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.
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).