Common Search Marketing Myths – Part 7: Can Click Through Rates, Domain Age and XML Sitemaps Impact Your Rankings?
Welcome to the latest instalment in our blog series, Common Search Marketing Myths. This time around, we’re helping debunk a number of SEO myths surrounding CTR, older domains and XML sitemaps. If you’re new to this series, do take a look at our last post, ‘Common Search Marketing Myths – Part 6: How PPC Affects Organic Search, the Death of Bing and More’. Alternatively, read on to find out how you can make the most of your SEO and stay ahead of the competition, without falling prey to popular search marketing misconceptions.
Search Marketing Myths Part 7 - CTR, Domain Age and XML Sitemaps
CTR Doesn’t Have an Impact on Ranking
There have been many conflicting statements published online in recent years regarding the impact of click through rate on search results. Google themselves have stated in the past that CTR would be too easily manipulated for it to be used for ranking purposes. However, SEO experts such as Rand Fishkin have carried out research that suggests otherwise. A couple of years ago, he carried out an experiment which involved his followers on Twitter carrying out a specific Google search before clicking on the website that ranked fourth within organic results. As a result, the page which his followers clicked on soon began ranking first within search results, ahead of links which were clicked on much less often by individuals who were not part of this test. These findings would directly contradict the statement previously made by Google. So, who’s telling the truth?
Google actually has its own patent (one of many) which states that “searching users are often the best judges of relevance, so that if they select a particular search result, it is likely to be relevant, or at least more relevant than the presented alternatives”. Although statements like this aren’t set in stone, this does support the findings of Rand Fishkin’s experiment. It’s worth also pointing out that the web page in question that was subject of his experiment did actually return to its original position after some time – and multiple attempts to use bots to manipulate search results by generating a high CTR have failed.
So, whilst there are still a number of conflicting arguments, each with their own support, it’s safe to say that a high CTR may well have an impact on search – but the CTR must be organic and based on visits from actual people with a natural search history. The best bet? To ensure your pages contain optimised meta titles and descriptions in order to get the best CTR possible. You can also take a look at pages with low CTR as well as pages with a high CTR but low bounce rate in order to make necessary improvements with the use of Google Search Console and Analytics. If you’d like more advice on how to best improve your CTR, get in touch with the experts at Varn.
Older Domains are Better
If you were to take a website and duplicate the content of that site before placing it on two separate domains, one a brand-new domain and one which was at least 10 years old with a good history in Google, you can almost guarantee the latter would perform better within organic search (duplicate content issues aside, for the case of this argument). However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always better to use an older domain for your website.
As always, the content of your website is more important than your domain. New, small websites on new domains can easily outrank older domains when they contain better content, and they have high quality, relevant backlinks. So, it’s not all about domain age. Whilst that’s not a great surprise, it’s also important to know that if your website content is the same quality as another website and placed on an older domain, you’re still not guaranteed to outrank with other site purely because of your domain age.
Older domains could have been subjected to spamming or could have been permanently banned from Google index. A lot of older domains were also abused for SEO purposes for several years, so using such a domain could potentially cause a lot of issues for your site within organic results. Best practice would be to carry out your research and make sure you look into the historical backlink data of your site. If there’s any question as to what the domain was used for and whether it has a positive history within Google, then it would arguably be best to start fresh with a brand-new domain. If you’re still unsure as what’s best when it comes to your domain, do give Varn a call today. We’d be happy to help advise on the best way to proceed.
Having an XML Sitemap Will Improve Your Rankings
The final myth we’re taking a look at in today’s instalment is the claim that an XML sitemap will automatically improve your search rankings. As part of a fully optimised SEO strategy, we do always recommend that clients have a well-structured XML sitemap in place within their website – and that it is submitted to Google Search Console. However, the presence of this sitemap (and subsequent submission to Google) doesn’t necessarily mean your organic rankings will be higher than if no such sitemap existed. So, why bother?
The main purpose of an XML sitemap is to help search engines like Google better understand your website and its copy. It gives crawlers an indication of the content and URL structures of your website, which can help guide bots when they come to crawl your site. So whilst its existence may not have a direct impact on search results and rankings, it can help search engines digest your website with the help of your guidance. This can help Google and other search engines pick up on pages that they may have otherwise not picked up on, and can help you submit pages to Search Console which weren’t previously being crawled / which Google wasn’t previously aware of for one reason or another.
Of course, best practice would have us recommend that any pages not already being discovered by Google are missing for a reason – and that reason should be uncovered and resolved correctly, aside from the implementation of an XML sitemap. But there’s absolutely no harm in submitting a sitemap whilst this research is being undertaken. Your website could simply be too large for Google to uncover all of your pages without the assistance of an XML sitemap. Either way, it’s not going to have a negative impact on your site and can only help (if built correctly!). If you need help with your XML sitemap, we’d love to hear from you.
That’s it for another instalment in our Search Marketing Myths blog series! If you haven’t already, do make sure you check in on our previous blogs within this series. Previous Instalment: Common Search Marketing Myths – Part 6: How PPC Affects Organic Search, the Death of Bing and More.
Until next time!