Is Click-Through Rate Really an Important Ranking Factor?

Click-through rate has long been considered an important part of how a website ranks in search results. If you’re not familiar with this concept yet, let us briefly explain it to you: click-through rate measures, in essence, the number of people who click a link against the total number of people who had the opportunity to do so. If your website is listed in SERPs, and only 400 out of 1,000 people view it, your click-through rate is 40 %.But is click-through rate a ranking factor? It used to be one back in 2014, but no longer in 2015 and this 2016. In this article, we’ll be explaining how click-through rate has changed, and why Google doesn’t use it to decide the ranking of a website.

The Idea

If you think about it, it makes sense for Google to rank higher those websites that have a high click-through rate. If they have a high click-through rate, it means many users visit their pages from organic search — and we know that, the more organic traffic a site gets, the higher it ranks in SERPs.

Let’s take an example: go ahead and Google “charm jewellery.” Charm Diamonds Centres ranks on the first position, followed by Pandora, Chamillia, and Tiffany. If lots and lots of people are like, “Wow, Chamillia’s charm bracelets are just lovely,” and the queries for “Chamillia charm jewellery” increase, Google may simply think, “Because more and more people are searching for this particular brand, I should move the website up in the rankings.”

The average CTR for position three is about 11 %, but Google is seeing that Chamillia has a CTR of 30 %, which is significantly higher. At this point, Google would think, “You know what? This website seems to be very interesting, more interesting than the average result on that position, so we should really move them up.

Everything sounds pretty logical — but is this what really happens? 

Evidence Proves Us Wrong

Several experiments have been conducted by SEO experts as well as those from Digital search group Australiato determine if CTR really is a ranking factor. According to SearchMetrics, CTR may correlate with higher rankings, but by no means should it be considered a ranking factor.

BartoszGóralewicz, SEO expert and contributor at Search Engine Land, has recently conducted an experiment that suggests CTR is not a ranking factor. During the experiment, Góralewicz sent fake Google organic traffic to his website using bots, and shortly after this his CTR for his targeted keyword (“negative SEO”) increased 78.3 % per cent. During March 10 and March 15, Google searches (that is, fake searches) went up by 592 %.

At the end of the experiment, organic traffic reached 21,000 Google organic visits per day. The CTR was 86.39 % — but the site’s position didn’t change. It remained on the second position, just like before the experiment. Although the CTR increased substantially, there was no change in its search engine rankings.

The conclusion? Even if you can boost your site’s CTR, this won’t bring you closer to the top of SERPs.

Real Searches Change Rankings

It’s true — Rand Fishkin from Moz states: “[…] when it's done with real searchers and enough of them to have an impact, you can kind of observe this.”

Meaning, if you don’t use any bots to boost CTR, and all the traffic comes from real people, there’s a chance Google may factor in your click-through rate. Just as in the example above with Chamillia, if enough users look up the brand and not just a generic keyword, Google may decide it’s worth ranking them higher — and that’s what they’ll do.

If you’re in need of a reliable digital marketing agency that can boost your CTR naturally, and give you guidance on how to keep your marketing strategy and company goals aligned, head to Digital Search Group’s site.

Google Confirms CTR is NOT a Ranking Factor

Perhaps the most interesting part of all is Google confirming that CTR isn’t a ranking factor. At SMX Advanced, Gary Illyes from Google stated: “Google uses clicks made in the search results in two different ways — for evaluation and for experimentation — but not for ranking.”

It’s been speculated that Google has chosen not to make click-through rate part of their algorithm to “fix” ranking factors that are easy to manipulate. With so many CTR software and services available out there, it would have been much easier for webmasters to generate fake traffic, increase their click-through rate, and get ranked at the top of search results.

What This Means...

Don't focus on CTR to rank higher. Instead, make sure your site is optimised correctly, and that your marketing strategy is aligned with your company goals to drive more traffic and outshine competition.

Author: Louise Cruise has been in the web development industry for more than 5 years. She has worked with different web development companies giving her enough experience to create websites that match her clients’ business needs and preferences.