Tag Archives: click-through rate


Understanding click-through rate (CTR) in the context of search satisfaction

Click-through rate (CTR) has historically been an important factor in gauging the quality of results in information retrieval tasks.

In SEO, there has long been a notion that Google uses a metric called Time-To-Long-Click (TTLC), first noted in 2013 by AJ Kohn in this wonderful article.

Since then, Google has released several research papers that elaborate on the complexity of measuring search quality due to their evolving nature.

Most notably:

  • Direct Answers
  • Positional bias
  • Expanding ad results
  • SERP features
  • SERP layout variations

All of these factors can have varying effects on how users interact and click (or don’t click) on Google results for a query.  Google no doubt has various click models that set out expectations for how users should click based on search type and position.

This can be helpful in understanding outlier results either above or below the curve to help Google do a better job with satisfaction for all searches.

Search satisfaction

The reason this is important is that it can help us reframe our understanding of search result clicks away from CTR and TTLC and towards an understanding of search satisfaction.

Our web pages are just a potential part of the entire experience for users. Google released a publication in 2016 called Incorporating Clicks, Attention and Satisfaction into a Search Engine Result Page Evaluation Model.

This paper, along with accompanying code, attempts to use clicks, user attention, and satisfaction to distinguish how well the results performed for the user and to predict user action (which is a required feature in any click model).

The paper goes on to elaborate that the type of searches this model is useful for is long-tail informational searches, because “while a small number of head queries represent a big part of a search engine’s traffic, all modern search engines can answer these queries quite well.” (Citation)

Generally, the model looks at:

  • Attention: A model that looks at rank, serp item type, and the element’s location on the page in conjunction with click, mouse movement and satisfaction labels.
  • Clicks: A click probability model which takes into account SERP position and the knowledge that a result must have been seen to have been clicked.
  • Satisfaction: A model that uses search quality ratings along with user interaction with the various search elements to define the overall utility to the user of the page.

Are clicks really needed?

The most interesting aspect of  this research is the concept that a search result does not actually need to receive a click to be useful.

Users may receive their answer from the search results and not require clicking through to a result, although the paper mentioned that, “while looking at the reasons specified by the raters we found out that 42% of the raters who said that they would click through on a SERP, indicated that their goal was ‘to confirm information already present in the summary.’” (Citation)

Another interesting (and obvious) takeaway across multiple research papers, is the importance of quality raters’ data in the training of models to predict search satisfaction.

None of this should be taken to assume that there is a direct impact on how clicks, attention, or other user-generated metrics affect search results. There have been a number of SEO tests with mixed results that tried to prove click impact on ranking.

At most there seems to be a temporary lift, if any at all. What this would suggest is that, being an evaluation metric, this type of model could be used in the training of internal systems which predict the ideal position of search results.

Click models

Aleksandr Chuklin, a Software Engineer at Google Research Europe and expert in Information Retrieval, published a paper and accompanying website in 2015 that evaluates various click models for web search.

The paper is interesting because it looks at the various models and underlines their various strengths and weaknesses. A few things of interest:

Models can:

  • Look at all results as equal.
  • Look at only results that would have been reviewed (top to bottom).
  • Look at multi-click single session instances.
  • Look at “perseverance” after a click (TTLC).
  • Look at the distance between current click and the last clicked document to predict user SERP browsing.

In addition, this gives some intuition into the fact that click models can be very helpful to Google beyond search satisfaction, by helping them understand the type of search.

Navigational queries are the most common queries in Google and click models can be used to determine navigational as opposed to informational and transactional queries. The click-through rate for these queries is more predictable than the latter two.

Wrapping up

Understanding click models and how Google uses them to evaluate the quality of search results can help us, as SEOs, understand variations in CTR when reviewing Google Search Console and Search Analytics data.

We often see that brand terms have a CTR of sixty to seventy percent (navigational), and that some results (that we may be ranking well for) have lower than expected clicks. Paul Shapiro looked into this in 2017 in a post that provided a metric (Modified z-score) for outliers in CTR as reported in Google Search Console.

Along with tools like this, it is important to understand more globally that Google has come a long way since ten blue links, and that many things have an impact on clicks, rather than just a compelling title tag.

Having established the importance of search satisfaction to Google, is there anything that SEOs can do to optimize for it?

  • Be aware that investigating whether CTR directly affects search is probably a rabbit hole: even if it did, the impact would more than likely be on longer tail non-transactional searches.
  • Google wants to give their users a great experience. Your listing is just a part of that – so make sure you add to the experience.
  • Make sure you understand the Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines. How your site is designed, written, and developed can strongly affect how Google judges your expertise, authority, and trust.

JR Oakes is the Director of Technical SEO at Adapt Partners.


How creating relevant experiences can boost your clicks on local search ads

We all know by now that mobile has had a tremendous impact on our lives as consumers and as marketers.

What we are still getting our collective heads around is what this change means for us as marketers.

Consumers have different expectations of the information they want when they search for “running shoes” at 9am from their desktop at work, versus “running shoes” at 6pm on their iPhone two miles away from a store. We as marketers needs to consider these expectations and deliver uniquely for them.

I wanted to take a look at some of the data across various AdWords accounts and understand how search campaigns are performing by desktop and mobile and different distances from the physical store location the search is coming from.

The insights align with what you might expect, but probably don’t align with how you are managing your campaigns – yet.

How distance impacts CTR, CPC and click percentage in local search advertising

Let’s first start with click-through rate (CTR) by distance. This metric might be the biggest variance and potentially most obvious when you stop and think about it. It stands to reason that CTR would be higher the closer a consumer is to the physical location.

However, what I didn’t expect was how much higher and how much larger the variance is for mobile compared with desktop. Our data shows that within one mile of a store, mobile CTRs are 2.5 times higher than desktop CTRs. The implications of this are logical, but really indicate a desire to go in-store. Once you get outside the first mile, the CTRs drop to be just one percentage point higher than desktop.

Next, let’s take a look at cost per click (CPC) by device.

Here we see a very interesting trend that aligns with the concept behind quality score. We see that CPCs are their lowest for mobile within one mile of a store. After understanding that the CTRs were 2.5 times higher on mobile versus desktop, one can assume that the relevancy rate is helping to earn these lower CPCs.

The trend here is the opposite based on device. CPCs are going up for mobile each distance further from the location vs. desktop which is seeing a steady decrease the further away. I think the desktop reduction speaks to the geo-targeting that occurs and reduces competition since fewer brands would enter the auction.

How creating relevant experiences can boost your clicks on local search ads

Lastly, I thought that the trends surrounding percentage of clicks by device and distance were very interesting.

Although cumulative, the amount of traffic that Google is able to gather less than one mile from a physical location is still much smaller than the traffic more than 15 miles away. So it make sense that there is still a larger percentage for mobile devices versus desktop at a close range, given the relevancy factor for those consumers as well as the advertisers themselves.

How creating relevant experiences can boost your clicks on local search ads

Relevancy: The name of the game

Ultimately, that is what I think this game is all about – relevancy. Here are three tips that you can take away from these findings, and use to create more relevant marketing for your consumers.

Relevant experiences

We know as consumers ourselves that we expect relevant experiences. We expect the opening hours of the store to be correct, we expect landing pages on mobile to be mobile responsive, and so on.

As advertisers, given the tools that we have available including customer match (now available with phone number and address as well), and various extensions, we have a lot more opportunities to increase relevancy for consumers.

This data just validates those relevancy expectations. Now it is on us as marketers to ensure we take advantage of these tools to give customers what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

Understand your customers’ interactions with your business

What does this data look like for your business? What are the specific insights for you? Should you be bidding higher for consumers closer to your location?

Should your landing page focus on calls to action bringing consumers in-store, if that search is during store hours and they are less than one mile from your location? What is your specific data saying?

What CRM data can be used to augment this data?

The more you know about your customer base, the more you can use that information to create a better experience and a more loyal customer. How are you using your CRM data to understand where specific consumers interact, target them or cross-sell?

There are so many pieces of data that can be cut up to give an advantage to your search program. What needs to be a focus for many is to better understand how that data relates to your customers’ expectations and not yours.

For example, many paid search managers want a conversion to occur online, so the measurement and ROI story can be as strong as possible. However, the downside to that is it serves your own interests and potentially not the customer’s.

I think this data is a great indicator of how to tie consumer behavior to experience, and I firmly believe that the more we can do this as an industry, the better off we’ll be.


How will Google’s new ‘Ad’ label impact marketers?

Google started testing a new ‘Ad’ label in January this year, and late last week it was confirmed that this will now be rolled out globally.

This white label with green text and a green outline will replace the green label that was launched in June 2016.

The instant reaction to this is that the new labels fit in quite seamlessly with the rest of the paid placement, perhaps creating less of a contrast between them and their organic counterparts.

So why has Google made the change now, what impact will it have have, and will users even notice the change?

The official line on this update is that Google wants to streamline the number of colors on its results pages, particularly on mobile devices. A Google spokesperson revealed:

“After experimenting with a new search ad label with a green outline, we’ve decided to roll it out. The new ad label is more legible and continues to make our results page easier to read for our users with clear indication of our ad labeling.”

How will Google’s new ‘Ad’ label impact marketers?

Additionally, they claimed that “the color change had no bearing on consumers’ ability to distinguish ads from organic listings on the page.”

So why make the change at all?

First of all, these changes never occur in a vacuum. This is just an indication of a wider trend and should be viewed in the context of the removal of right-hand side ads, expanded text ads, and the consistent drive towards a ‘mobile-first’ approach.

Add in the growth of ad blockers, intensifying competition in the search industry (with both Facebook and Pinterest upping their efforts), and the constant pressure on Google to grow its revenues, and the reasons for moving to a less noticeable ‘Ad’ label become apparent.

We should also beware the source of this information. Google may say it has had no impact in testing, but that seems a convenient line for a company that is close to obsessive in its desire to attract more paid clicks through attention to the minutiae.

Google is famed – sometimes ridiculed – for this constant tinkering, but it does work.

Their highly-publicized ‘50 shades of blue’ experiment was seen by some as a step too far, but Marissa Meyer made sure to state that it drove an extra $200m in ad revenue. Even at a company of Google’s size, those figures talk.

How will Google’s new ‘Ad’ label impact marketers?

It is also worth remembering where we have come from with these ‘Ad’ labels. People can have short memories – a fact that such frequent adjustments take advantage of – and this latest change makes sense when viewed at a higher level.

Google’s ‘Ad’ labels have gone from garishly overbearing to their latest camouflage iteration in the course of just two years:

How will Google’s new ‘Ad’ label impact marketers?

The change from yellow to green in mid-2016 was reported to have a positive impact for paid search CTR, and few will doubt that last week’s move was led by exactly the same motive.

But is this just a myopic attempt to gain clicks (and the accompanying revenue) in the short term? Or is there more at play here?

For many in the organic search industry, this will just be another step in the inexorable march towards paid search domination of results pages.

How will Google’s new ‘Ad’ label impact marketers?

One assumption at the heart of Google’s latest update is that users simply want to get to the result that answers their query, whether a brand has paid for their click or not. Giving more space to paid placements and a never-ending stream of new products to make these ads more attractive undoubtedly gives prominence to sponsored listings.

But, the counter-argument goes, people prefer organic listings. They know an ad when they see it and will go out of their way to avoid it.


However, one of the reasons this has held sway in the past is that paid search landing pages have at times been of lower quality or of lesser relevance to the query than organic listings. Brands are willing to pay their way to the top, while that right has to be earned in SEO. The quality of the search results in each camp reflected this.

Which brings us to the growing impact of content marketing and user experience signals in SEO. These factors are essential for any successful SEO strategy and they touch all aspects of a brand’s digital footprint – including paid search.

All that effort site owners have put into creating ‘great content’ to improve their SEO rankings plays directly into the hands of AdWords. If Google can convince brands that the best way to get this new content in front of people is to pay for that right, they will do so. The same great content ends up in front of consumers, so everyone wins. Brands still get the traffic (at a higher price), users get the result they want, and Google makes more money.

Someone has to lose, though, and SEO traffic seems most likely to assume this position.

How will Google’s new ‘Ad’ label impact marketers?

A diminished SEO landscape would be to the detriment of user experience, though, and no monopoly (even one as seemingly immovable as Google) has a divine right to market ownership. Higher CTR for paid listings will have to go hand-in-hand with a better user experience if this pitfall is to be avoided. If the quality of results starts to dip, alternative search engines do exist.

Another argument is that perhaps the role of paid search is starting to change. The AdWords business model is beautifully crafted for a direct response strategy, but it has its limits when it comes to brand marketing. As brand budgets start to move into the digital space, it would make sense to have a less obvious ‘Ad’ label if Google wants to encourage advertisers to spend this budget on AdWords.

As always, there is much room for speculation, even if the central thrust behind this move seems to be an intended increase in paid search revenues.

One thing is for sure, though: we will be keeping a very close eye on CTR for both paid and organic listings over the upcoming days and weeks to see how this plays out.

Test points to likely influence of click-through rate on search rankings

Columnist Brian Patterson shares the results of a click-through rate test performed on one of the test websites he maintains.

The post Test points to likely influence of click-through rate on search rankings appeared first on Search Engine Land.

Please visit Search Engine Land for the full article.

Branded vs Non-Branded Organic CTRs on Desktop, Mobile [INFOGRAPHIC] by @puriprashant

We analyzed 160k keywords across 400 websites to collate this data.

The post Branded vs Non-Branded Organic CTRs on Desktop, Mobile [INFOGRAPHIC] by @puriprashant appeared first on Search Engine Journal.

9 Tricks For Local Businesses To Increase Their SERP Click-Through Rate

Sometimes you can move the needle — and dramatically — outside of obsessing and laboring over obtaining improving rankings in search engines. Simply increasing your click-through rates on the organic rankings you’ve already achieved can increase sales and revenue, even without…

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