One drum I seem to spend a lot of time banging is the need to optimise title tags for searcher-to-visitor conversion, not just rankings: a great slot in the SERPs can under perform hugely if the snippet isn’t well aligned to searcher intent.
I’ve been having a disagreement with a friend about this for a few weeks: he feels SEO overrides most other considerations and a top result will net plenty of clicks no matter what. I’m of the opinion that even tiny changes can make a big difference to the ratio of searchers which turn into visitors, and I’d rather have a #5 result with a strong call to action than a #1 result that was blatantly keyword stuffed or otherwise unappealing to the searcher.
To prove my point I took a site that is #1 for a particular term, receiving 100-150 search visitors a day. Lets say the search term was “britney spears naked”, and that I changed the title tag from that exact phrase to “Buy Honda Fireblade parts online”. Here’s what happened:
The first thing we learn is that I’m not a big fan of “widgets” as an example term The second is that people looking for Britney’s bits don’t care about (or click on) results about bike parts. Visitors coming in on that search term dropped from ~150 p/d to less than a dozen, and the 10 or so visitors a day were actually coming in from Yahoo & Live, whose indexes haven’t caught up with the title change yet. Not a single visitor clicked through from the changed title snippet in SERPs where the new snippet was shown.
In one sense it’s a bit of a no brainer, especially in an extreme example like this where the result is so blatantly not what the user asked for. On the other hand it does illustrate the point that there’s more to title tag optimisation than rankings quite effectivly, so hopefully of some use to anyone else who has to make the same argument.