The world of search is ever changing at present. Google has been churning out new developments every other week (or so it seems), but two of the most recent puts a big emphasis on a sites landing page. Google’s shift towards ranking of inner pages and the launch of Google instant preview means a sites landing page are not only important in converting a user, they may be critical in getting a click in the first place.
The Meta Description
The meta description has no bearing on a sites ranking, but with the launch of the top search queries report in Google Webmaster Tools, it was possible to change these and monitor improvements in CTR (click through rate). Of course, it was possible before top search queries by monitoring change in Google Analytics, but with the constant flux in Google SERPs, it’s near impossible to find any correlation between increased traffic and changes to the meta description.
With Google Instant preview, the meta description could be less important. Now a user can take a glance at your site before choosing to enter. This may improve organic CTR (Hurrah, something good for the SEO community) or it may lead to less traffic, but more qualified leads (less traffic, but also less bounce rate).
Your Top Landing Pages
Your top landing page has always been a critical report in terms of your analytics. But with Google now potentially showing more relevant pages for queries related to your site, there could be hidden gems contained within that report. It’s worth looking at this report, segment by entrance sources and keep an eye on your organic CTR for core keywords driving users to these pages. For example, I recently noted a client started ranking a inner page for a keyword (where previously the home page ranked). The page in question didn’t have a well formatted meta description and didn’t look to appealing. Although it ranked 1st, it had a 17% CTR. The solution – optimise the meta description and tweak the page. What tweaks ? Well, know how Google displays callouts.
Help With Home Page Bounce
The big issue with a sites home page is it receives the majority of a sites traffic. The home page will naturally acquire most links and rank for all kinds of keywords that are more suited to other pages. This leads to a home page that attempts to serve all users groups equally. It tries to introduce the company, provide contact details, advertise all products and smuggle in brand messages. The user is left confused and dazed, they bounce. Google is giving a helping hand by choosing the most relevant page and providing a preview of that page. Not good for horrible spammy paper thin sites (or flash sites :)), great for people who design for usability.
Some of the recent Google changes haven’t been that great (personal opinion), but I feel both of these can provide great opportunities for users who know how to take advantage of them.