Click Through Rate

Click through rate, commonly known as CTR, is the percentage of users that click on a link (or button or ad). It’s a metric used to better understand and measure your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts.

What does Click Through Rate mean?

There are few businesses these days that don’t have an internet presence, such as a website, social media accounts, e-commerce stores or listings (like on Amazon), or paid advertisements. Putting your business online to attract customers or sell products is a good start, and with a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, search engines like Google or Bing can find your business and deliver it to search engine results pages (SERP). When that happens, people can click on your listing. Those clicks are your click-through rate, or CTR.

CTR is the number of clicks a URL, ad, or listing gets. The formula for calculating CTR is the number of total clicks divided by total impressions, which is the number of times people see the link or ad. If you have a website, you’re probably concerned about your URL appearing as close to the top of SERPs as possible. After all, a higher position means your impressions are high and that hopefully translates to a high CTR. It’s good news if you have a website that appears in the top few spots on a SERP. But there’s an even better way to quantify the value to your SEO strategy and search results ranking — calculate your CTR.

# of clicks / # of views

Here is an example of how CTR can work. Let’s say you own a bakery. When people search Google for “bakery near me,” your website comes up in one of the top three positions. That’s great news! It probably means that you did your SEO homework. But can you quantify what your high ranking means? 

Here’s how:

  1. Impressions: 100 people searched for “bakery near me” and your store came up
  2. Clicks: 10 people clicked on your website 
  3. CTR is .1, or 10%

Why do you need to know about your CTR? 

CTR is the metric that will help you set realistic expectations on your return on investment (ROI) on projects, like ad campaigns, how much to spend on content, and website design. Knowing your CTR helps you measure the success of your efforts.

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Also — and we won’t get too deeply into this since it’s definitely not entry-level CTR info — but search engines do look at CTR to determine results page rankings. So if you notice that your CTR increases, you could see your ranking go up. Of course, that’s only one metric search engine algorithms look at. But that’s for a different article.

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Knowing your CTR is important

A high CTR means that people are clicking on your ad, or URL, or order button, and a low CTR means that not that many people are clicking. One of the main reasons you want to know your CTR is because it quantifies your SEO efforts — to deliver leads to a desired location, like your e-commerce store.  

Just to be clear, someone clicking on your ad or URL does not necessarily translate into cold, hard cash, subscribers, fans, or users. But to calculate whether an SEO strategy or paid-per-click (PPC) ad successfully delivers leads to your website, then you need to know your CTR. 

There’s another reason why achieving a high CTR is important. Ads that have a high CTR are favored by search engines. If your website has a higher CTR compared to other businesses in your category, then search engines will place those links in higher positions on SERPs. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that search engines are designed to feature websites with a high CTR because when more people click, it means those links are more useful and relevant, which is exactly what search engines aspire to provide users.

Here are a few ways you might keep track of your CTR:

  • Call to action (CTA): If you send a newsletter to subscribers and include a CTA button that takes readers to your website, you can count how many people click on your CTA.
  • Hyperlink: You sell movie posters on Amazon or eBay. When shoppers click the “buy” button, a hyperlink takes them to a cart and check-out page. You can count clicks on “buy” buttons.
  • PPC: You can pay for an ad to appear on a SERP or a social media site (like a Facebook ad). You count each time someone clicks on the ad.

Think of CTR as traffic to your site. But it would be wrong to suggest that a high CTR is always indicative of a high SERP rank.

 Supposing your bakery has a 10% CTR from a popular consumer review website. After it was reviewed by a  popular dessert critic, your CTR doubled to 20%. Notably your CTR had nothing to do with search engine rankings. So keep that in mind. CTR is not always contingent on your website’s position in search engine results. 

Types of conversions

It’s important to understand where your conversions come from, which is why there’s a difference between paid and organic CTR. When someone searches for “bakery near me,” for example, your store can come up in search results by people who live within a certain vicinity of your store. When people click on your store’s URL, that’s “organic” CTR.

Now supposing you pay to have your bakery appear at the top of SERPs whenever someone in your town searches for “bakery near me.” That means your bakery will show up whether the person searching lives two blocks away or seven miles away. You may also pay for your bakery to show up when people search for “graduation cakes” or “pumpkin pie,” or even keyword phrases as ambiguous as “chocolate icing.” The CTR to your site from a PPC ad is not organic because you paid for you bakery to find people rather than relied on SEO to attract search engines that will place your bakery’s URL on someone’s SERP naturally — organically. The same goes for links to your store on e-commerce sites. You need to have a good SEO strategy so that search engines can find your links.

Clearly organic traffic is valuable. But it’s also fair if you subscribe to the idea that all traffic is good traffic, regardless of whether it’s paid or organic.

Consider this: someone searching for “chocolate icing” may be looking for a recipe or icing brands. So even if your PPC ad appears on SERPs when people search for “chocolate icing,” those clicks likely won’t result in customers coming to your store. On the other hand, the person searching for chocolate icing may not have known about your bakery until she searched for that particular keyword phrase. Which means your ad found its way to a potential customer. 

What is a high CTR?

At this point, you’re probably curious what a high CTR or low CTR actually means. There are tools out there that will identify CTR ranges based on your industry. 

According to WordStream, a 10% CTR for a consumer services business (like a bakery) is pretty high — 316.67%. According to the same site, “The average click-through rate on AdWords paid search ads is about 2%.”

Here are some important CTR insights to consider by marketing agency, Backlinko:

The company analyzed the CTR for more than  5 million search queries on Google. Here are just a few observations:

  • The top organic search result had an average CTR of 31.7%. 
  • Nearly 1 in 3 people select the top result on a SERP. 
  • The top result is 10 times more likely to get clicked than the 10th result.
  • Advancing up just one spot can increase CTR by up to 30.8%.
  • “More than 99% of clicks happen on the first SERP page (#1-10 of organic results).”
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