The Relationship Between Click-Through Rates and SEO

Click Through Rate

Click through rates have been a buzz in the optimisation sphere and understanding their relationship to SEO will help you know if this is a metric worth your attention. Before embarking on this journey, there are a few things that need to be put in perspective.

While considering the relationship of SEO and Click Through Rate (CTR) it will be assumed that all the clicks are organic and from real visitors. It is understandable that this is a metric that can be easily abused which is why most people are skeptical about keeping tabs on it.

What is Click Through Rate (CTR)?

Organic click-through rate is the number of people that click through to your links out of the number of people who saw it. If you extrapolate this from the SEO perspective, that would be the number of people who clicked through your page versus how many saw the page, but did not take any action.

Ideally, CTR is a vital element in other campaigns like PPC, on page web design and email. Because of its likelihood of being abused, it has been continuously ignored when measuring its impact on SEO, but that does not mean it is useless. As you are going to see from the graph below, CTR is a fundamental metric if it is organic and can show you just how effective your SEO is.

The Relationship Between Click-Through Rates and SEO 1

It is important to remember that the goal of implementing different SEO strategies is to make your site is visible but more importantly, for people to click through the page. Otherwise, your effort would be useless.

How Click Through Rate and SEO are Related

The most basic relationship between CTR and SEO in Singapore is that CTR is a part of SEO. In the graph below, it is clear that organic CTR is a clear indication of your how your SEO strategy is fairing and how ranking can affect the chances of getting people to click on your page.

The Relationship Between Click-Through Rates and SEO 2

From this data, it is clear to see that pages that ranked first have a higher chance of being clicked through and as the rank goes further down, the chances of clicks reduces. The drop off is significant for pages that are ranked 3rd, 4th, 5th and so forth. Once you go to the second page and beyond, the click-through rate is almost non- existent.

The main question remains, can click-through rate be used as a ranking factor? It is a question that is worth considering. Because it is possible to have a low ranking site that is having a high click-through rate which would pose the question if Google would consider raising the rank of such a website.

Even though the answer to that question is not certain, CTR is essential for two reasons. The first is that it helps to improve organic rankings and secondly if users are clicking on your page more, that means you are getting more traffic.

How can you improve your organic CTR?

Just like SEO, improving your CTR is going to be a broad topic with a multi-pronged approach. You will need to optimise your title, optimise your Meta descriptions and optimise the URLs.

When making any of these adjustments, you need to consider making them more readable by human beings and remove any punctuation characters that are not required. You might also want to consider having a second look at your keywords.

Even though search engines might not pay particular attention to CTR with regards to SEO, you might want to take it a little more seriously. This is because the goal of implementing SEO is to improve traffic to your site and CTR helps to keep track of that, especially when your page is highly ranked.

Does CTR Impact SEO?

Ever wondered if there a connection between your organic Click-through-Rate (CTR) and your page rankings?

This is one topic that’s been widely debated in this spheres, and which we plan to address in great detail in this section of the post.

A simple search should reveal what people think about the influence of CTR on search engine rankings – it turns out, a great majority think it’s nothing more than a myth that’s persisted for far much longer, with a lot of substance matter to debunk.

Some are even convinced that Google and other search engines have a way to track end-user data, and it’s among the few things they use to rank pages.

There are two conflicting statements from some of the leading authority voices in the industry. And they each have a solid argument to lay on the table in support of their viewpoints.

Then again, Google has the Ultimate Answer.

To keep it short, if there’s a page that’s ranked in position six in the SERPs. But the page is getting an insane number of clicks compared to the rest of the pages in the SERPs; Google may decide to rank that page higher — considering tons of users are more interested in that particular page.

This is the most logical thing for Google to do.

But they must have a way to measure it if at all they plan to integrate it as part of their ranking elements.

Now that we’ve established that marketers need to be optimising their sites for ranks and click-through’s, let’s find out how to identify if your page is suffering due to a poor CTR, and the strategies you can implement to improve its organic CTR and rank it high again in the SERPs.

By definition, Click-through-rate is nothing but a percentage measure of the number of searchers that clicked through your search link to view the content of your page compared to the total number of people who saw the search results.

To calculate it, here’s a formula to use:

CTR = Number of clicks/number of impressions

It’s to be however noted that CTR can vary greatly for the same page, all depending on the search query that’s providing the impression.

Organic CTR Benchmark

Numerous studies focusing on how to measure and benchmark organic click-through-rates have been conducted, with each employing a different methodology. But from all the options you have, the Advanced Web Ranking tool (link: is widely considered the best open source data for understanding organic CTR benchmark.

How to Measure Your Own Organic CTR

You’re just NOT measuring your CTR; you’re benchmarking with the CTRs of the other page links in the SERPs. So you might want to use the data of the websites that you exported from Search Console.

By looking at the performance report from the search console, you’ll be able to assess the CTR performance of each one of your index pages and find out which one among them is under-performing and which one is over-performing. Try this for all the queries that you’re receiving an impression for before reaching to any meaningful conclusion.

Other studies have suggested taking data from both keyword planner and Google Analytics. The only limitation with these data is that the result you receive can be inaccurate, and lacking enough detail for measuring your CTR at a more granular level.

How CTR Impact SEO

It’s simple: website’s whose organic CTRs are higher than the benchmarks for the positions they’re holding are usually rewarded with a much higher position by search engines; whereas those with lower CTRs than what’s expected either remain in their current position or are dropped further down in the SERPs.

Google is yet to make any statement around this. But some clues seem to suggest that this could be the case. Also, a series of independent studies have been conducted to find out if CTR indeed impacts SEO, and the results they got were all in the affirmative.

We can also look at this objectively and find out which reasoning makes more sense:

Come to think about it, Google’s main mission in business is to find the most relevant result for any search query an online user keys into their search bar. In which case, they have so many factors and elements that they use to decide the perceived relevancy of any link in the SERPs.

But what’s the most logical thing to do when there’s a site that’s holding a lower position in the SERPs, but is scooping all the clicks? Goes to show this is the link the bulk of the searchers are interested in, which makes it the most relevant link of all the available options.

The link may be coming short in all the crucial factors that Google uses to determine a page’s relevancy, but the fact that it’s enjoying the most clicks shows that it could be the link that a majority of the searchers are interested in.

So the most logical thing to do would be to make it easily accessible by propelling it up the search engine ladder. In other words, you have to put it where more searchers can see it.

It’s even better because it goes to show that it’s the searchers that are dictating what’s relevant and what’s NOT, as opposed to some pre-programmed Google bot.

Also, someone could be spending much of their effort optimising their site for a wrong keyword. So the site ends up appearing favourable to search engines for that particular query, but it’s NOT relevant to what an end user is actually interested in.

On our side, we have first-hand evidence of an improved click-through rate working wonders for our organic rankings, even where we didn’t conduct extra SEO activities in getting the page ranked.

This leaves us with the conclusion that CTR is far more important than most people would have us believe.

On the other hand, Google is interested in quality content. They want to rank sites high based on their relevancy — but at the same time, they want to grow and encourage an information base. It’s for this reason that they’d prefer keeping mime in all this, instead of encouraging masses to go slow on their SEO activities and focus more on their CTR.

Why You Should Improve Your Organic CTR

Now that we’ve established that your CRT is closely correlated with your search ranking, we can conclusively say that by improving your organic CTR you’ll also be improving your traffic volumes by propelling your site up the search engine ranks.

Other than that, what are some other reasons that might push you to consider working on your CTR?

To make the Most out of Your Lower Position

You can improve your CTR by working on your meta-tags. From your meta title, to meta description, and meta link, everything that appears in the SERPs must be appealing enough to an average user to get them interested enough to want to click through and open the surprise on the other end.

So you want to make sure that you’re doing an exceptional job winning them over. This is particularly the case when you’re sitting at a much lower position and your only chance of survival is sticking out from the rest of the options that are available to the user.

You can start by learning how to optimise your meta tags for clicks, so the bulk of the searchers you’re attracting would be enticed enough to want to check you out, regardless of the position you’re holding in the SERPs.

And if you succeed in the quest, by getting the bulk of these users to click through your links and check you out, Google may take note of that and reward you with a higher ranking in the result pages.

To take Advantage of Long-tail keyword Search behaviour

By focusing on your CTR, you can easily make the most of the long-tail keyword search behaviour. The CTRs for search queries comprising of more or more keywords tend to drop off at a slower rate compared to their short-tail counterparts.

One plausible explanation for all this is that, where searchers are querying in long tail keywords, they don’t just settle for the top results that Google presents to them. Instead, they’ll be digging deeper into the SERPs by opening multiple pages before they can settle on one that piques their interest best.

Searchers are interested in gathering more information. And in doing so, they’ll also be offering lower ranked pages an opportunity to still enjoy impressive click-through-rates.

The takeaway

In this post, we’ve managed to cover the fundamentals of Click-through rates, and their relationship with SEO processes, together with the reasons you should be focusing on improving your CTR so you can start driving even more organic traffic.

So the next thing you might want to learn after this is how to implement optimisation and start driving higher Click through Rates from search results.

For more information regarding click-through rates and SEO in general, feel free to contact MediaOne SEO team today with your query or concerns, and we will be glad to help.

About the Author

Tom Koh

Tom is the CEO and Principal Consultant of MediaOne, a leading digital marketing agency. He has consulted for MNCs like Canon, Maybank, Capitaland, SingTel, ST Engineering, WWF, Cambridge University, as well as Government organisations like Enterprise Singapore, Ministry of Law, National Galleries, NTUC, e2i, SingHealth. His articles are published and referenced in CNA, Straits Times, MoneyFM, Financial Times, Yahoo! Finance, Hubspot, Zendesk, CIO Advisor.


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