Why (almost) everything you knew about Google CTR is no longer valid

Johannes Beus
Johannes Beus
14. July 2020
Johannes Beus
Johannes Beus
Johannes Beus ist Gründer und Geschäftsführer von SISTRIX.

We’ve analysed over 80 million keywords and billions of search results in order to better understand clickrates in Google Search. We were as surprised as you are going to be in a moment. Throw your outdated knowledge about CTRs away and let’s start from scratch.

The Google CTR (Click-through rate, or clickrate) shows you how many people click on each position, in terms of percentage of all clicks. If you don’t have time to read the full article, here’s a summary of the important results from our study.

The most important results summarised

  • The average clickrate for the first position in Google is 28.5%
  • Beyond position 1 the percentage falls quickly: In the second position, the average clickrate is 15.7% and the in the third position, 11%
  • In the tenth position, only an average of 2.5% of people searching click on the result.
  • Global CTRs across all types aren’t very useful because depending on the search intention, and therefore SERP layout, the CTR for position #1 will vary between 13.7% and 46.9%
  • Searches for which Sitelinks are shown have a much better CTR than pure organic SERPs. (46.9% to 34.2%)
  • The worst clickrate is found on commercial searches where a Google Shopping (13.7%) or Google Ads (18.8%) feature is shown.
  • Featured Snippets (23.3%) and Knowledge Panel features (16.7%) also reduce the organic clicks.
  • In general, where there are more different elements and integrations in the SERPs, you’ll find lower CTR figures.
  • For SEOs it means: The search intention of a keyword defines the SERP layout, and therefore, how how many organic clicks you can target. Search volume alone isn’t the decisive figure.

If you’ve brought a little more time with you, let us now go into a deeper analysis and more, interesting results.

Why we need to deal with Google CTR

Search engine optimisation is the art of directing as many relevant visitors to your own website as possible. The click rate (CTR) has a massive impact on the result of your work. It is common knowledge that hardly any user clicks on the second results page. However, the massive differences between CTR within the first ten organic results are less known.

In addition, most studies and analyses on the Google CTR are based on the click behaviour of desktop users. In almost all countries, however, searches on mobile phones have now overtaken desktop searches. Mobile SERPs are much more concentrated and show the direction in which Google is already developing search.

The Google search landscape is currently changing rapidly. The number of mobile searches is increasing steadily, the variety in the search results is increasing due to new integrations and features from Google and the attention span and associated willingness to scroll is decreasing. These and other influencing factors ensure that previous knowledge about Google CTRs is outdated.

28.5% of Google users click the first organic result

In the first step, and forming the basis for further evaluations in this study, we determined the Google CTR over all analysed data. In contrast to previous studies of the CTR, we only measure mobile data, i.e. the behaviour of the user on the small screen of their mobile phone. The results for the first Google results page are:

Google CTR averages 2020

It is clear to see how different the click behaviour of Google users is – by far the most clicks land on the first organic result (28.5%). In second place with 15.7% it is only around half the clicks for position 1 and the percentage decreases steadily thereafter.

A ranking at position #1 achieves a click rate that is more than ten times higher than a ranking at position #10. The biggest, absolute leap in CTR is made with a ranking improvement from # 2 to # 1: this improvement leads to a CTR that is 12.8 percentage points higher.

On the second page, we were able to measure significantly less than one percent CTR for each position. Because of that, we’ve concentrated only on the first page in this analysis. Conversely, this also means that if you don’t rank on the first page, users on Google won’t find you.

Click rates are determined by the SERP layout

Averages, as shown in the diagram above, distort the reality. They just show that, the average. The real click-through rates can look very different in your keyword environment and in your industry. Therefore, we took an additional big step in this analysis and evaluated the CTR for different SERP layouts.

By SERP layout we mean the specific composition of a Google results page (SERP). This consists largely of the classic, organic results, but is increasingly enriched with other boxes and features.

In this post, we focus on the most popular SERP layouts. For those, we take the first SERP result presented and remove keywords whose results pages consist of a combination of different feature boxes. This way we get comparable and clean data.

Most Keyword show purely organic results

Most of the keywords we measured consist of purely organic results: 10 blue links, as in the early days of Google, and no other distracting elements.

Organic mobile result

The more you work into the long-tail, the greater the proportion of purely organic SERPs. On the other hand, high-traffic keywords from the so-called short-head often consist of different features and boxes. The CTRs for purely organic SERPs look like this:

Google CTR for pure organic SERPs

In the background (in grey) you can see the reference values from the graph above, i.e. the average values over all evaluated data. The blue line shows you the click rates for this specific SERP layout so you can easily see the differences and deviations. This also applies to other evaluations in this article.

In this case, it is clear to see that the click rate for all organic search results is above average for purely organic search results. In the first position there are even around 6 percentage points more clicks: 34.2% of the searchers click on the first results if the SERP layout consists exclusively of organic results.

SERPs with Sitelinks: 46.9% CTR on position #1

Next we have the evaluation of search results with Sitelinks. With the Sitelinks extension, Google offers further navigation links that lead to subpages. This integration takes up a lot of space and attention.

Sitelinks mobile result

Sitelinks are shown by Google if there is a clear website intent, i.e. the user is looking for a specific website, but does not know the URL or does not know how to use a web browser. This can also be seen very clearly in the click rates:

Google CTR for sitelinks SERPs

In the first position (the one with the sitelinks) we see a clear above-average click rate of 46.9% – almost every second click on this SERP. In comparison, the CTRs in the other positions are significantly lower: in position three, for example, the click rate is less than half the average (5.6% to 11.0%).

Here the effects of the website intent become clear: the user is looking for a special website and is only ready to click on it as a result. In most cases, the searcher does not accept other results – a ranking for keywords with website intentions is only worthwhile if you are the website or brand you are looking for.

Featured snippets cost 5.3 percentage points CTR

Google refers to organic results which are highlighted in the SERPs as featured snippets. Both the text snippet is more extensive than with conventional organic positions, and additional elements such as images or tables are sometimes included:

Featured snippets can be found in the search results if Google assumes a Know Simple search intent: the searcher wants to know something and Google believes that it can deliver the answer directly in the search results. This can also be seen in the CTRs:

Google CTR for featured snippets

The first ranking (with the featured snippet) has a click rate that is 5.3% percentage points below the average value for this position. The website from which the information in the featured snippet is created does not benefit from the featured snippet.

Interestingly, the websites at positions # 2 and # 3 benefit significantly: the second place winner gets almost five additional percentage points compared to the average (15.7% to 20.5%) and the third place site will also get an increase in CTR from 11% to 13.3%.

Google Apps: the extreme version of the featured snippet

When searching with the search intention “Know”, the user wants to expand his knowledge. “Know Simple” is a special case defined by Google – here Google believes it can answer the question directly in the search results and shows a featured snippet. According to a our data, a version of the know-simple search result not officially defined by Google, is even more extreme.

You can see this for translations, dictionaries, weather and many other keyword groups. The result is clearly shown in the distribution of the click rate:

Google CTR for apps in SERPs

The CTR in the first position almost halved and plummeted from 28.5% to only 16.3%. But there is also a first in the data: the second organic position receives more clicks than the first position with this SERP layout: 16.7% of Google users click on # 2 and not on # 1.

Knowledge Panels: only 16% instead of 28% CTR

Google gathers a variety of different content in Knowledge Panels, mostly from the Knowledge Graph (Google’s understanding of things, places, people and more).

While the Knowledge Panel can be found on the desktop on the right of the actual SERPs and thus leads to the pinball pattern measured by Nielsen, it is in the mobile search directly below the search field in the first position. This is shown in the click rates:

Google CTR knowledge panel SERPs

The CTR in the first two organic positions drops significantly compared to the average. Many users appear to find the information they are looking for in the Knowledge Panel – especially on their smartphones, where each time a page is loaded it takes a lot of time.

In the remaining organic positions we see a similar click behaviour as with other SERPs layouts, which also have a strong element at the beginning where more searchers click on these results than on average.

Record for the lowest CTR – keywords with Google Shopping: 13% CTR

Google has to make money and the market demands more of that every quarter. The route to money: Move clicks from the organic area of the search for which Google does not generate any income, into the paid area – because there, payments are done on a per click basis.

The effects on keywords for which Google’s price comparison is shown are clearly visible. The feature on mobile phones in particular is much more present and space-consuming than normal ads.

Google shopping example

Not surprisingly, such a strong graphical integration has a very direct impact on the organic click rate for search queries when it’s shown.

Google CTR SERPs with Google shopping

SERP layouts in which the Google Shopping integration is integrated at the top set the record for lowest organic CTRs: only 13.7% of users click on the first result of the search. The click rates for the other results are also significantly below average.

Google Ads (formerly Google Adwords) is the classic type of advert in the search results. Google uses a bidding process to optimise the order, and its own earnings.

In the past, three ads with different colours have now become four ads that only experts can distinguish from organic results. This can also be seen in the CTRs of organic results:

CTR for google ads

The click rate for the first organic position is around 10 percentage points less than the average values. The remaining click rates on the first results page are also significantly below average.

CTR thieves: pictures, locations, news & recipes

The boxes for images and news are among the cornerstones of universal search features. Along with added features for places / companies as well as the new recipe integration, all have one thing in common: the visitors click less on the remaining organic results if these integrations are found in the SERPs. Since the CTR curves for these integrations all look similar, we have summarised them here:

Google CTR for images in SERPs
Google CTR for local search box
Google CTR for news SERPs
Google CTR for recipes results

But there is also one exception: the video boxes. If these video integrations are included in the search results, more users click on the first organic result than average, while the click rates on the remaining rankings remain roughly the same:

Google CTR for video results

What (and how) we measured

Our goal was to determine current and applicable CTR data for the current search landscape on Google. We look at data for ​​mobile phone usage, since more than half of all searches take place on the smartphone. This proportion continues to increase.

It was also important that we didn’t only determine the general average values. As can be seen in the analyses, these distort the reality: whether almost 50% of users click on the first result as with Sitelinks or only 13% as with the integration of Google Shopping, it makes a massive difference for potential SEO success.

In theory the process is very simple: we take data provided by partners for impressions and clicks from the Google Search Console, combine them with our information on SERP layouts and evaluate the combined results.

Anyone who has worked more deeply with data from the Search Console knows that, in practice, the real data can be different. The mixture of inconsistent data collection, data protection concerns, fear of the anti-competition authorities and other factors means that only a part of the data from Google Search Console, after an intensive cleanup, is really usable. That alone is enough content for your a separate blog post…

We have combined the cleansed data from the Search Console with our information on SERP layouts. We focused on the most common layouts. In SISTRIX we evaluate over 50 different boxes and integrations, but here we have focused on the most important types. We have also restricted ourselves to “single-variety” results, so we only took values ​​where the feature appears with the organic results. We have values ​​for combinations and mixtures, but that would go beyond the scope of this article.

Conclusion

Search volume, as the sole metric for evaluating potential clicks, has had its day. As can be clearly seen in the analyses, the SERP layout of the keyword must also be included in the evaluation – only the combination of search volume and SERP layout results in a realistic number of potential visitors.

Google knows how to direct the flow of visitors. The unmistakable direction: either to a paid click out of the platform (Ads & Shopping) or by keeping the user on the platform and meeting the need for information directly through Google (Featured Snippets, Knowledge Panels, Google Apps).

The relevance of the search intention continues to increase: The users search intention determines the SERP layout, and the SERP layout determines how many potential clicks an organic result can get for that keyword.

In the future, we will also see increasing relevance for “On-SERP-SEO“, i.e. an optimisation of content in the boxes and integrations such as the Knowledge Panel, the Local-Box and numerous other SERP features.

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Comments
Avatar Yan   
14. July 2020, 15:46

Interesting for the featured snippet one, where the 2nd & 3rd positions actually get an increase.

No explanation as to why in the article but my guess is that possibly some people think that the FS may be an ad so they skip it totally and go to 2nd result.

Avatar Hector   
14. July 2020, 18:06

Sure Seach Volume has had it’s day but the fact of the matter is that Position 1 is and always will be the most attractive of all positions available.

Avatar Paul Andre de Vera   
14. July 2020, 22:09

Awesome research! I will be sharing this on my SEO video show on YouTube live this Friday. Thanks for this Johannes!

Plus de 25% des utilisateurs cliquent sur le premier résultat de recherche Google - Tech Tribune France   
15. July 2020, 02:55

[…] Pour un aperçu complet de l’impact de chaque mise en page SERP de Google sur le CTR, consultez l’étude complète ici. […]

Avatar Y   
15. July 2020, 08:04

Wow, a fascinating study, thanks.
Couple of questions about the data. Did I understand correctly that this is mobile only?
Also, the CTR data is coming from Google Search Console and the presence of SERP features such as sitelinks comes from Sisrix tracking – how do you account for the fact that many features do not always appear.
I am particularly thinking about sitelinks which showed a meaningful increase in CTR to P1 but can sometimes not consistently appear.

Avatar Nino Knetemann   
15. July 2020, 11:04

Hello Johannes,

thank you for your effort and publishing of your findings. It was very interesting how the click-behaviour changes based on the SERP layout. You not only have to compete with your normal competition, even Google will be more involved, which makes SEO indeed more complex, but also very exciting.

I know you only gathered data from the mobile SERPs, but how do you think the data changes when you would look on Desktop? I ask because people in B2B search more frequently on a Desktop Computer.

Have a great day,
Nino Knetemann

Google: Più del 25% degli Utenti Clicca il Primo Risultato di Ricerca - Notizie.Business   
15. July 2020, 16:52

[…] risultato organico delle ricerche Google ha una percentuale di clic media del 28,5%, secondo uno studio recentemente […]

Google: Più del 25% degli Utenti Clicca sul Primo Risultato di Ricerca   
15. July 2020, 16:53

[…] risultato organico delle ricerche Google ha una percentuale di clic media del 28,5%, secondo uno studio recentemente […]

Avatar Kumar   
15. July 2020, 18:43

Hello, thank you for your research.

I think you missed top stories as they take 90% of CTR.

Avatar hashtag-amazing   
15. July 2020, 23:30

very nice blog, enjoyed the read

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16. July 2020, 05:02

[…] ※引用元:Why (almost) everything you knew about Google CTR is no longer valid – SISTRIX […]

Avatar David Schönfeld   
16. July 2020, 11:23

Fantastic study with very interesting insights. Thanks for sharing, Johannes!

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Avatar Luvstuss   
16. July 2020, 12:10

Hi! Thank you for such comprehensive research. However, I have a question. Does this survey consider the zero clicks? Or do we need to halve the CTR?

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[…] raporu buradan […]

Avatar Steven townes   
16. July 2020, 17:31

Great blog Awesome information

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[…] If you’d like to read the full report about Google SERP’s impact on click-through rates click here. […]

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18. July 2020, 21:48

[…] Why (almost) everything you knew about Google CTR is no longer valid […]

Avatar Amardeep Yadav   
20. July 2020, 07:13

Great blog, If we add organic results, sitelinks, knowledge graph, and shopping results for the website as one then an average position for Rank #1 will be countable.

We should focus on all the elements of the SERPs like Sitelinks, knowledge graphs, and others. Google Search Console also shows the data for knowledge graphs results data so you can compare it with the generic search results.

Avatar Dmitry   
20. July 2020, 08:50

Thanks for the research! Very interesting data.

I wish you measured the CTR in SERPs with Top X products block with reviews too. They’re very common for product-related searches

Steve Paine Steve Paine   
20. July 2020, 11:59

Thanks for the feedback Dmitry. I’m quite sure this won’t be the last time we do this study so we’ll take that into consideration for next time.

Avatar Gary @ Mid-Columbia Insurance   
22. July 2020, 22:47

Have been trying to get Featured Snippet but this makes me 2nd guess myself.
Sure the CTR is less for the FS#1 than if not FS, but it is still better than coming in #2.

So, if I am at #1 — don’t work for the snippet unless someone else has it would be the best course of action.

Avatar Peter   
28. July 2020, 01:56

Very nice study! That sitelinks perform better than other queries might also be caused by the fact that these are many times shown for branded searches. Do you also have data about other forms of rich snippets?

Steve Paine Steve Paine   
31. July 2020, 13:02

Hi Peter. Thanks! We track around 14 versions of Rich Snippets in the Toolbox but in order to keep the study manageable, we haven’t evaluated each sub-type.
All the features we track in the Toolbox are listed here. https://www.sistrix.de/support/serps (Sorry, only in German todau. We’ll have that in English very soon.)

Avatar Rajan   
10. August 2020, 13:52

Best article thanks for sharing with us