So, what happened?
Well, the first thing to note is that our overall site traffic for the two periods (before and after republishing) was about the same. In fact, for the period 8th September to 7th October, we actually had around 3% less visitors than in the corresponding period for the previous month. This is important because it makes for a fair test.
But an interesting thing happened for those 8 posts. Overall, their traffic increased by 18% – and organic traffic soared by 53%. There were particularly marked increases for a few posts:
- “5 Easy-Peasy Solutions to Animated Video Production Problems”: Overall traffic for this post rose by 58%, and organic traffic went up by 50%.
- “The 4 Steps To Creating A KILLER Knowledge Video Series”: Overall traffic for this post rose by 37.5%, with organic traffic rising by 150%.
- “5 Easy-Peasy Solutions to Animated Video Production Problems”: Overall trafficfor this post went up by 58%, with organic traffic up by 50%.
- “5 Brands Who Turned Bad PR Into A PR Win!”: Overall trafficfor this post went up by 47%, with organic traffic rising by 52.5%.
- “AWESOME! 7 Amazing Homepage Explainer Video Examples”: Overall traffic for this post was unchanged, but organic traffic shot up by 71%.
- “ANSWERED! How Much Does Animation Cost For Small Business?” Overall traffic for this post went up by 54.5% and organic traffic rose by a huge 71.7%.
Those were the big wins. There were some setbacks, too. We saw traffic actually decline slightly for three posts, although the decline was nowhere near as dramatic as the improvements we’d seen for the posts listed above – usually a couple of percent. In these cases, we plan to tweak the title tag further to see if we can experience similar success for these posts.
Overall, this was more than a worthwhile experiment. Not only did it significantly boost the overall and organic traffic across all the selected posts – it literally took about 5 minutes to setup the experiment. We really recommend you give this experiment a try with your own mid-performing articles and see what kind of impact it has. You may be surprised by the results!