What is CTR – Click-Through-Rate?

The click-through rate describes the ratio between the number of times that a result was shown to web searchers (impressions) and the number of times that that particular result was actually clicked on (clicks).

What is the click-through rate?

With the click-through rate metric, Google provides webmasters an insight into how their own search results (snippets) perform in Google Search. For organic search, this is done via the Search Console; for ads, this is done via AdWords.

How does Google calculate the click-through rate?

The calculation of the click-through rate is generally always a ratio between the following values: ‘How often was something clicked?’ and ‘How often was something displayed?’. A time span for this value can be set, which means that you can calculate a daily, weekly, monthly and annual CTR. The click-through rate refers to a specific search query, i.e. a keyword.

CTR = (number of clicks / number of impressions) * 100%.

When looking at the click-through rate, however, a distinction must be made between the organic search results and AdWords:

The click-through rate in organic search

Google provides the CTR for certain keywords in the search analysis report included within its Search Console. A certain threshold value of impressions and clicks must be reached first before Google provides this data.

The click-through rate in AdWords

In AdWords, Google outputs CTR values at the keyword and ad level. These can be found in the relevant tabs in the campaign view. A special feature of AdWords is the ‘expected CTR’, which is a metric that Google uses when placing ads.

To calculate this metric, Google takes into account an ad’s CTR to date as well as a number of other factors, such as the time of the auction, the type of device and the triggering keyword.

Why should I look at the CTR?

Google Search displays a maximum of 10 organic results and up to 7 text ads per results page. This leads to a limited amount of space on the first results page.

In addition, the first results page on Google accounts for more than 99% of organic clicks. From an economic point of view, therefore, it is necessary to appear on the first search results page for most search queries and preferably to appear as high up there as possible.

While website operators can use their own on-page and off-page measures to ensure that Google includes their page on the first search results page, it is the users who ultimately decide whether the website is a good, relevant and high-quality result.

This question can be evaluated by taking a look at the CTR, in addition to impression and click volume.

AdWords uses the expected CTR as part of the process of calculating an ad’s quality score. This in turn has a significant influence on the costs of the auction. Although your CTR is only one factor in calculating the expected CTR, it is a factor that you can influence in your favour.

Possible pitfalls when looking at the click-through rate

The CTR should not be the only value that you take a closer look at in Search Console. Without an understanding of the data on impressions and clicks, a percentage value can lead to the data being misinterpreted.

This happens, for example, when the CTR is used as an indicator for the entire website’s performance in cases where the number of impressions and clicks is too low or too segmented to allow for reliable conclusions to be drawn.

Conclusion

Taking CTR into consideration when analysing all of the relevant data can bring enormous added value to your site’s performance. Care should be taken to work methodically and pay attention to possible pitfalls.

It is not always possible to access performance data from Google search, and it should always be used when it is made available. When you look at ways to optimise your snippets, the CTR should be used, as it is an important key performance indicator.

Steve Paine
19.02.2021