A new study underlines the importance of organic search rankings, and the value of a page one ranking. 

Put simply, If you're not on page one of Google's search results, you're almost nowhere, with pages two and three picking up just 5.59% of the clicks. 

The study also has some interesting insights into the effect of ads on CTR, and differences between mobile and desktop search. 

CTR for organic search

The chart below shows the overall CTR for desktop. As we can see, number one slot grabs the lion's share of clicks (31.24%), with diminishing returns for the rest. 

CTR for organic desktop searches in Google for July 2014: 

Compared to some previous studies, such this from Optfiy in 2011, the gap between positions one and two seems to be narrowing.

Optify found that number one slot grabbed 36.4% of clicks, with 12.5% for second. Now, according to this study, second place is worth 14.04%. 

This could be a natural variation due to slightly different methodology between studies, or perhaps the increased insertion of universal search results, larger ads and even Google's own comparison results have reduced the prominence of the number one slot. 

Mobile CTR

You might expect that, given the reduced screen space on mobile devices may make the top few positions even more valuable then on desktop, but the results don't show this. 

Mobile and desktop click through rates are more or less the same for page one, but the stats suggest that mobile users are more likely to click results on the second and third pages. 

Impact of ads on CTR

When we look at search results showing ads, we can see an impact, with the top slot's CTR almost halved. 

We can see that, especially on some of the more competitive search terms, organic results are less visible than they used to be. 

There's also the 'ads in sheeps clothing' that are becoming more common now, and may well draw clicks from organic results. 

For example, PPC ads like this on a brand search mimic the look of organic results: 

How the number of ads can affect CTR

This was a surprising result. While two or three top PPC ads in results have the effect of reducing CTR for the top organic position, results with just one ad increase it. 

It could be that seeing just one ad with the yellow ad symbol may make the organic result seem more natural and trustworthy, and would therefore lift CTR above that of results showing no ads, while the addition of a further one or two ads reduces this effect by driving organic results down the page, or forcing users to scroll and see other results. 

Or it could just be an anomaly. Perhaps there are far fewer results showing just one ad. Indeed, it was hard to find an example of this. 

Branded and non-branded search

Of course, branded search queries result in higher CTR, as you would expect. 

The results will match the user's search intention, and the expanded site links, as in the Net A Porter example above mean that they dominate results. 

What's interesting here is how much lower non-branded CTR is than the average. (26% compared to 31%), showing that branded searchers are raising the average. 

For SEOs, this means they may need to be more conservative in their estimates of potential search traffic from the top positions. 

For more on this, you can download the full study here. (Form-flling required).   

Graham Charlton

Published 16 October, 2014 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is editor in chief at SaleCycle, and former editor at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin.

2566 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (11)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Avatar-blank-50x50

Maya Frost

Great stats, interesting to see the one-ad effect on organic CTR compared to the multi-ad.
As a brand marketer I was hoping to see an answer to the question that's plagued us for years:
Should we bid on brand terms?
What happens to our organic results if, like the Net-a-Porter example, we bid on our brand term? Especially so if there are others who bid on our terms.
In the past we've tried a period of not bidding on our brand terms, but it's hard to compare organic clicks uplift like-for-like.
Any advice there?

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Maya - it seems to me that the main reason for the 'sitelinks ads' as Net a Porter has, is to dominate the page and prevent others bidding on brand terms.

You would imagine that, if you remove such ads and no-one else bids, then organic CTR would improve, though of course (not provided) prevents you measuring this.

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Béate Vervaecke

How does one get an ad in the sponsored box? Through Google+?

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Dave Harris, Job Title at SMD

Graham,

effect is a noun,
(to) affect is a verb.

Please amend your copy accordingly.

almost 4 years ago

Ben Davis

Ben Davis, Editor at EconsultancyStaff

@Steve

I can't see where Graham got it wrong?

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Dave Harris, Job Title at SMD

It was in this headline:
How the number of ads can affect CTR

Looks like it's been fixed now.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Beate you mean the car insurance comparison box? That's though Google Compare. Click on the i and you can see information for advertisers.

almost 4 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at SaleCycle

@Steve the headline is as it was when published. That's a correct use of the word in that context.

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Michael Dorey

@mdorey26- I think the ads with the yellow "ad" symbols are more of a "red" flag to consumers. People will scroll past them to the other search results...in turn clicking on those. As a consumer myself, I don't like clicking on a link that advertises the obvious by saying:
"Hey this is an ad, click on me and I will try to get you to spend some of your money"...I would rather make a conscious decision and click on another link besides the big, obvious, yellow sign that reads "AD"...
Does that make sense?

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

melisa

Does it helpful?am confuse

almost 4 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Gail Mullard

@mdorey26 I think the yellow Ad signs were put there to comply with regulations from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and it has been argued that the bright yellow colour of the box is to attract users to these ads.

Worth bearing in mind that lots of users don't actually appreciate any of the listings are ads - especially as @Graham points out the one off ads with sitelinks are very like organic listings.

almost 4 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.