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Written by Finn Ruijter, 23 March 2021

Influencing Click-Through-Rate (CTR): the facts

For businesses and organizations, a good website is necessary: it is often part of the sales process. But to be successful online, you need to work on the online findability of the website. You can have as good a website as you want: if you don’t rank well in Google, new visitors will stay away. Therefore, boosting the click-through rate, the Click-Through-Rate (CTR), is essential for increasing website visits. If you want to increase the amount of organic traffic coming to your website, you need to understand the connection between Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and CTR.

What is SEO?

SEO is also called search engine optimization. It is optimizing websites for search engines such as Google. This makes the website more findable in Google’s organic search results. By organic search results, we mean the unpaid results Google shows for a given search query; that is, these are not ads.

Search engine optimization is a collection of techniques to improve a Web site. You can think about technical optimizations in the website’s code, but factors such as speed, keywords and quality of content also play a role. Google assigns a value to Web pages for all of these ranking factors. If you go about improving organic traffic, you should see long-term growth in website visits. That’s because Google will rank your website better after various optimizations.

What is CTR?

By Click-Through-Rate (CTR) or click-through rate, we mean the click-through rate of a web page. It is the ratio of the number of impressions in search results of a web page to the number of times it is actually clicked on. Ranking well in Google is one thing, but if no one then clicks on your website you unfortunately won’t get anywhere. Ultimately, the goal of SEO is to get the user to click through to your website. Therefore, it is important to learn about the CTR of organic search results. This data is closely tied to organic findability and number of website visits.

Go for quality

But how do you make sure users click on your website in search results? For Google, it is important to provide the best possible answer to every search query. To be at the top, you have to meet all kinds of conditions. Consider the aforementioned SEO optimizations, but also the quality of content. When you provide quality and relevant content, Google rates your website more highly. So make sure you respond to the questions the target audience has. If the website visitor can find the answer to a question on your website, you will rank better in Google.

In addition, website usability is important. Good user flow allows a website visitor to find the answer to their question faster. And the longer a visitor stays on your website and the more actions he performs, the more relevant the website apparently is. Yet another signal to Google that your website is valuable.

So the bottom line is that not only do your own efforts have an effect on ranking, but the visitor’s behavior also has an influence. So be aware of the critical scrutiny of the content you offer and what the visitor does with it. Does a visitor click further within the website or leave right away? All kinds of conversions can be measured; these are the actions that a website visitor performs. A low CTR can cause your web page to rank lower in search results.

A useful tool to examine the extent to which clicks are made from Google search results is Google Search Console‘s search analysis. This gives you insight into, for example, the searches used, the number of web page impressions, the position in search results and the total number of clicks.

Research on searches

A 2019 study by Backlinko and Clickflow, which analyzed as many as 5 million Google searches, shows that click-through rates are measurable. We list the 10 most important results of this study:

  • A position at the top of Google’s organic search results has an average click-through rate of 31.7 percent: very high, in other words. It means that a large proportion of users immediately click on the first search result they see.
  • Furthermore, this number-one position is 10 times more likely to get a click than a page in the tenth position. The probability of clicks becomes significantly lower when you rank lower in search results.
  • The click-through rate for positions 7 to 10 in the organic search results is almost the same. A difference can be seen mainly in the top six positions.
  • The click-through rate increases an average of 30.8 percent with each spot you crawl up in organic search results. This does depend on the position you are coming from. Going from position 3 to 2 in the rankings, you can expect such a high increase. If you go from position 10 to 9, there is no big difference in the click-through rate.
  • Web page titles that contain a question have a higher click-through rate (14.1 percent) than titles that do not contain a question. So you can respond to the questions your target audience has. An example of search results Google shows when searching “what is SEO?
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  • Titles on a Web page with the highest click-through rate (8.6 percent), are those with 15 to 40 characters.
  • A URL that contains a keyword receives 45% more clicks than a page with a URL that does not contain a searched word.
  • Using “power words” in a title has a negative effect on the click-through rate. Power words are specific words that make visitors perform a certain action or action and play on emotion. Title with power words have a lower click-through rate (13.9 percent) compared to titles without such power words.
  • When sentiment (both positive and negative) is used in titles, it has a positive effect on the click-through rate. CTR improves by about 7 percent.
  • Completing a metadescription increases the click-through rate by 5.8 percent.

Many of these research findings can be traced to search engine optimization work. If you are not yet at home in the world of keywords and SEO, start with the SEO Yoast manual.