Are Averaged Google Organic Search Click Through Rates Useful?

Understanding your site’s click through rates — how many searchers click your site’s listing when seeing it in search results – can be key to SEO. But are web-wide or industry average click through rates useful?

We analyzed 4,896,866 keywords from April 2015 to see what we could find out about branded vs. non-branded searches, industry differences, and averages vs. site-specific metrics.

Bottom line? We found that averages, even when segmented by query type, didn’t provide much actionable data for a specific site. When we compared averages to site-specific data, we didn’t find much that was similar.

However, we did find that average click through rates within a site tended to hold fairly steady, and so using actual averaged click through rates for your own site can be very useful for things like calculating market opportunity of new content investments, estimating impact of rankings changes, and pinpointing issues with the site’s listings on the search results page.

Using Click Through Rate Data

You can use click through rate data for all kinds of things, such as:

  • measuring the impact of improvements to your search results display (better titles and descriptions, rich snippets, and so on)
  • monitoring how Google’s changes (such as Oneboxes and the Knowledge Graph) are impacting your site’s traffic
  • calculating ROI of SEO investments (what traffic increase can you expect from improved rankings?)
  • determining market opportunity of content expansions (what percentage of searchers will click through to your site if you begin ranking for new topic areas?)

Gathering Raw CTR Data

Google Search Console provides individual query click through rates and the average click through rate for the entire site, but it can be much more useful to segment queries into topics for more insightful metrics, like:

  • tracking CTR for branded and non-branded searches separately (searches for your brand almost always have higher click through rates).
  • comparing CTR for logical topic areas and monitoring CTR trends (especially as the search results page changes for different query types due to Google’s varying use of Oneboxes and the like).

Click Through Rate Findings

We analyzed 4,896,866 keywords from April 2015 and segmented those keywords by topic. Keylime Toolbox data is sourced from Google Search Console so these metrics are based on Google’s query logs. The click through rate is calculated as the percentage of the total reported clicks divided by total reported impressions.

We further segmented each topic by branded and unbranded queries. (Branded queries are those for a particular company or domain name.)

Typically, we find that click through rates for branded searches can be significantly higher than those for unbranded searches (which makes sense since those specifically seeking you out are more likely to click on your listing, regardless of ranking position). When using this data to forecast market opportunity, for instance, it’s best to use CTR from unbranded searches to get a more accurate approximation.

What Did We Learn?

  1. Click through rate averages aren’t very useful for applying to specific situations. The specific CTR rates for a site may vary wildly from the industry averages but stay fairly constant over time for that particular site. This makes sense. Some brands are stronger than others, so when searchers see them in results, they’re more likely to click. Some sites do better at creating compelling listings displays with rich snippets, great titles and descriptions, and so on.

    For example, the average click through rate of for unbranded finance-related queries at position three is 7%, but here are some specific site and query examples:

    • Site A average – 12%
    • Site B average – 20%
    • Query 1 – 38.5%
    • Query 2 – 9.3%

  2. The number one ranking definitely doesn’t always get the click. In general, the higher the ranking, the higher the click through rate, but nearly all of segments we analyzed had click through rates of less than 50% at the number one position.

Of  course, many specific queries within each segment had much higher click through rates, but high ranking doesn’t guarantee a click (both because the searcher might be clicking on ads or Oneboxes, and because lower results might be more compelling).

For example, the average click through rate for unbranded fashion-related searches at position 1 is 17%, but here’s a specific example:

  • Site A had an average click through rate of 24% for fashion-related unbranded searches.
  • The query from the set that ranked #1 that brought the most traffic had a click through rate of 25%.

Looking at the search results for that query, which has commercial intent (the searcher is looking to buy clothing), the shopping Onebox is at the top of the page, followed by two ads. So it’s not surprising that the top organic result only received 25% of the clicks (and that the overall average is even lower).

Click Through Rate Data

If you’re curious as to what we found when looking at average click through rates by topic, here’s the data for both branded and unbranded searches.

Branded Search by Topic

Rank Technology Food Fashion Travel Finance
1 46% 58% 21% 21% 26%
2 21% 20% 16% 16% 21%
3 17% 14% 9% 9% 9%
4 3% 5% 17% 17% 4%
5 4% 8% 18% 18% 6%
6 9% 15% 18% 18% 3%
7 7% 20% 16% 16% 3%
8 9% 17% 16% 16% 4%
9 4% 8% 12% 12% 3%
10 2% 7% 15% 15% 7%
Rank Automotive Commerce Health Education Marketing
1 27% 18% 13% 34% 31%
2 31% 17% 3% 8% 42%
3 14% 23% 2% 15% 26%
4 16% 25% 3% 12% 21%
5 18% 18% 4% 5% 14%
6 7% 22% 3% 3% 15%
7 16% 23% 2% 13% 14%
8 15% 22% 2% 25% 14%
9 6% 10% 4% 3% 13%
10 1% 8% 4% 6% 17%

 

Non-branded Search by Topic

Rank Technology Food Fashion Travel Finance
1 42% 33% 17% 17% 32%
2 25% 25% 12% 12% 20%
3 19% 18% 9% 9% 7%
4 17% 13% 8% 8% 7%
5 13% 9% 6% 6% 5%
6 9% 7% 4% 4% 3%
7 7% 5% 4% 4% 2%
8 5% 4% 3% 3% 2%
9 4% 4% 3% 3% 1%
10 3% 3% 3% 3% 1%

 

Rank Automotive Commerce Health Education Marketing
1 24% 26% 24% 18% 23%
2 13% 18% 14% 8% 4%
3 7% 15% 6% 6% 1%
4 5% 12% 5% 7% 3%
5 3% 11% 4% 4% 2%
6 3% 8% 3% 3% 2%
7 2% 6% 2% 3% 2%
8 2% 3% 2% 2% 2%
9 2% 3% 2% 2% 1%
10 2% 3% 2% 2% 1%
  • This data is for a single month, so does not reflect seasonal changes.
  • This data is world wide.
  • The CTR is aggregated into whole-number ranking. However, Google Search Console reports average rank as a single-digit decimal. We rounded rankings (1.0 to 1.4 is rounded to 1; 1.5 to 2.4 is rounded to 2, etc.).

How Keylime Toolbox Makes Personalized CTR Data More Useful

Keylime Toolbox can aggregate query data in any way you’d like and show averaged click through rates for each segment, as well as trends over time. It then uses that data in ROI calculations for improved ranking impact and provides data that you can use for calculating market opportunity.

The Keylime Toolbox Click Through Rate charts show averaged CTR by position for each segment you define (in addition to branded and unbranded segmentation). You can view this data for any date range (day, week, month, or year) and can view trends over time.

Keylime Toolbox also includes a Market Opportunity Forecast that uses your site’s custom click through rate date to calculate the increased traffic your site would get from improved rankings.

Average Click Through Rates By Query Segment

You can view CTR rate data averaged across all ranking positions for each query segment or at each ranking position by segment (for any date range). This enables you to get a sense of how searchers are interacting with your site’s listings on the results page and compare topic areas.

Google Organic CTR By Position

 

seo-metrics-overview

Click Through Rate Trends Over Time

If your site’s traffic from Google organic search has declined, you might immediately assume a ranking issue and start investigating potential penalties and other things that might hurt rankings. But maybe Google has changed the search results page and now your site’s number one ranking is below the fold. Or maybe your site had a technical glitch and lost all page titles and descriptions. Keylime Toolbox can show you where to look first with just a click.

The graph below shows what happened to the click through rate for a set of unbranded, local queries ranking at number one for a particular site. All of these queries continued to rank in the first position, but fewer searchers were clicking on those listings.

How Google Local Onebox Impacts CTR

 

You can also track overall click through rates over time (by topic):

cr-trends

Using CTR to Forecast SEO ROI

The Keylime Toolbox Market Opportunity Forecast models the impact of rankings changes using:

  • Estimated total traffic for the segment (using the distribution of provided queries and the total Google organic traffic)
  • Impressions, traffic, and CTR for all queries in the segment
  • Conversion percentage and average revenue per conversion for the segment (if entered)

Calculating SEO Market Opportunity

From this data, Keylime Toolbox calculates the estimated impact of rankings increases or decreases.

market-opportunity-forecast

 

market-opportunity-forecast-detail

Using CTR to Calculate Market Opportunity

You can use your site’s averaged click through rates when doing keyword research and gap analysis. Once you have a set of keyword research, download the query data for your site (matching the duration of time from the keyword research; if you’re using Google Ad Planner, for instance, you would download a month of data) for that same topic area using the Keylime Toolbox Custom Segmentation Tool.

You can then use a VLOOKUP in Excel to see which queries your site doesn’t get Google organic traffic from. The search volume from those “gap” queries is total market size, but isn’t the market opportunity for your site, since you won’t receive 100% of clicks even if you rank for every term.

You can use the average click through rate for either unbranded searches or from a similar topic area as this percentage takes into account both the current distribution of queries across ranking positions and the click through rate at each of those positions.  (You can find the average click through rate for a segment across all ranking positions from the SEO Metrics Overview report.)

seo-metrics-ctr

Multiply the search volume of the gap queries by the average click through rate (12% in the above example) for the potential market opportunity of those queries.

What About Your Site’s Personalized Click Through Rates? Find Out With a Free Keylime Toolbox Trial!

Want to check out your own site’s data? Set up a free trial of Keylime Toolbox Complete Edition. Follow the easy checklist to integrate Google Search Console and Google Analytics data and you’ll have useful, accurate click through rates for your site in just a few clicks.

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