Posted by Stuart Walters on July 15, 2020
The Google search landscape is changing fast. The number of mobile searches is increasing, the variety in the search results is increasing due to new features from Google and the attention span and associated willingness to scroll is decreasing. These and other influencing factors ensure that previous knowledge about Google CTRs is outdated.
Thanks to research by Sistrix.com taken from their incredible article and research: Why (almost) everything you knew about Google CTR is no longer valid. Where they analysed over 80 million keywords and billions of search results we bring you some invaluable mobile click-through data.
Let’s begin, search engine optimisation (SEO) is the science of directing as many relevant visitors to your own website as possible. The click-through-rate (CTR) has a massive impact on the result of your hard work. It is common knowledge that hardly any users even visit the second results page.
In contrast to previous studies of the CTR, only mobile data was measured, i.e. the behaviour of the user on their mobile phone. The results for the first Google results page are:
It is clear to see how different the click behaviour of Google users are – by far the most clicks land on the first organic result (28.5%).
Ranking first achieves a click-through-rate that is more than ten times higher than a ranking at position ten. The biggest, absolute leap in CTR is made with a ranking improvement from second to first; this improvement leads to a CTR that is 12.8 percentage points higher!
Click rates are determined by the SERP layout
The real click-through rates can look very different for each keyword and in every industry. Therefore, an additional big step in this analysis and evaluated the CTR for different SERP layouts.
By SERP layout we mean the specific composition of a Google results page (SERP). This consists largely of the classic, organic results, but is increasingly enriched with other features.
In this study, the focus was put on the most popular SERP layouts. For those, the first SERP result presented was taken and removed keywords whose results pages consist of a combination of different feature boxes. This way we get comparable and clean data.
Most Keyword searches show purely organic results
Most of the keywords that were measured consist of purely organic results: 10 blue links and no other distracting elements.
The more you work into the long-tail, the greater the proportion of purely organic SERPs. On the other hand, high-traffic keywords from the so-called short-head often consist of different features and boxes. The CTRs for purely organic SERPs look like this:
It is clear to see that the click-through-rate for all organic search results is above average for purely organic search results. In the first position there are even around 6 percentage points more clicks: 34.2% of the searchers click on the first results if the SERP layout consists exclusively of organic results.
SERPs with Sitelinks: 46.9% CTR on position #1
Next we have the evaluation of search results with Sitelinks. With the Sitelinks extension, Google offers further navigation links that lead to subpages. This integration takes up a lot of space and attention.
Sitelinks are shown by Google if there is a clear website intent, i.e. the user is looking for a specific website, but does not know the URL or does not know how to use a web browser. This can also be seen very clearly in the click rates:
In the first position (the one with the sitelinks) we see a clear above-average click-through-rate of 46.9% – almost every second click on this SERP. In comparison, the CTRs in the other positions are significantly lower: in position three, for example, the click rate is less than half the average (5.6% to 11.0%).
Here the effects of the website intent become clear: the user is looking for a special website and is only ready to click on it as a result.
Featured snippets cost 5.3 percentage points CTR
Google refers to organic results which are highlighted in the SERPs as ‘featured snippets’. Both the text snippet is larger than with conventional organic positions, and additional elements such as images or tables are often included:
Featured snippets can be found in the search results if Google assumes the searcher wants to know something and Google believes that it can deliver the answer directly in the search results. This can also be seen in the CTRs:
The first ranking (with the featured snippet) has a click rate that is 5.3% percentage points below the average value for this position. The website from which the information in the featured snippet is created does not benefit from the featured snippet.
This is clearly because the question is answered (usually) straight in Google, so the user no longer has to click into the site for the answer.
Interestingly, the websites at positions two and three benefits significantly: the second place winner gets almost five additional percentage points compared to the average (15.7% to 20.5%) and the third-place site will also get an increase in CTR from 11% to 13.3%.
Again, clearly, in the opposite case to the first position, there is no immediate answer, so the second position is effectively the first result, and people still want to click and find the answer for themselves rather than relying on Google.
Knowledge Panels: only 16% instead of 28% CTR
Google gathers a variety of different content in Knowledge Panels, mostly from the Knowledge Graph (Google’s understanding of things, places, people and more).
While the Knowledge Panel can be found on the desktop on the right of the actual SERPs and thus leads to the pinball pattern measured by Nielsen, it is in the mobile search directly below the search field in the first position. This is shown in the click rates:
The CTR in the first two organic positions drops significantly compared to the average. Many users appear to find the information they are looking for in the Knowledge Panel – especially on their smartphones, where each time a page is loaded it takes a lot of time.
In the remaining organic positions we see a similar click behaviour as with other SERPs layouts, which also have a strong element at the beginning where more searchers click on these results than on average.
Record for the lowest CTR – keywords with Google Shopping: 13% CTR
Google shopping, as part of Google Ads so, effectively not really organic SEO but interesting to see the impact on CTR.
The effects on keywords for which Google’s price comparison is shown are clearly visible. The feature on mobile phones, in particular, is much more present and space-consuming than normal ads.
Not surprisingly, people know these are ads, and has a very direct impact on the organic click rate for search queries when it’s shown.
Search volume, as the sole metric for evaluating potential clicks, has had its day. As can be clearly seen in the analyses, the SERP layout of the keyword must also be included in the evaluation – only the combination of search volume and SERP layout results in a realistic number of potential visitors.
Google knows how to direct the flow of visitors. The unmistakable direction: either to a paid click out of the platform (Ads & Shopping) or by keeping the user on the platform and meeting the need for information directly through Google (Featured Snippets, Knowledge Panels, Google Apps).
The relevance of the search intention continues to increase: The users search intention determines the SERP layout, and the SERP layout determines how many potential clicks an organic result can get for that keyword.