It's Useless to Be Found If You're Not Clicked: A Complete Guide to CTR (Click Through Rate) in SEO and Google Ads

CTR (Click Through Rate): A Definition

CTR stands for Click Through Rate and measures the ratio of impressions to clicks from a query on a result. To be clearer, if in a month 100 people search on the keyword "hotel in Rome" (or to put it technically there are 100 query of the keyword "hotel in Rome") and of these 100, 30 click on the first organic result (ideally assuming that there are no Ads and blended search results, i.e. maps, images...), then the CTR is 30%.

CTR: Why is this so important?

A quote from Matt Cutts best expresses the fundamental importance of CTR:

"Many people think about rankings and then stop right there. And that's not the right way to think about things. You want to think about rankings and then you want to think about maximizing your Click Through.It doesn't really matter how often you show up. It matters how often you get clicked-on, and then how often you take those clicked-on visits and convert those to whatever you really want; sales, purchases, subscriptions, whatever it is you're trying to optimize for."

Matt Cutts: Head of Google's Webspam Team


Many people think about positioning and stop there. But this is not the best way to understand it. You need to think about placements and then you need to think about maximizing your CTR. It doesn't matter how often you appear, it's how often you get clicked and how often you turn those clicks into visits and convert them to what you really want: sales, purchases, signups, whatever you're trying to optimize for.

Bottom line: it's useless to be found if you don't get clicked and if you don't get clicked you have no conversions.

It doesn't matter how often you appear:

  • you get clicked
  • and how often do you make those clicks visits and convert them to what you really want

The first point is about CTR, the second is about persuasion and the UX of the site as a function of conversion. In this post, we'll address the first point, the CTR.

The importance of CTR in SEO and Google Ads

So why is CTR in marketing so important? Let's see some reasons in the SEO and in Google Adwords.

CTR & Google Ads

More or less with the same position, a user, for the same search, will click on your site or that of your competitor depending on which of the two inspires him more to click.

And if you consider the CTR Ads in a campaign, you will understand that a low CTR means many impressions with few clicks, resulting in direct and indirect economic damage:

  • Direct, because if no one clicks on the ad, no one will have a chance once they access the site to convert;
  • Indirect, because ok I don't pay for the click, but a low Ads CTR means higher costs and fewer impressions.

Conversely, a high CTR allows you to optimize your campaign costs and bring more traffic to your site at a lower cost.


The discussion regarding the importance of CTR for SEO is similar to that for Google Ads, although it is influenced by a greater number of factors. Let's see them together.

#1 Where your result appears

The first key factor for your result to get clicked? Being visible. But being visible means first of all being on top.

Be careful, because being among the top results on the first page may not be enough: past and present CTR statistics from the Catalyst CTR study point out that the presence of Google Ads and blended search results can decrease SEO CTR considerably.

It's obvious: if you are in the first position on the first page but above you have 3 Google Adwords results and 4 maps, your actual position is the Otto.

#2 What your result looks like

What is the meta description for? CTR. How your result looks is an important factor. Take care of the title tag, the meta description and maybe enrich your result with rich snippets and structured data like reviews, pictures.

Let's take a closer look at how below.

How to increase CTR of 30% with Structured Data & Rich Snippets, Structured Data and Rich Snippets

Google, Bing and Yahoo have collaborated to create is a project aimed at creating a schema, supported by them, that allows search engines to understand certain information on web pages and provide more complete results in the SERPs. Thanks to you can provide search engines with information about your website in the form of structured data (also referred to as microdata, microformats)which are used to develop Rich Snippetsor additional information directly visible on the search results page.

But what are Rich Snippets and how can they help increase CTR on Google? Let's see it together.

From Snippets to Rich Snippets

When we view a set of results on a Google search page (SERP), they consist of:

  • the title tag, in blue;
  • the url, in green;
  • the meta description.

Just the content of the meta description is a snippet, a fragment of text that acts as a description of the page.

If in most cases we display in the SERPs "simple" snippets, sometimes we may have happened to display "enriched snippets", that is, with more information.

At the moment Google supports various types of Rich Snippets, let's see some and the possible application in terms of web marketing.

5 types of Rich Snippets (+ 5 practical applications)


The first type of rich snippet is that relative to the productsThanks to this, I can display information about a specific product, for example of a ecommerce, like:

  • information on a particular product offer;
  • the price range in which the product itself is placed;
  • its price.
rich product snippet
Practical application

If you have a ecommerceYou can use rich snippets related to products to give more information about your product in SERPs, encouraging user clicks by displaying the price and any offers.


Another effective and well-known application of rich snippets are the reviewswhich enrich the snippet with stars of approval and the indication of a score from 1 to 5:

rich snippets reviews

Practical application

You can use rich snippets related to reviews to make your result more visible in the SERPs, also taking advantage of the persuasive rule called "social proof“.

Alongside the rich snippets of products and reviews there are others that enrich the pages of recipes,  events e software /app.

How to increase the CTR on Google by 30%? With Rich Snippets

We have seen how these Rich Snippets allow the search engine to display more information about the website in SERPs.

As we anticipated, the CTR, or the ratio between how many people view your result on a Google page and how many people click on it, is essentially influenced by 2 factors:

  • where your site appears, i.e. the location;
  • what your site looks like.

Rich snippets can give you a competitive advantage on the second aspect, enriching the appearance of your site in the SERPs and thus increasing the chances that people will click on your result because they are attracted by an offer or a review.

The simple addition of rich snippets can in fact result in a CTR increase to 30%as documented by the cases reported by Search Engine Land.

How to implement Structured Data (and get Rich Snippets)

At this point, it remains to understand how to add the structured data that allows the display of "enriched snippets". The easiest ways are 2: through the Google Markup Assistant or with a plugin from WordPress (or extension, for those who use Joomla or other CMS).

In the first case simply follow the procedure on the page of Google Markup Assistance for each page you want to add a specific rich snippet to. In the second one you can have a look at the plugin repository of WordPress.

CTR stats yesterday...

Let's start from the early days of Google: a SERP made of a minimalist design, with 10 results. It was clear that the user experience would develop in the shape of an F, meaning that the most clicked results were always those in the top left corner.

However, over the years, some factors changed the CTR distribution from the "F" shape of the beginning, including:

  • the introduction of blended searchor images, videos, news;
  • la presence of the first 4 results of Google Ads (the premium position);
  • the evolution of the user's use of the search engine, which may have a Informational, transactional and navigational research intent.

There have been several studies on CTR in the past, including.

  • the studies of 2010 by SeoMad (which also summarises the consequences of the previous studies of 2005 and 2009) and of Chitika (no longer reachable but summarized here)
  • the 2011 studies by SlingShot SEO and the study by Optify (no longer reachable but summarized here)

The main conclusions reached by the study sponsored by Slingshot SEO are:

  1. The importance of ranking in the top 10 positions of a Google SERP. High positions = High CTR rates.
  2. In Google SERPs, the observed CTR was 18.20% for the first result and 10.05% for the second.
  3. In Bing SERPs, the CTR was 9.66% for position No.1 and 5.51% for the second position
  4. Between the CTR of the first position and that of the 10th of the 1.04%, the difference is 1650% of higher traffic and therefore conversions of the first position compared to the tenth one
  5. 52,32% of Google users click on an organic result on the first page of Google. The rest click on Google Ads or change search.

The Optify study comes to conclusions similar in substance if not in numbers to the Slingshot study: most of the clicks go to the first page positions and as for the difference between the CTR of long tail and short tail keywords:

Head terms had a higher CTR (32 percent) in the number one position than long tail terms (25 percent). However, long tail terms had a higher overall CTR on Page 1 of Google than head terms (9 percent vs. 4.6 percent).

That is: head terms (keywords composed of 2 terms, such as Hotel Rome) have a higher CTR than the long tail keywords in the first position on the first page, but lower in the average of the first page positions.

...and today: the Catalyst study on CTR

We've reviewed studies over the years regarding CTR on Google.

A svecchiare studies on the subject we thought Catalyst, agency that has released an interesting and above all updated study on the CTR in Google, titled Google CTR Study How User Intent Impacts Google Click-Through Rates.
The white paper, starting with a summary of previous CTR studies, analyzes the CTR on Google as a function of different devices and searches, in particular:

  • The CTR in desktop SERPs
  • CTR in Mobile SERPs
  • The difference between the CTR of branded and unbranded keywords
  • The CTR as a function of discount searches
  • The CTR as a function of navigational search intent (i.e. who searches the browser for a site they already know, perhaps by entering the URl)
  • The CTR depending on the length of the query

The white paper concludes with a list of factors that influence CTR, distinguishing between factors we can control or factors outside of our control.

Fixed PCs

ctr google catalyst 2013 desktop pc

Let's start with the part about CTR on PCs.

The conclusion of the study is that

The site must be positioned above the fold to have substantial traffic gains from a given keyword

According to the study:

  • even if the site has the first position on the first page, it will almost certainly not receive all the clicks of every user but on average 17%;
  • the first 4 positions "above the fold" receive the 83% of clicks destined for the front page;
  • 48% of clicks occur on the first page of organic searches, the remaining 52% either click on Google Ads, or abandon the search, redefining it with other keywords, or answering your need without clicking on any results, clicking on the second page or closing Google.

We are seeing a 4% decrease in front page CTR compared to the 2011 Slingshot studypositions 3 and 5 even mark an increase in the average CTR, caused according to the study by a greater awareness of users on what are advertising results, which are skipped in favor of the positions immediately below but always above the fold.

The Mobile

ctr google catalyst 2013 mobile

As for the cabinet, it tilts more towards position 1 because of:

  • of the small screen;
  • of the increased difficulty in seeing the results due to the need to scroll;
  • of the urgency of getting an answer.

Given these considerations, sponsored results on mobile have a big advantage in terms of clicks compared to those on PC, where the user is more likely to catch on and skip ahead to the ads.

Brand keywords and non-brand keywords

ctr google catalyst 2013 keyword branded

According to the study, users searching for keywords without a brand are looking for information without a specific answer in mind: therefore they will be more likely to click on the first result, especially if it is accompanied by a recognized brand.

However, the study points out that the CTR of branded keywords is lower than that of non-branded keywords, due to the user's browsing intent and the way the results are presented, often accompanied by Google Product and Google Ads.

Coupons and discounts

 ctr google catalyst 2013 keyword coupon

In the case of users looking for coupons and discounts on Google, the goal is one: find the bargain as soon as possible.

This is why the CTR of "Couponers" are used to click the first visible result producing the second highest CTR of the firm.

The click obviously clicks better when the first result is accompanied by a known brand.

Keyword with questions and without

The CTR is highest in users who formulate a query as a question. Even the CTR under consideration is the highest found among the categories in the Catalyst study, 25.80% for the first position on the first page.

CTR and search intent

The CTR between first and second position drops dramatically in the case of searches with navigational intentIt is clear that if I search I have a clear idea of what I want, it is just as plausible that the first result is the site in question.

 ctr google catalyst 2013 navigational search intent

Keyword length

 ctr google catalyst 2013 keyword length

How much does the CTR change on Google depending on the length of the keyword?

According to Catalyst single term queries mirror the CTR of those with navigational intent, probably because they are related to the search for a brand.

The 30% of clicks of these stay in the first page organic results and of these the 60% goes to the first position result. If the user doesn't find what they are looking for, they leave the SERP by changing the query to a longer keyword.

The more specific the search becomes, the more the user clicks on the first result, but on the other hand spends more time on the down the fold part: in this regard a result under the above the fold positioned for long tail keywords could increase its CTR with title tags and meta descriptions designed for CTR, perhaps with the inclusion of Call To Action.


The first step in a web marketing strategy is to appear at a target audience: but if this doesn't click on your result we have a double loss, in terms of missed conversions and money spent on Google Ads campaign or organic traffic. What strategy do you use to increase the CTR in SEO and Google Ads? Let's talk about it in the comments.

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