Click-through Rates and Their Effect on Organic Rankings

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(Last Updated On: February 12, 2018)

When you’re analyzing your website’s performance, you pay keen attention to your click-through rates (CTR). Many people think that the CTR affects their site’s organic rankings amongst the SERPs. You might think that if you have higher organic CTR, you’ll rank higher in search results. However, research indicates otherwise. According to some, CTR has virtually no effect on ranking.

What is CTR?

Essentially, CTR is the number of people who actually click on your link against the number of people who had the opportunity but didn’t. The calculation is simple. You need to take the number of times your link appears on a SERP; of that, if about 35% of the audience click on your link, your CTR is 35%.

The Relationship between CTR and Organic Rankings on SERPs

We know that your ranking affects your CTR. If you rank high on the search results page, people are more likely to click on your link. For example, if you’re on the #1 or #2 position on the SERP, the person searching that particular keyword is more likely to go to your website. So, your rank increases your CTR.

However, to date, many people assumed that your CTR affected your rank too. While there are several articles out there explaining this, no one could conclusively prove that CTR was, in fact, a factor in the rankings.

The Experiment

Bartosz Góralewicz, an International SEO consultant decided to conduct an experiment to find out just how much the CTR affected the rankings.

  • He chose one domain name that was already visible in the rankings and had a steady position. For this, the name was #2 in the SERPs for one keyword.
  • After that, he waited for the right time to begin, waiting until new backlinks stopped coming to his website.
  • He set up CTR bots, proxies, tools, servers, and proxy scrapers to create fake traffic for his domain name.
  • He chose 7 keywords to test and sent his bots to the domain name he selected, creating fake traffic. He kept at it until he could get enough data for quantifiable results.

The Results

Surprisingly, although there was a sharp rise in the CTR, the position of the domain name on the SERP remained the same. It didn’t move up or drop down due to the increase in traffic. In fact, after the experiment, his CTR remained flat for a while before dropping, without affecting his organic rankings at all.

This finding was reinforced when Google admitted that they used CTR for the purpose of evaluation and experimentation, but never to determine the rankings.

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