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How do search positions affect click-through rates?

7 minutes of reading
How do search positions affect click-through rates?
Category SEO

The higher the position in the search results, the better. This is a statement that is indisputable, being both truthful and debatable. It is time to give this opinion a more precise overtone and indicate how the number of clicks increases, and therefore traffic to the website thanks to the presence in the desired TOP 3 of Google results.


Position in Google vs. number of clicks

Getting to the top of Google search results is the dream of every company that cares in any way about its development or is looking for new markets for goods or services. Making these dreams come true is our everyday life! That is why we decided that while it is worth bragging about the results, it is also good to contribute to the knowledge of everyone interested in SEO/SEM. After all, what results from being in the TOP search results? It is common to hear about obvious benefits, but hard data often seems to go unnoticed.

These obvious benefits undoubtedly include increased traffic, revenue, competitiveness, and sometimes also brand recognition. These are undeniable facts, the legitimacy of which may be found in dependency analyses, directly influencing the click-through rate (CTR). Data from the latest trends clearly show how the number of clicks is distributed among the 3 most popular search results. In their example, one can also see the huge disproportion in terms of CTR between the TOP 3 and further positions.

Key phrases: branded or not?

If we have at least a basic knowledge of SEO, it is not surprising that branded phrases have a higher CTR. This is due to the fact that they simply link to the product or service that a given producer or service provider is looking for. Unfortunately for the sellers of goods, and fortunately for the SEO industry, they don’t significantly translate into increased traffic, as they directly result from the strength of the brand.

Unbranded phrases are much more important than those based on brand strength and it is them that SEO specialists focus on. The presence of such keywords in the TOP 3 of search results translates directly into increased website traffic. In the long run, it increases the revenue of the company. What is the CTR for this type of phrase? Well, the first 3 places collect the significant majority of all clicks, which is illustrated by the data below.

The 1st place on the list generates on average 30% of traffic, while the place outside the TOP 3 can count on only 7% on average. Websites positioned in the TOP 3 aggregate more than half of all clicks in a given search. This comparison clearly shows that websites ranking outside the TOP 10 practically do not count in the fight for profitable CTR, generating illusory traffic compared to the three most popular results.

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Bet on the long tail

Looking at the comparison of the popularity of short phrases, which are single words or made up of 2 words, and comparing it to the condition of long-tail phrases, we can see that in fact, Google relies on content, quality, and narration. Long-tail phrases generate from 3 to 5% higher CTR in comparison to short keywords. On the one hand, this shows the importance placed by the Mountain View giant on high-quality content published online. On the other hand, it is a consequence of the specificity of queries for extended phrases.

Keywords consisting of several words are not very popular in online advertising. Why? Internet users simply use them less frequently when searching for information on the web. As life practice teaches us when we search for something through long-tail phrases, we know perfectly well, in fact, we assume in advance what information we want to receive, what product or service we want to find. Therefore, they convert better than short-tail phrases, because there are fewer of them, they are less popular and they refer us straight to the answer to the specific query.

Different intentions, different industries

The general disproportion in popularity is very similar for short and long keyword phrases – the first 5 positions aggregate the vast majority of traffic, while the TOP 3 is the place to which all companies that actually want to position themselves for a given query should strive. At this point, it is worth mentioning the intention of particular queries. The highest CTR are those queries that carry purchase intent, although informational queries are in third place. The difference between the answers in TOP 3 and the rest of the results presents itself analogous to the relation from the previous paragraphs of this text.

The combination of click-through rates for search results across industries is also interesting. How to explain these dependencies? Certainly, the specificity of a particular industry has an impact on determining the popularity of given positions on the list. When choosing a particular airline, whose plane we want to fly with, or looking for an insurance company, which we want to entrust the protection of our property, health, and even life – we choose trusted brands. The strength of the brand is such that usually, also due to local conditions, these companies are at the top of the list.

And when we are looking for information, news about events in the world around us, we are more open to alternatives. Then we are also interested in less popular opinions, and this mechanics also applies when we search for software or hardware. In other words, where we are looking for proven solutions, the 3 most popular results dominate indivisibly, and the 1st position aggregates the vast majority of clicks.

What affects CTR? Everything!

The popularity of websites on the web is influenced by many factors, the enumeration of which was not the purpose of this article. It is important to realize how important it is to be in one of the first 3 positions in search results for an interesting key phrase. Differences in CTR between individual positions in the TOP 3 are significant, and what is more, they increase incredibly as you go down the results list. CTR from, for example, 30% for the 1st position decreases to 2% for the positions closing the top 10.

As a kind of summary, let’s consider why it is worth making every effort to get your website in the TOP 3 of searches for a given phrase. The proverbial podium aggregates over 50% of all clicks, and the positions at the end of the top 10 are of marginal importance compared to those at the top of the table. These facts clearly show that the competitive advantage is gained by being in the TOP 3. Of course, each high position increases the traffic, but the leaders – colloquially speaking – take more than half of the cake.

You may also ask what key phrases to bet on? Companies with a strong, widely recognizable brand will benefit from promoting branded phrases. However, this does not apply to companies with low recognition, usually operating in less media-rich industries. The best solution is to focus on strengthening the position of non-branded phrases and include some long-tail keywords on your list.

It is important that these words relate well to specific words and take into account the purchase or informational intentions of Internet users. The implementation of these changes in the scenario of the publication of content on the site will help in the fight for top positions in Google, and over time may prove to be a decisive procedure for obtaining an advantage over the competition.

iCEA Group

As a leading international digital marketing agency established in 2007, we have consistently set the standards for traffic acquisition and conversion. We proudly host Poland's largest technical department, staffed with highly skilled SEO, SEM, and UX specialists with years of experience. Our offer knows no borders! As evidenced by our successful campaigns in not only the Polish market but also in India and the United States. Driven by our dedication and expertise, we empower our clients to achieve online success.

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