Everyone knows that appearing in SERPs is nothing if no one clicks on your links. Your goal in ranking well in SERPs is, after all, getting users to click on your link and visit your site. With that in mind, it naturally follows that click-through rates (CTR) is one of the metrics that SEOs closely follow.
Slingshot SEO recently conducted a study on the click-through rates for the top 10 positions in Google’s SERPs. If you look at the CTR curve they generated (shown below), it is clear that being on the top 3 in Google’s SERPs pays. In fact, as the study points out, “An interesting implication of our CTR curve is that for any given SERP, the percentage of users who click on an organic result in the top 10 is roughly 52%.” This means that if your link is already on the second page and beyond, then you can be pretty sure that your CTR will be truly low. After all, the other 48% of users that do not click on the top 10 links do not automatically go and click on the links on the second or third page. As Casey Szluc broke down in his blog post, aside from those that decide to go to page 2 the other 48% is also made up of users who either click on Adwords paid results, type in another search term, choose to look at News/Places/Images/Shopping/Videos Results, or bounce (quit search altogether). Since all these factors were not taken into account in the study, then we don’t really have any idea how well links beyond the top 10 fare in terms of CTR.
For those that do make it to the top 10 positions though, it is clear that fighting over the top 3 to 4 positions is worth your resources and effort, as the drop in CTR between these positions are drastic. It is only when you get to position 5 onwards that the drop in CTR from position to position becomes less than 1%. Of course, when you’re talking about millions of queries a day even a difference of 0.5% is a huge number, so that jostling for the next position is still important. However, the point is simply that the advantage of being on top cannot be over emphasised. So if you’ve just been bumped from the whatever position your page previously held, do not be surprised at the significant dip in traffic.
Another important issue the study, and SEOmoz commenters, raised is the effect of the paid links on the CTR of the organic results. If you think about it, since paid ads are displayed on top of the number one organic link result, you can only imagine what the CTR for those links are. However, since the study did not get any data for paid results, then we can’t really draw any definite conclusions on that one. Still, common sense dictates that if you have enough money to spend on paid results, you definitely should.
To learn more, visit Slingshot SEO’s website and dowload the whitepaper (Mission ImposSERPble: Establishing Google Click-Through Rates) for free.