An area of SEO that often sparks a question is the traffic you can expect if you do achieve the rankings you want for a specific keyword phrase. That is the number of people that see your website ranked in the search results, then click on it (clicks/impressions). There have been a number of studies over the years by individual brands, as well as monitoring groups of websites that have delivered varied results. Geoff Kenyon from Distilled in Seattle compiled a number of the leading Google SERP click through rate (CTR) tests and analysed those results to see what he could find. His analysis looked at the following results from a number of studies:

While these results do show some similarities, it’s also important to understand that they were conducted at different times. The AOL study was completed in 2006, Optify in 2012, Chitika in 2010, Slingshot in 2011 and Enquiro in 2007. What this means is that results are not comparable side by side, as the face of Google’s SERPs have changed considerably over the span of 7 years. So what can we take from the data? The below graph:

Why has CTR declined?

There have been a number of significant changes to the search results over the years as Google changes the interface for what could be considered a combination of user experience and Google revenue generation. Key changes to impact SERP CTR include:

  1. Google Adwords ads now use larger spacing than they did previously. So that means that your organic search results are now pushed further down the page.
  2. Google Product Ads are also sitting nicely between the standard Adwords ads and organic search results on product based searches. Another reason your organic search result is further down the page.
  3. The Google Search bar that allows you to refine your search by Images, Maps, Shopping and more has been moved from the side to sit directly under the search box. Another way that the organic result has been pushed down.
  4. Google Local/Places results that have been integrated further into local search results, such as “Brisbane Plumber”. The places listings could be considered an organic search ranking, however you may be a business that a Google Local listing is not relevant for. If you’re ranking number 1 behind the Google Local results, you could actually be the 11th site listed on the page.

That’s 4 of the key reasons, however they are not the only changes that have occurred to the interface over the years which have no doubt contributed to the decline in click through rate.

So how can you improve your CTR?

As an SEO or Digital Marketer we must use this information to understand that if the trend continues as it has, CTR is likely to further decline as a result of changes that Google makes to its interface. So we need to understand how we can improve our CTR in order to capture as much traffic as possible.

Factor 1: Page Title & Meta Description

The first thing you must understand is that your page title should be limited to 70 characters, in order to display completely in search results. Your meta description should be limited to 156 characters for the same reason. So you should start by ensuring they meet the character requirements. Secondly, you should write them with the correct keywords in mind, a call-to-action and make them compelling, just like any other ad. Here’s a poor example of Philips page where they have exceeded both character limits:

Factor 2: Branding

This is particularly useful for people working with a large brand. Brand names have proven to deliver stronger click through results in Google SERPS in the same way they would in the supermarket or a department store. If you’ve heard of the brand, you’re more likely to decide it’s better quality. So you should be engaging in activity to grow your brand presence, as well as utilising your brand name in the page title and meta description. Here’s a great example of Asics utilising their brand name in the page title:

Factor 3: Rich Snippets & Schema.org Markup

The schema.org markup was introduced some time ago as a means for website owners to help search engines understand their websites in more detail. To cut straight to its purpose in search results, Google is using this markup to provide rich search results, which in turn increase your CTR significantly. It applies to many different elements of your website – business addresses, breadcrumbs, page content, images, ratings, prices and more. Here’s a couple of examples of where Google is utilising this in search results:

Factor 4: Your Rankings!

Goes without saying, but ranking higher almost always correlates with a higher CTR. So work on improving your SEO!