Organic Click Through Rate (CTR): Does It Matter?

Can increasing organic click through rate (CTR) improve your rankings in Google?

In short:


In this post, I’m going to show you 11 ways to increase your click through rate in Google.

Why Does Organic CTR Matter?

In case you haven’t noticed, go into Google Webmasters tools and click “Search Traffic” and then “Search Analytics”. There you will find an absolute goldmine of data showing your site’s performance for hundreds of keywords in the search results. The biggest data point Google emphasizes is the click through rate.

The question is why?

Google is constantly refining its search engine to make sure that it’s showing users the most relevant, valuable, and unique information available. CTR is a way for Google to determine which results for a particular query are valuable (on the surface).

This is exactly what Google says about CTR: “A high CTR is a good indication that users find your ads helpful and relevant.” – Replace “ads” with organic results and the definition is interchangeable.

Of course, this factor is really only going to apply to results within the top 10. But it can definitely be the difference between ranking #10 and ranking in the top 3. Believe it or not, it can actually combat click bait as well. So, if a particular result is getting high CTR but also has high percentage of pogo sticking/bounce rate and low average time on page, then that result will probably be demoted overtime.

1. Keyword Selection

Yes, the first way to increase your organic CTR is to pick the right keywords! Your keywords need to be highly relevant to what you’re selling or producing SEO content for. Here’s what Google says about keywords and CTR: “The more your keywords and ads relate to each other and to your business, the more likely a user is to click on your ad after searching on your keyword phrase.” Simply replace “ads” with organic results and the same rule applies. Read my keyword research article for help on this.

2. Content

Like your keywords, your content also has to be relevant to the search queries. If people are searching for “dog toys”, but your article about “cat toys” is ranking, then your organic CTR will be low. Common sense, I know, but these mistakes do happen. Sometimes accidentally.

3. Title

Creating a captivating title for the SERPs is the best way to increase your CTR. To create a strong title, you need to study the art of copywriting. SEO isn’t just about rankings anymore. If you want to have success now and into the future, you need to have skills in many different areas of marketing and that includes copywriting.

For SEO purposes, you’ll want the keyword in the title, but use the rest of your real estate to create an intriguing title.

There are two important goals you’re trying to achieve with your title/headline: 1) grab the searchers attention and 2) motivate them to click through.

According to John Caples, there are four important qualities that a good headline possesses.

They are:
1. Self-interest: “Men Will Do Anything For A Six-Pack” – Force Factor
2. News: “Wow, LeBron James looks way different tonight” – Yahoo
3. Curiosity: “Trainers Hate Him” – Force Factor
4. Quick, easy way: “9 Places Where You Can Retire In Paradise Cheaply!” – Business Advice Source

Once you’ve tapped into many of the headline starters above, you can also use some other tricks in your title including: symbols (ü$é øƒ $¥mBøl$) and emojis (now supported by WordPress).

4. Description

After you’ve crafted an amazing title, it’s time for you to create a description that’s equally as click-worthy. You have a lot of real estate to work with in a description, so use it wisely. Think of it as if you were writing a sub-headline for a sales page. Explain the biggest benefit of the content, but keep the intrigue high. Obviously take the opportunity to inject LSI keywords in for SEO purposes, but you should really focus on the copy surrounding those keywords.

Here are some great examples:

One important note: do not put your phone number in your description or title. I understand that you’re trying to get direct phone calls, but it will decrease your CTR in the search engines. Having strong organic rankings will produce a greater ROI than getting a few direct calls that will subsequently decrease your rankings because of the low CTR.

5. Call to Action (CTA)

It’s critical that you have a strong CTA in your META description. Just like anything else, you need to push people to take action. “Read now”, “click now”, “when you read this”, etc.

6. URL

If you’re using breadcrumbs, Google will pull this data and put it into the SERPs like so:

This is a small detail, but every element in the SERPs can help boost your CTR.

7. Table of Contents

As I explained in this bonus tip in my article about “Fake Viral Marketing”, a table of contents plugin can increase your CTR in the search results. It’s pretty random when it will show, but when it does it will say “Jump to …insert section…”. This really stands out from the rest of the search results.

8. Rich Snippets

The most common rich snippet you’ll find will be the review stars.

Since authorship is dead, we’re left with these rich snippet options:

  • Restaurants: average review, number of stars, and price range
  • Music albums: lyrics and link to play song
  • People: photos and phone number
  • Businesses: location and customer review
  • Recipes: photos, recipe rating, and time required
  • Video: video image
  • Products: ratings, picture, price
  • Events: event date, location and time
  • Wikipedia: if you have a Wikipedia page, Google will show your brand name in the SERPs.

You have to love the preferential treatment for big brands.

9. Sitelinks

The general consensus is that Google assigns sitelinks to websites it “likes”. Whether this is true or not is up for debate, but it’s definitely a random process. The one factor you do have control over is what sitelinks NOT to show in the SERPs. Go to “Search Appearance”, “Sitelinks” and “Demote” what links you don’t want to show.

Sitelinks almost always show when you search your brand name. However, there are times when they’ll show for specific keyword searches.

Like this:

Basically the only strategy for getting sitelinks is to have a clean and clear navigation, and of course, have a good website!

10. Test

You should constantly be testing your META information to improve CTR. Google’s updated webmaster tools interface has a ton of data that you can leverage. You should track your pages that are ranking well and test out new titles and descriptions. When you make any changes, make sure you annotate inside Google Analytics.

11. Read

Like I said earlier in this article, SEO isn’t just a technical profession. You need be well-versed in a variety of different marketing principles. Evolve or die! I know that’s extreme, but seriously. Read a book or two… or 10 on copywriting and marketing. At the very minimum start with Ca$hvertising.

What are you going to do TODAY to improve your CTR in the SERPs? Let me know in the comment section.

Thanks for reading!

– Gotch

36 thoughts on “Organic Click Through Rate (CTR): Does It Matter?”

  1. Looks so effective, along with keywords weight in the beginning of the title I think “Rich Snippets” will surely boost CTR.

  2. It would be useful to see the date of your post or the comments. I wonder if the articles mentioning using PBN are old or recent.

    Anyway, today I changed the homepage title to say ‘#1 xxx Store in xxx’. I’ll wait some days to see if it boosts CTR.

  3. Thanks, But finally i didn’t understand how can we increase the CTR , and also negative SEO that our competitor maybe do to take down our website.
    This is a really important question for me, that if we can affect SERP by CTR or not.

    • Hi Hamid,

      Thanks for the comment. There’s no point in losing sleep over the possibility of negative SEO. As far as increasing your organic CTR, read the article above ^^^

  4. Hi Nathan,

    Awesome post. Rich snippets really help me increase CTR, in my own experience, but there are still so many factors out there that will help your CTR increase.
    You really did a great job on this post. Keep it up! You got a tweet from me.

  5. Hi. Good article as ever. I’m not sure about your connect under Test “When you make any changes, make sure you annotate inside Google Analytics.”

  6. There are many factors in SEO which are very useful to increase CTR. I have tried Rich Snippets for my website and got good result.
    Thanks for this informative post.

  7. Gotch,

    Thanks for the post. I always read them when they hit my email, even if it seems like it’s something I’ve read a million times. Good thing I did this evening. I am building a real estate website for a client, and did put their number in the meta description! Going to edit that now!!

    Keep them coming!

  8. i have one question.about seo

    how many time can i use h1 , h2 and h3 tags in my post ? i heard you can use only 1 tag in a single post ..

    • Hi Tamoor,

      As many as you want! Just don’t stuff keywords and make it unreadable. From a readability perspective, you should use a lot of headers because that’s all most people will read. Don’t worry, the Google police won’t come after you for using more than one header tag 😛

  9. In the meta description – How much weight do you put into using keywords in the description comparing to make the most intrigue text so people actually click – You wrote using lsi keywords but would you rather sell the text or go for keywords?

    • Hi Morten,

      You should definitely try to keep the keywords in the description, but also try to provoke a click through rate at the same time through well-crafted copy writing.

  10. Good post, but…
    I don’t think CTR will be key factor for rankings (at least not everywhere). Google understands that some industries may lack of CTR, as companies are hunting for clients, not for a person which want to get a knowledge. It means that for example forums, blogs, specialized pages etc. should be much higher in rankings, which is not good for user if he is not looking for informations but specified offers. It isn’t only case which exists in small industries, there is huge amount of cases like that and Google knows it. Of course the best for company is to get CTR and clients, which is as you said art of copywritting.

    • Hi Mark,

      Thank you for the comment. However, if Google didn’t value organic CTR then they wouldn’t bother to track and provide us the data inside Google Webmaster Tools. It’s important. There are well over 200 different major ranking factors, and organic CTR is small piece of the pie. It won’t determine your initial rankings, but it can certainly help to keep your website at the top once it IS ranking.

  11. Nice work as per usual, i have noticed in googl webmasters that my CTR was mainly in correlation to my rank rise and rank drops across most posts.
    I also noticed my CTR was much better on mobile devices (8%) compared to desktop (1.20%) not sure why.

    • Hi John,

      Yeah, it’s definitely an important factor! As far as mobile vs. desktop traffic – it’s really hard to say. It may have to do with searcher intent

    • I think that CTR alone is not a major ranking signal by itself. BUT when combined with other metrics (like bounce rate) then it should be a critical one (not only a major one). After all it’s all about giving to users the best experience. So when a lot of people click on a search result (high CTR) and at the same time stay longer at a given page/website (high ASD) without bouncing (low bounce rate) then this website should be considered trustworthy and be promoted in SERPs.

      • George,

        Thanks for you comment and good thoughts. You’re absolutely right, no factor by itself can rank a site in Google since there are hundreds of factors they’re using to determine rankings.

  12. Great post. what are your tips for getting rich snippets on each page? I’ve tried the wordpress plugni, but it didn’t seem to work well

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