Does Improving CTR Affect Organic SEO Rankings?

First, let me say with confidence that no one understands how Google’s ranking system works. We all know there is a slew of strategies to boost your organic SEO rankings, as well as a slew of variables that might influence rankings – and the algorithm takes all of them into consideration. However, we don’t know what those elements are or how much weight each one has in Google’s overall ranking system.

We also know that those elements, whatever they are, vary with time. Factors that appeared important a few years ago seem to be of little consequence now, and vice versa.

As a result, it’s critical to recognize that SEO is more art than science by definition. SEO professionals (including SerpClix) cannot give promises about what will and will not work, so if you come across one who does, run as far as you can in the other way!

Importance of Click-through Rate in SEO

organic ctr

Before we get into whether increasing your CTR can help you improve your organic rankings, it’s important to note that a website’s click-through rate on the SERPs can be influenced by a variety of factors, and increasing your CTR is a good thing that will benefit you regardless of its impact on rankings.

Why? Because a better CTR equals more site visits! Outside of SerpClix, there are a variety of things you can do to improve CTR, such as improving your Title tags or adding a call-to-action to make your listings stand out, optimizing your website structure to ensure each page is highly matched to target specific (and, ideally, long-tail) keywords, and so on.

Regardless of whether you utilize SerpClix, we suggest assessing your conventional SEO and searching for methods to improve CTR.

However, the issue remains as to whether increasing your SEO click-through rate would assist you to improve your ranks.

This question will be addressed in three ways:

  • What Makes Sense?
  • What Do SEO Experts Think?
  • What Does Google Say?

What Makes Sense?

google traffic

The core of Google’s business is providing high-quality organic search results. They aim to deliver the appropriate results to the appropriate searcher for the appropriate query. And Google is well aware that users are more likely to click on results that are higher in the rankings.

With each drop in ranking, the average click-through rate falls. For longer-tail keyword words, the first search result has by far the largest click-through rate, typically reaching 33% or higher. The second result may fall to 15%, the third to 10%, and so on.

As a result, Google aims to provide you with the best possible result, and Google understands that you are much more likely to click on results that are higher in the rankings.

Assume Google notices that the fourth listing has a CTR of 5% and the fifth listing has a CTR of 10% for a certain search. The lower-ranked listing has a far higher click-through rate than the better-ranked listing, which is the polar opposite of what the rankings would suggest. Isn’t it logical for Google to believe that the 5th result is more popular than the 4th? And, having reached that conclusion, wouldn’t they be more likely to switch those two outcomes so that the one that attracts the most attention gets displayed higher?

What Do the Experts Think?

A few years ago Moz’s Rand Fishkin ran a CTR case study which moved his site from #7 to #1 in less than 3 hours by sending clicks to his organic search results.

google organic traffic

This was a real group of individuals clicking on real buttons. This was the first concrete evidence that click through rate (CTR) might have a significant impact on organic rankings in the SERPs.

Since then, a slew of papers have been written about the importance of CTR in organic rankings. Here are a few examples:

What Do the Experts Think?

Google does not usually reveal the inner workings of its search ranking algorithm to the general public. However, the following methods make details available to the public:

  • Loose-lipped Google engineers
  • Google’s patent applications
  • Lawsuits against Google

1) For example, in a presentation titled How Google Works: A Ranking Engineer’s Perspective, Rand Fishkin points to data from a Google engineer expressly detailing how Google would utilize click-through data to judge SERP quality.

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2) And here is a Google engineer posting on Quora, saying:

"It's pretty clear that any reasonable search engine would use click data on their own results to feed back into ranking to improve the quality of search results"

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3) Here’s an excerpt from a lawsuit against Google, a copy of which was obtained by the Wall St. Journal, which quotes Google’s former chief of search quality as saying:

"The ranking itself is affected by the click data."

He goes on to say:

"If we discover that, for a particular query, hypothetically, 80 percent of people click on Result No. 2 and only 10 percent click on Result No. 1, after a while we figure out, well, probably Result 2 is the one people want. So we’ll switch it."

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4) And, finally, here is a patent from Google titled “Modifying search result ranking based on implicit user feedback and a model of presentation bias” which says, at one point, the following:

"[…] User reactions to particular search results or search result lists may be gauged, so that results on which users often click will receive a higher ranking."

Conclusion: CTR is an Important SEO Ranking Factor

According to various SEO professionals and what Google’s own engineers have offered or been forced to state in litigation and patents, click-through rate is an essential signal and ranking component for organic search results.

Please Note: There are no guarantees in search engine optimization, ever. There are a variety of elements that might have an impact on search engine results. And, realistically, most websites should concentrate their efforts on standard SEO before considering non-traditional approaches such as SparkCliks. Every SEO campaign has the potential to be risky. Some strategies are unquestionably riskier than others. Because SparkCliks uses actual human clickers rather than mechanical or robotic clickers, we believe our service is significantly less dangerous. However, since Google’s algorithm is unclear and liable to change at any moment, there is a risk associated with this strategy, as with other SEO tactics. Please check our Buyer FAQs for more details.

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