Organic Click-Thru Rates Tumbling; Only 52% Click On Page One, Study Suggests

Only 52% of Google users click on an organic search result found on page one, and only 26% of Bing users do the same. Those stats are from A Tale of Two Studies: Establishing Google & BING Click-Through Rates, a new report from search agency Slingshot SEO. And they’re substantially lower than several prior CTR studies.

CTR-Curve-Google-vs-Bing-SlingshotSEO

According to Slingshot’s research, a number one ranking on Google gets about an 18% click-thru rate and the number two organic listing gets about 10% CTR. Both of those are about double the CTRs of comparable organic listings on Bing — 9.66% and 5.51%, respectively.

Slingshot measured click-thrus on both search engines for 624 non-branded keywords between January and July of this year. The company identified a selection of keywords that showed stable rankings for 91 of its clients, which include large retailers and other enterprise-level clients.

This is the latest in a handful of attempts at measuring click-thru rates in organic search listings, and might be the most debated — largely because the numbers in Slingshot’s study are dramatically lower than previous CTR studies.

History Of CTR Studies

AOL Data, 2006

The first real chance that search marketers had to examine click-thru rates on organic search results came after AOL released 20 million search queries made by more than a half-million users in 2006.

aol-search-data

Based on that data, a number one ranking was worth about 42% of clicks, a number two was worth about 12% and ranking third was worth about 8.5% CTR. The 42% CTR for being number one is dramatically higher than the Slingshot study’s figures, but the CTR for lower positions are fairly similar.

The AOL data showed that the top 10 search results combined to get just less than 90% of all clicks — substantially higher than Slingshot’s 52% for Google and 26% for Bing.

Enquiro, 2007

In 2007, Enquiro (now known as Mediative) did a small CTR study that focused on the B2B market. The study is referenced about halfway down this blog post. Enquiro’s CTR figures were lower than the AOL data suggested a year earlier.

enquiro-study

Enquiro’s data showed number one rankings getting about 25% of clicks, with CTR dropping to about 11% and 8% for the second and third positions, respectively. Overall, Enquiro’s study showed page one getting about 73% CTR.

In its blog post from last year, Enquiro goes on to say that it has “conducted additional research which suggests that the CTR is most likely around 26% for top organic, 12.68% for position two and 8.89% for third organic spot.”

Chitika, May 2010

About a year-and-a-half ago, the online ad network Chitika published its own study of organic CTRs from Google. Chitika examined Google traffic — 8.2 million impressions — coming into its network of advertiser sites and organized that traffic based on Google placement.

chitika-ctr

The Chitika data shows the top three search results combining for almost 63% CTR, with the entire top ten broken down like this:

  1. 34.35%
  2. 16.96%
  3. 11.42%
  4. 7.73%
  5. 6.19%
  6. 5.05%
  7. 4.02%
  8. 3.47%
  9. 2.85%
  10. 2.71%

Chitika’s study credited page one of Google’s search results with a total CTR of almost 95 percent.

Optify, December 2010

Earlier this year, Optify published its results from a December 2010 study of Google CTRs covering both B2C and B2B websites.

optify-ctr

Optify’s study showed a 36.4% CTR for the number one result in Google, followed by 12.5% and 9.5% for the second and third spots, respectively. Again, the top spot has a much higher CTR than in the Slingshot study, but other positions aren’t dramatically different.

Optify’s overall CTR for page one is about 89%, much higher than what Slingshot found for both Google and Bing.

Are CTRs Dropping? Why?

The search results page has changed dramatically since 2006 when AOL’s search data became public. In May 2007, Google launched Universal Search, which added news results, images, videos, local business listings with maps and a variety of other content types beyond the traditional 10 blue links. Last year, Google added Instant Search, a feature that changed the search results page while users typed in the search box.

Both of those, along with countless other features/tools, have changed the way in which searchers interact with search results. (Think about the amount of queries that have instant answers and don’t even require a click.)

When Bing launched in 2009, its search results page was anything but typical, too. Bing organized search results into categories and showed a lot more than 10 links on page one. It also shows Related Searches and Search History links above the fold, giving users several click options outside of the actual search results. Bing’s web page previews — that Google has since copied — also mean that searchers can sometimes get the info they want without having to click on the search result.

Slingshot’s study aimed to measure the impact of new search results on CTR, but it “failed to prove that there are significant differences in user behavior regarding blended versus non-blended results.”

slingshot-blended-ctr

Slingshot’s conclusion: “The effect of blended results on user behavior remains to be seen.”

Yes, the search results page has changed. Yes, raw search numbers are going up. It could be that any CTR study will produce results that are unique to the keywords/industries that the study covers — i.e., if Slingshot had studied non-retail and non-enterprise keywords, CTRs might be quite different.

Ultimately, there’s no easy explanation for why click-thru rates are so much lower in this study than in past attempts to measure organic CTR.

The full report is available on Slingshot SEO’s website. Name and email address are required for the download.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Google: Web Search | Microsoft: Bing | Stats: Search Behavior | Top News

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About The Author: is Editor-In-Chief of Search Engine Land. His news career includes time spent in TV, radio, and print journalism. His web career continues to include a small number of SEO and social media consulting clients, as well as regular speaking engagements at marketing events around the U.S. He recently launched a site dedicated to Google Glass called Glass Almanac and also blogs at Small Business Search Marketing. Matt can be found on Twitter at @MattMcGee and/or on Google Plus. You can read Matt's disclosures on his personal blog.

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  • http://bit.ly/a9JY7e Dennis Brennan

    I’m curious to see a comparison during same time frame of PPC rates. Is my opinion that as Ad’s have become relevant, searchers are confident in getting what they want when clicking on such Ad’s.

  • http://webdesignfromscratch.com/ benhunt

    I just did a quick test on my own top 10 search terms on http://www.webdesignfromscratch.com. I compared the Google Adwords Tool traffic estimate (phrase-matched) against Webmaster Tools’ average position, and the resulting visits from Analytics.

    I’ve put the results on a Google doc:
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0AhzyfIuE3XpXdDh2d3VtaDZVbmJmdU9rUzlsWE9QT3c&hl=en_US

    This supports the idea that CTRs are lower than we had previously all been telling each other.

    My highest is 72%, but that’s for the name of my site.

    Other than that, I don’t get above 15.25%, and that’s at an average position of 5.

  • http://www.bowlerhat.co.uk marcusmiller

    The blended results are not leaving much room for the organic results and if you then factor in the number of Google properties finding there way into the organic results then there are not many clicks left for the average Joe business owner.

    Organic is obviously still very important but more than ever you need a more comprehensive strategy including other elements that are relevant to your business (paid search, local search, youtube etc).

  • http://www.coconutheadphones.com/ tedives

    These are percentages*of those that clicked* but you need to also take into account those that clicked elsewhere (paid search) and also those that *never clicked* (i.e. abandoned searches), if you’re trying to use these curves for any real-world activity such as estimating opportunity.

    See my recent posting detailing this, with a spreadsheet on how to calculate organic opportunity using Adwords Keyword Research tool data, with these types of curves, but corrected for these problems:
    http://www.coconutheadphones.com/estimating-organic-search-opportunity-part-2-of-2/

  • TimmyTime

    “Ad’s have become relevant, searchers are confident in getting what they want when clicking on such Ad’s.”

    Ads have become more similar to normal search results, that is and it’s working great (for Google especially.)

    This ‘study’ seems like link bait to me, unless they release and explain everything. No email and name to get it either. The results also can be skewed by the number of ads among many other things.

    But all search engines must be devastated to learn that their #1 results or the most relevant one is not getting clicks. Riiiiiiight?

  • http://www.DrMAS.co.uk Dr M Ambler-Shattock

    Search Engine users will ultimately dictate how they wish to locate the desired results through their actions and this can change as information delivery methods evolve. This will also alter according to the nature of what the user seeks to locate or learn.

    There will be the user’s preferred method and a series of options they drill down through until the desired result is found. Users will of course experiment to try out different methods and establish new favoured techniques to apply.

    The multivariate methods of obtaining the desired results simply dilutes the data and engaging a more fully encompasing multiple media mix approach becomes evermore important.

  • http://www.VerticalMeasures.com Arnie K

    The Optify study actually showed different CTRs based on the search phrases. Short (or head) phrase had a much lower CTR compared to long-tail phrases. I think this is a critical piece of information needed in a study like this.

  • MarkHansen

    Makes sense – One of the engines just reported a 28% increase in ad clicks didn’t they? Assuming search is a sum-zero game, that would mean 28% of the organic clicks went away.

  • F.F.

    Higher CTR of ads. More ads being clicked on.

    Ad sitelink extensions, anyone?

  • http://www.homecliq.com Zakary Venturo

    One reason that stands out to me is meta descriptions being designed to catch a user’s attention. SEO has become much more sophisticated, along with keen focus on all the elements on the page, and the that little description under a link has more power than one might think.

    Users have probably become aware of this subconsciously, and have gained the habit of reading through the descriptions to make their choice.

    There is also the fact that a user finds what they want in the description itself and then click on nothing.

  • http://www.noporkpies.com Adam Lee

    I’ve always felt that the industry you are in will have an impact on the CTR. For instance a consumer industry search term might have more impact on the brand so will have different CTR depending on what ranks in the top 3.

    We published a similar study comparing 4 of the stated case studies as a guest post on Econsultancy and over on blog http://www.noporkpies.com/blog/ind-news/google-natural-search-click-through-rates-and-forecasting/

  • http://www.clickfire.com/ Emory Rowland

    I wish that universal search could be switched off so we test universal vs non-universal SERP click-thrus.

  • http://www.iacquire.com Joe Griffin

    Matt – good article. AOL’s CTR’s have a big caveat – they state that approx. 1/2 of all searches have no click at all, so you can basically cut those numbers in half. Additionally, is this study a measurement of “steady” rankings where they are analyzing total traffic for that keywords divided by Google’s exact match search traffic estimate?

    I find that Google’s data can be suspect…it’s unfortunate but true. Still, that might be the only way to pull this data.

  • http://www.vovia.com Cameron Prockiw

    You can’t compare the CTR’s of these studies–doing so is comparing apples and oranges as the “CTR’s” were calculated in different ways. In the Slingshot study, they specifically address this…
    “It is important to note that in Optify’s curve, a click-through rate is defined as
    follows: Given that a user clicks on a top 20 organic ranking, the click-through
    rate is the percentage of users that clicked on each position. Slingshot SEO
    defines its curve as follows: For any given search, the click-through rate is the
    percentage of users that click on each position in the top 10 organic results.
    The key difference here is the given information in each calculation. Optify’s
    top 20 curve sums to 100% and shows the CTR curve only considering those
    who clicked on a top 20 organic result.”

    So basically, the Optify reported CTR based on Organic traffic only (ignoring paid clicks, etc.) while the Slingshot study reported true CTR. As a result, there is no way to tell if CTR’s have decreased, increased, or remained consistent.

  • http://www.iBackpackerTravel.com I.S.

    I think it could be for a number of reasons, there isn’t much mention of the second page here, a study of the second page CTR’s would reveal a lot, and then it could be put down to users clicking on the ads.

    I often search for results with local keywords in them, and find myself clicking through to the second page to get rid of those annoying low quality local results taking most of the first page, it’s beyond belief why Google would have that.

  • http://roshanjoshi.com.np Roshan Joshi

    one thing not clear from report is although lesser people are clicking on first page, what about the other pages? are the clickthrough rates declining for the whole search process or is it due to the fact that many first page results are insufficient to users, possibly due to say over optimized results for average contents.

  • http://www.vovia.com Cameron Prockiw

    It’s not clear that click through rates are decreasing at all. Comparing these studies is flawed as they calculated CTR in different ways.

    This article should be amended as it’s giving people the wrong idea.

  • shaunio

    Was Google showing paid ads at the top of the page during the period in question in the AOL data?

    If not, and having since added them to the search results page, surely one could reasonably conclude that the google ads now take a fairly large chunk of AOL’s 1st and 2nd place – 42% and 12% respectively.

    The more recent figures seem very plausible if this is the case.

    Organic 1 & 2 positioned results are now actually position 3 and 4 in a way, especially with users getting more and more confident with ads.

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