How does SERP ranking impact click-through rates?
We provide benchmark data on Google click-through rates by position using 2020 data across over 1,000 queries.
What We’ll Cover:
- The search landscape in 2020
- Breakdown of Google CTRs by ranking position
- What compels people to “click”?
- How to improve your CTRs based on our 2020 findings
CTRs & the Search Landscape in 2020
Earlier this year, we surveyed 500+ respondents between the ages of 25-60 to find out what audiences look for in the search results–and how often the results presented reflect intent.
We sum up the findings in a previous post, SEO & Intent 2020: New Study Reveals True State of Search. One of the main takeaways is that the meta description is one of the main elements that compel users to click-through on your organic listings.
In this study, we provide benchmark click-through rate data by position. We analyzed over 1,000 queries and controlled for branded search by segmenting it out of the results. Use the data below to guide your meta description tests as you make changes. If you are above the benchmark, your meta description is performing very well. If you are below the benchmark, you know you have room for further improvements. We share some data-driven insights on improving click-through rates below.
Before we get started, here’s a quick summary of what we learned:
- Higher-ranking pages still drive the most clicks, but any front-page position is a valuable source of traffic.
- Intent is huge for click-throughs in 2020–especially if you look at local or E-commerce-specific queries, people consistently expect the same types of results for these categories (directories and shopping results, respectively).
- Brand awareness drives clicks, but it’s not the most important factor.
Breakdown of Google Click-Through Rates in 2020 By Position
Here’s a look at the average click-through rates based on ranking for non-branded queries, according to our data:
- Position 1 – 43.32%
- Position 2 – 37.36%
- Position 3 –29.90%
- Position 4 – 19.38%
- Position 5 –10.95%
- Position 6 – 10%
- Position 7 – 5.28%
- Position 8 – 4.13%
- Position 9 – 4.13%
- Position 10 – 3.11%
While it’s clear that ranking higher still yields higher click-throughs, searchers don’t only care about what appears in the first position. It seems that the sweet spot falls within those first three or four results.
What Compels People to Click?
Text-Based Results Still Dominate
Despite the push toward image-based search and the continued rise of video, 55% of respondents prefer to see text-based content in the search results.
That’s not to say that people don’t want to see multimedia content while on the page.
Meta descriptions are often treated as an afterthought.
However, it turns out that people care about them quite a bit. 62.9% of our respondents said that the description had the most significant impact on their decision to click on a result.
Strong Preference for Organic
We also found that people still aren’t thrilled about the ads they see, despite improved targeting options and the introduction of new ad formats.
Over 85% reported that they prefer to click on organic results, and over 66% said that if Google increased the number of ads featured in the search results, they’d want to use the search engine less.
For marketers, this means that focusing on ranking organically will yield better long-term results than devoting the majority of their resources to running more ads.
It’s also worth mentioning that roughly 62% of respondents said they “had no idea” why Google was showing them certain ads. This points to two things: privacy concerns and relevance.
More ads don’t necessarily mean more clicks and brands should be more thoughtful about how they approach paid ads.
Brand Awareness is a Factor for Some
Brand awareness matters to some extent, but it’s not necessarily the most important factor when it comes to driving clicks.
Our findings revealed that 55% of respondents say that they would only click on a familiar brand in the search results, while 44.9% say they’d click whether they knew the brand or not.
It’s important to note that the results may be skewed based on what type of query respondents enter. For shopping results, brand awareness may be more important than in situations where searchers are looking for information.
How to Improve CTRs Based on 2020 Findings
We went over some of the factors that help searchers determine which results to click.
Now, we’ll look at some ways to rank higher by meeting the needs of your audience.
Provide Fast, Thorough Answers
Our SEO and Intent report found that searchers’ top priorities are getting fast, but thorough answers to their queries. We asked respondents to use the example query, “how to fix the kitchen sink,” then asked them to rate specific elements about the search experience.
These were the top three things that people care about when performing a search query:
- 48.9% of respondents reported that it was very important that the result “answered the question quickly.”
- 40.9% said that page speed was very important.
- 40.3% reported that “very thorough answers” were very important.
Provide a Focused Answer to the Question
Keep an Eye on Page Speed
Website performance has a measurable impact on conversion rates, making page speed a critical factor in driving results.
According to Google, slow speeds (on desktop and mobile) can increase bounce rates and reduce conversions. Those metrics help the Google algorithm assess whether a page provides a good experience–or not–which can hurt your chances of appearing on the front page.
Be Thorough & Focus on Google’s E-A-T Guidelines
Thorough and long aren’t one and the same. Marketers should aim to provide the most comprehensive answer possible, but avoid going off on tangents, repeating yourself, or using unnecessary “fluff” words.
Ask yourself if everything you’ve included needs to be there. If the answer is no, decide whether you should delete it, cover it in another article, or move it to an FAQ section at the bottom of the page.
While FAQs didn’t make the “top three” list, it turns out people think they’re pretty darn valuable.
Just over 26% of respondents said that FAQs were important, while 25% said they were very important.
If you’re addressing multiple related questions on a topic, arranging them in an FAQ-style format gives users an easy way to scan your content for the answers they’re looking for.
From an SEO standpoint, using FAQ schema can help you highlight relevant questions and answers, which could potentially help you rank higher in the SERPs.
If you are targeting a query like the “how to fix a kitchen sink” example, you might want to apply the “how-to” schema instead, which allows you to mark-up step-by-step instructions.
Here’s an example used on the Google Developers site that gives searchers information about the project’s scope, required materials, and a preview of the steps involved.
Include Video & Images
30.9% said that images were very important to their search experience, which makes sense. Images bring context to your content–helping users get a sense of what you’re describing and giving them a much-needed break from scrolling through text.
Images might also improve your Google search click-through rate, by drawing more attention to your page. In this example below, you can see just how much an image can draw viewers to your site–particularly on mobile where fewer results appear on one page.
While images have become an essential part of the blog post, videos haven’t quite made their way into the “formatting best practices canon.”
According to our findings, 24.2% of respondents said that it was important to them that search results included video, while another 24.2% said that video was very important.
Keep in mind, the sample query we used references a pretty complex task, so video may be more important in this context versus other queries.
Ultimately, if you’re trying to explain something to your audience, providing that information in multiple formats can help you speak to different learning styles and preferences (aka–you’re providing a more thorough answer).
Provide Credible Information
About 30% of our respondents reported that content that sources information is very important to them.
Interestingly, we also found that despite the best practices outlined in Google’s Quality Rater
Guidelines, 31.9% of respondents reported that whether or not a search result included an author bio was not at all important.
Time Stamp Your Pages
Adding a date to your content is a simple way to show audiences that the information found on the page is relevant. 25.5% of participants said dated results were important, while another 23.6% said that dates were very important.
Of course, dates are a critical element for news articles, but they’re also important for industries/topics where things change rapidly.
If you look at digital marketing as an example, best practices can change overnight if Google updates its algorithm. As such, failing to add a date to your blog posts can result in a poor experience if users land on a page with SEO tips from 2015.
Get Serious About Intent Match
As Google improves its ability to detect intent in search queries, marketers need to keep those nuances top-of-mind as they target both paid and organic search terms.
Ahrefs offers a great breakdown of how keyword modifiers can infer search intent.
For example, adding question words like “how,” “what,” or “why” suggests that searchers are looking for informational content.
Alternatively, words like “buy” or “order” indicate that the searcher intends to make a purchase.
While that’s not exactly new information, it’s worth mentioning that you’ll need to pay close attention to the nuances in your target search terms.
We also found that E-commerce queries focused heavily on transactional queries. In this example pulled from the study, we asked respondents what their intent would be if they entered a search such as “bike helmet.”
Most participants stated that they’d likely enter that term if they were looking to purchase a bike helmet.
Our findings also revealed that when searchers enter a local query, they tend to assume that a directory entry will appear in the search results–think Google Maps or Yelp results displaying a list of local businesses.
Optimize For SERP Features
Okay, it’s worth noting that the growing prevalence of SERP features may result in fewer actual clicks, as they often answer searchers’ questions from the front page of Google.
However, SERP features provide several benefits to brands and end-users alike. For one, they help Google crawlers understand webpage content, allowing them to identify and display relevant information that searchers are likely to find valuable.
SERP features include featured snippets, knowledge panels, top stories, site links, local teaser packs, and more–which help increase brand awareness and improve the user experience.
Key Takeaways: 2020 Google CTR Data
In reviewing this year’s Google click-through data, we found that some things never change.
There’s still a strong correlation between ranking position and CTR, but audiences do look at results that aren’t in the top position.
As was the case when we looked at CTR and SERP ranking in 2017, landing on the front page may be the most important factor in driving clicks, though once you’re there, you’ll optimizing for the top spot–and the snippet–will boost your numbers.