We Analyzed 4 Million Google Search Results. Here's What We Learned About Organic CTR

We analyzed 4 million Google Search ResultsHere's What We Learned About
Organic Click Through Rate

We Analyzed 5 Million Google Search Results. Here’s What We Learned About Organic Click Through Rate
Brian Dean

by Brian Dean · Updated Aug. 15, 2022

We analyzed 4 million Google search results to better understand the organic click-through rate.

First, we analyzed CTR data across 1,312,881 pages and 12,166,560 search queries.

Then, we looked at how factors like title tag length, sentiment and meta descriptions affect organic CTR.

Thanks to data provided from Semrush, we were able to get CTR data from several different Google Search Console accounts.

So without further ado, let’s see the results.

Here is a Summary of Our Key Findings:

1. The #1 result in Google’s organic search results has an average CTR of 27.6%.

2. The #1 organic result is 10x more likely to receive a click compared to a page in the #10 spot.

3. Organic CTR for positions 8-10 is virtually the same. Therefore moving up a few spots on the bottom of the first page may not result in more organic traffic.

4. On average, moving up 1 spot in the search results will increase CTR by 2.8%. However, this depends on where you’re moving from and to. Moving from position #3 to position #2 will usually result in a significant CTR boost. However, moving from #10 to #9 doesn’t make a statistically significant difference.

5. Titles that do and do not contain a question have similar CTRs.

6. Title tags between 40 to 60 characters have the highest CTR. According to our data, pages with a title tag length between 40 and 60 characters have a TK% higher CTR compared to those that are outside of that range.

7. Longer keywords tend to have a higher CTR: keywords between 10-15 words in length get 1.76x more clicks than single-word terms.

8. URLs that contain terms similar to a keyword have a 45% higher click-through rate compared to URLs that don’t contain a keyword.

9. Positive titles may improve your CTR. We found that titles with a positive sentiment improved CTR by approximately 4%.

I have detailed data and information of our analysis below.

titles with a positive sentiment improved CTR by approximately 4%

The initial goal of our study was to establish CTR benchmarks.

Using our full data set of ~4 million results, we found that the #1 result has the highest CTR (by far).

The number one result in Google has the highest organic CTR

We also saw a sharp CTR dropoff starting on the 2nd page of the results.

Few Google searchers visit the 2nd page and beyond

In fact, only .63% of Google searchers clicked on something from the second page.

This CTR trend is consistent with other CTR industry studies, like this one from Advanced Web Ranking.

Advanced Web Ranking – CTR Study

And after we analyzed our cleaned-up data, we found that the #1 result in Google has a CTR of 27.6%.

The first result in Google has a CTR of 27.6%

Here is the full CTR breakdown for Google’s first-page organic results:

Google organic CTR breakdown by position

As you can see, the #1 result in Google has a 10x higher CTR compared to the #10 result.

For anyone that’s worked in the SEO field for any length of time, this finding shouldn’t come as a surprise. It’s well-known that ranking #1 is significantly more valuable than any other position.

We also looked at the CTR for branded keywords.

Organic CTR for branded keywords or homepages

As you can see, CTR to the #1 result is significantly higher for branded search terms compared to non-branded search terms. This is likely due to the fact that these are mainly navigational queries.

Key Takeaway: The #1 result in Google gets 27.6% of all clicks.

Organic CTR Spikes At Position #8… And Again At Position #2

As I outlined, the #1 result in Google has (by far) the highest CTR.

However, there are still clicks to be had outside of the top position.

Specifically, while CTR is relatively flat at the very bottom of the first page (positions #9 and #10) there’s a significant CTR spike at position #8.

Organic CTR spikes at position 8

This suggests two things:

  1. Most users don’t look at the bottom of the SERPs
  2. Moving up from position #9 to #8 may result in a significant CTR boost.

We see another sharp CTR increase starting with position #2.

Organic CTR spikes at position #2

This may be due to the fact that for results without ads or SERP features, the #2 result often appears above the fold.

Google SERP – 2nd result above fold

In fact, we found that the top 3 Google search results get 54.4% of all clicks.

The top 3 Google search results get 54.4% of all clicks

Key Takeaway: Our data suggests that “ranking on the first page” may not be a worthy SEO goal. Instead, it’s all about ranking in the top spot (or at least in the top 2). The top 3 organic results get more than half of the clicks.

Moving Up One Position Increases CTR By 32.3%

We discovered that all things being equal, moving up a single position in Google increases relative CTR by 32.3%.

Moving up one position increases CTR by 32.3%

However, this CTR boost isn’t evenly distributed. Not even close.

The CTR impact of moving up in the SERPs varied widely depending on the position.

Increase in expected CTR from moving up one position in Google

For example, moving from position #10 to #9 will result in 11% more clicks.

However, moving up from #2 to the #1 spot will result in 74.5% more clicks.

Key Takeaway: Moving up one position in Google will increase your absolute CTR by an average of 2.8%. However, this increase varies greatly depending on the position. We found that the greatest CTR increase came from moving from #2 to #1, which resulted in a relative CTR boost of 74.5%.

Most Websites Get 25.1 Clicks Per Query

We also looked at, for all the queries reported in the Google Search Console, how many resulted in clicks.

First, we discovered that most of the queries that a site ranks for in Google get very few impressions.

Most GSC queries get few impressions

In fact, 90.3% of all the queries in our dataset have only 10 impressions or less.

This suggests that most of the keywords that a site ranks for are long tails with low search volume. Or that the site isn’t ranking highly for these terms. Or both.

And likely due to a low number of impressions, most queries result in a small number of clicks (25.1 per query).

The average "click per query" is 25%

Key Takeaway: “Ranking for X keywords” may not be a valuable SEO metric. That’s because most pages rank for keywords with little search volume. Instead, most impressions and clicks tend to come from a relatively small number of queries.

Question and Non-Question Titles Have a Similar CTR

We compared the average organic CTR between titles that contained and didn’t contain a question.

(We defined a question as a title that used the terms “How, Why, What, Who” or a title with a question mark.)

We found that questions with titles had a slightly higher click-through rate compared to titles without a question.

Average CTR for different title types

Here’s the full CTR breakdown across the top 10 results.

Organic CTR of question titles vs. non-question titles

However, the difference in CTR (15.5% vs 16.3%) was not significant.

Other headline CTR studies, like this one published in the journal Social Influence, found that questions boosted CTR on social media.

Social influence headline CTR study

It’s thought that questions may improve CTR in Google as well because when someone is searching for someone in Google, they’re essentially looking for an answer to a question.

(They are called “queries” after all.)

And using a question title may confirm to the reader that your result contains the answer to their exact question. However, our data doesn’t support this.

Key Takeaway: Question-based title tags perform similarly to non-question title tags in terms of organic click-through rate.

Title Tags Between 40 to 60 Characters Have The Best CTR

What’s the ideal title tag length? Should you keep your titles short and sweet? Or use long titles that contain lots of info about your content?

According to our data, you want to aim somewhere in the middle.

Specifically, we found that titles between 40-60 characters have the highest organic CTR.

Title tags between 40 to 60 characters have the highest CTR

The findings were similar when looking at title tag word count.

Title tags between 6 to 9 words have the highest CTR

While there may be an SEO benefit of long title tags (longer titles=more keywords), this may be partially offset by a lower organic CTR.

In fact, Etsy tested numerous title tag variations as part of a large-scale SEO experiment. And they discovered that “It appeared in our results that shorter title tags performed better than longer ones.”

Etsy title tag variation test results showed shorter title tags are better

The author of that post hypothesized that shorter titles may perform better in Google due to query matching. However, according to our analysis, CTR may also play a role in why short and medium titles work best.

Key Takeaway: Title tags between 40 to 60 characters have the best organic CTR. Titles inside of this range have an 8.9% better average click-through rate compared to those that fall outside of this range.

Longer Keywords Tend to Have a Higher Overall CTR

We decided to investigate any potential correlation between keyword length and CTR.

For this analysis, we only focused on the #1 position.

As you can see in the chart below, CTR is clearly higher for long keywords compared to relatively short terms.

Longer keywords tend to have a higher overall CTR

In fact, keywords between 10-15 words in length get 2.62x more clicks than single-word terms.

This is likely due to the fact that longer keywords imply a very specific search intent. This means the user knows exactly what they’re looking for, and are therefore more likely to click.

Google also knows what the user wants. And therefore is likely to serve up highly relevant results.

On the other hand, broad terms often have “mixed intent”. This means the user needs to browse through the results to find a result relevant to their search (or search again with an entitled new query).

Key Takeaway: Long keywords get 1.76x more clicks in the organic SERPs (specifically, the 1st position), compared to very short keywords.

Keyword-Rich URLs Are Correlated With a Higher CTR

We wanted to see if keyword-rich URLs positively impacted CTR.

For example, take someone searching for “weekend trips”. Would a URL like travel.com/weekend-trips have a higher CTR than travel.com/travel-page?

To accomplish this analysis, we looked at each of the search queries, compared them with the URLs, and provided a similarity index that ranged from 0% to 100%.

Our method for seeing if keyword-rich URLs positively impacted CTR

A value of 0% means that the two words are not similar at all, while a value of 100% means a perfect match. We ignored all punctuation marks and symbols.

Indeed, we found a significant correlation between keyword-rich URLs and organic CTR:

Keyword-rich URLs correlate with a higher organic CTR

However, it’s important to note that only 6.3% of URLs in our sample had similarity of more than 80%. This means that URLs are one of many factors that can result in a high CTR.

Although having a perfect query-keyword match resulted in the highest CTR, our data shows that a URL that partially matches a query can also result in a significant CTR boost.

Google’s Search Engine Optimization guide reminds webmasters that your page’s URL shows up in the SERPs. And they recommend that you use “URLs with words that are relevant to your site’s content…”.

Google recommends using URLs with words relevant to site's content

And a 2012 paper published by Microsoft found that “trusted domains” had a higher CTR in search engines compared to domains that people weren’t familiar with.

Microsoft paper found trusted domains have higher CTR

The theory behind this is that search engine users use a page’s URL to figure out the best match for their query.

Key Takeaway: We found a large increase in CTR for pages with a perfect or partial query match (the entire search query is in the URL) vs. a non-match (no search query term matches the URL).

Positive Titles Can Increase Organic Click Through Rate

Our data suggests that titles with a positive sentiment have a higher CTR compared to negative or emotionally-neutral titles.

Emotional titles have a higher organic click through rate

Specifically, we found that positive titles have a 4.1% higher absolute CTR compared to negative titles.

We defined the sentiment of each title using machine learning models. Here are some examples of what our model determined as positive, neutral or negative sentiments:

 
Sentiment Example Comment
positive The Healthiest Halloween Candies That Won’t Ruin Your Diet Titles which contain words like “best”, “coolest”, “healthiest” etc.
neutral Mom’s Turkey Sausage Patties Recipe Just reporting information, recipes, products names, etc.
negative Former Camp Woodward coach accused of sexual misconduct Usually include “negative” words like “assault”, “killing”, etc. A lot of news titles here.

Several industry studies, including this one from BuzzSumo, have found a correlation between emotional headlines and engagement.

BuzzSumo study found correlation between emotional headlines and engagement

However, I wasn’t able to find any industry study that specifically looked at the relationship between emotional title tags and Google organic CTR.

And at least according to our data, positive emotional titles can result in a higher click-through rate in the organic results.

Key Takeaway: Titles with positive sentiment have a higher organic click-through rate vs. neutral or negative titles.

Summary and Conclusion

Again, I’d like to thank Semrush for helping make this study possible.

And now I’d like to hear from you:

What’s your #1 takeaway from this research?

Or maybe you have a question.

Either way, go ahead and leave a comment below.

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