There exists a great deal of confusion among e-commerce business owners and marketers about how important meta titles and meta descriptions are in driving organic traffic to a given page. Let’s explore the importance of metadata and how it affects a page’s search ranking and click-through-rate (CTR).
Metadata and Search Ranking
One of the most common misconceptions is that meta titles and meta descriptions will affect how a page ranks for a particular keyword. Many believe that using a keyword in a page’s metadata will help it rank higher for that keyword. Google has long-stated that this is not the case. While a user’s search term will be shown in bold in the meta description, the fact that this term is used in the meta description will have no effect on ranking. Does that mean that meta titles and meta descriptions are obsolete and not worth customizing? Far from it!
Organic Search Ranking vs. Click-Through-Rate (CTR)
There are two concepts involved in a user’s journey from searching for a particular keyword to ultimately clicking on a web page shown in the search results. The first, and more well-known, concept is search ranking. As discussed previously, metadata has no impact on search ranking. However, even if a web page ranks highly for a particular keyword, that doesn’t guarantee a click. That’s where the second concept, CTR, comes in. Organic CTR can be defined as the number of organic clicks a page receives divided by the number of organic impressions it receives, which refers to the number of times that this page shows up in users’ search results. Having a clear, accurate, and compelling meta title and meta description can help increase organic CTR, and ultimately the number of clicks a page receives.
Suppose a web page ranks, on average, in the fourth position for a given keyword. Optimizing that page’s metadata will not cause its ranking to increase, but doing so will increase the likelihood that a user will click on the page when it shows up in their search results. Most users start with the first result and work down the page, quickly scanning meta titles and meta descriptions for what they are looking for. The clearer and more compelling a page’s metadata, the more likely a user will click on that page even if it does not rank in the top one or two positions. This doesn’t mean that a page which ranks in the 20th position for a particular keyword is likely to receive more traffic than a page in the first position if its metadata is better. However, for pages whose rankings are close, well-crafted metadata can mean the difference between one page receiving a click and the other not receiving one.
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