Seeing search results as real estate is nothing new. Digital marketers are constantly trying to gain “share” of that real estate any way we can. These tactics are constantly changing and ultimately controlled by search engines. Table of contents links are not new either but one that provides several values regardless of how search engines include them in search results.
Additional organic search result real estate: Search engines can add these TOC links below your organic search results ultimately taking up more visual space and providing additional link options.
Insight into your site visitors: Using search console you will begin to see clicks and impressions for each TOC header link separate from the main URL. For a healthcare client, we saw almost 10% of the clicks for a page go directly to the TOC links in the search results. With 4% going to one link in particular. Besides being at the bottom of the search results and visually much smaller users choose one of the text links in the TOC options 1 out of 10 times. That gives a tremendous amount of insight into what content searchers are looking for. The text in those preferred TOC links could be expanded on or used to create new pages to explore the sub-topic further.
Repurpose organic click data: These extended TOC links are very similar to ad features like sitelink extensions or callouts. You can easily prioritize or further highlight the TOC link text with the highest click-through rate organic and add them to your search ads.
Increase user experience: This is a benefit not controlled by search engines. Giving an overview of long-form content allows users to review the structure and jump to the most relevant sections.
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