Click-Through-Rates (CTR) by Organic Position in SERPs
Everybody wants more visitors to their websites. Organic search, which sends 53% of all traffic to websites, is a crucial source of visitors. But what is organic search? How can you track it, and what affects the amount of traffic it sends to your site? Interestingly, click-through rates (CTR) play a role in answering those last two questions. Read on to learn more about CTR and its relationship to your site’s rank in organic search.
What Is Organic Search?
Let’s start with the basics. When you type a search into a search engine like Google, you end up on a search engine results page (SERP) that includes both paid ads and organic search results. Traditionally denoted by blue links, the organic results are those pages that appear on the SERP based on a large number of on-page and off-page factors controlled by Google’s search algorithm. The general rule of thumb is that there are 10 organic search results on each SERP. But the average number of organic results on the first Google SERP for most searches actually ranges between 8.5 and 8.7 listings, depending on whether you’re searching on a desktop or mobile device.
While it accounts for the lion’s share of traffic to any site, organic search is one of five distinct sources of website traffic. The others are:
- Paid search — traffic that arrives from the ads listed on SERPs
- Direct — visitors who type a web address into the search bar or come from unknown sources
- Email — visitors who click from a link in an email
- Social — traffic that comes from websites like Facebook and LinkedIn
Now that we understand organic traffic, let’s talk CTR.
What Is CTR?
CTR is a measurement of how many people visit a website. It’s the ratio of the number of times a listing appears on a SERP (also called impressions) compared to the number of people who click on the link.
For instance, if 100 people see a SERP listing and 10 people click through to that website, the CTR would be 10%.
The higher the CTR for any given SERP position, the more people visit the website by clicking on that link. A well-rounded SEO program may help improve CTR for organic results, while a carefully planned PPC campaign may boost CTR for paid listings.
Why Is Organic CTR Important?
Organic CTR is a helpful metric in assessing how well a page performs on the SERPs. Improving your CTR is a great way to eke more traffic out of a page’s performance. Every incremental increase in CTR means an increase in the amount of traffic to your website.
Things get much murkier regarding other potential benefits of a strong organic CTR. There’s great debate in the SEO community about whether CTR impacts a site’s search engine rankings. A lot of the discussion focuses on whether CTR is a direct or indirect factor in Google’s search algorithm. Google is notoriously tight-lipped about how its algorithm works, but some studies have shown a correlation between CTR and a page’s ranking on the SERPs.
Google officials over the years have made wide-ranging statements concerning whether or not CTR is a ranking factor. Google said a few years ago that it uses interactions like CTR “for personalization, evaluation purposes and training data.” But it stopped short of saying that CTR was included in its algorithm.
On the other hand, a Google representative once testified before the Federal Trade Commission that the “ranking itself is affected by the click data. If we discover that, for a particular query, hypothetically, 80 percent of people click on Result No. 2 and only 10 percent click on Result No. 1, after a while we figure probably Result 2 is the one people want. So we’ll switch it.”
Many SEO experts believe that such statements combined with the various studies indicate that CTR may play a role in rankings, whether directly or indirectly.
Regardless of its effect on rankings, CTR is worthy of attention since it affects the number of visitors a website receives.
What Is the CTR for Organic Positions?
Click-through rates vary drastically based on the SERP ranking, with the higher positions garnering the largest CTRs. One study reported these average CTRs for positions one through 10 on Google:
- Position 1 — 20.5%
- Position 2 — 13.32%
- Position 3 — 13.14%
- Position 4 — 8.98%
- Position 5 — 9.21%
- Position 6 — 6.73%
- Position 7 — 7.61%
- Position 8 — 6.92%
- Position 9 — 5.52%
- Position 10 — 7.95%
Another study found that the average CTR for position one was 32% for desktop searches and 26.9% for mobile searches.
Those CTR numbers aren’t just for bragging rights. They have a material effect on revenue. Let’s take a hypothetical case, using the following figures:
- Conversion rate — 2.35%
- Value of each conversion — $200
- Number of impressions — 10,000
Given those numbers and a 20.5% CTR, position one on Google would provide 2,050 visitors with around 48 people converting, which equals $9,600 in revenue. Compare that to position nine, which has the lowest CTR at 5.52%. That would mean 552 site visitors and 13 conversions, generating $2,600 in revenue. The benefit of ranking No. 1 is clear.
And that’s just considering one page ranking in the first position on Google. Compound that by multiple pages appearing at the No. 1 position, and the argument for good search engine rankings is even more compelling.
Organic CTR vs. Paid CTR
Organic CTR figures are all well and good, but how do they compare to the CTR for paid search ads? Benchmarking reports indicate that the average CTR for search ads is around 1.91% across all industries, a far cry from even the lowest CTR for an organic listing on the first page of Google.
Let’s take a further look at the revenue generated by search ads. Given an average cost per click of $2.32 across all industries, 100 clicks on the average ad would cost $232. With an average conversion rate of 2.7%, those clicks would generate around three conversions. If a conversion earns $100, that would produce revenue of $300 for a net of $68.
While a well-run ad campaign can play a helpful role in overall marketing efforts, there’s no way to overstate the comparatively high value that good search engine rankings provide.
What Affects Organic CTR?
A variety of factors can affect organic CTR. Two of the most influential elements are the title and meta description tags, which serve as the headline and description for a listing in search engine results.
Studies have found that well-written title and description tags can boost a page’s CTR. Keyword-rich URLs also were found to have a positive effect on CTR. It’s worth paying careful attention to all of these factors to generate the best CTR possible.
How Do You Track CTR?
Google Search Console, Google’s handy, free service that contains a whole host of information about your site’s search performance, provides CTR figures for each page of your site. It’s a great place to find the information you need to see how your pages perform.
Another critical metric available through Search Console is the number of impressions each page receives. By looking for pages with a high number of impressions but relatively low CTRs, you can quickly identify pages that could use some help.
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