The #1 Marketing Platform® for Small Business

Marketing 360® Blog

How to Analyze and Improve Organic Search Click-Through Rates (CTR)

| Content Marketing & SEO

What is a target goal for click-through rates (CTR) for your organic search results? Is there an effective way to influence CTR? Does a high CTR improve your rankings? Let’s get some answers.

CTR is the percentage in which someone clicks on your listing divided by the number of impressions it gets.

For example, if your listing showed your page in the SERP (search engine result page) 100 times and you got 5 clicks through to your page, your CTR would be 5%.

Seems simple enough. But this tends to be a confusing metric.

Consider this data on a marketing360.com page about how to market a cleaning service, which shows the top impressions:


This reveals the first problem with the CTR metric. Three of the four keyword terms shown are not target keywords for the page, but they generate impressions nonetheless.

On the other hand, here are two keyword phrases that are a strong match for the content of the page:

Looking much better at over 10% CTR.

Notice something else. The top term for impressions (cleaning business) has an average ranking of 79.91. The top term for CTR (how to advertise my cleaning business) has an average ranking of 3.59.

Interpret the Data

This example shows that when it comes to organic CTR, you have to interpret the data.

First, note that you may get impressions for keywords that you not only don’t rank well for but that you’re not even targeting. You can’t control this with organic impressions, so to get a statistically significant number you must exclude those terms.

Second, it’s clear that CTR and ranking are interdependent metrics. The data is indisputable that if you rank higher for a given term, you’ll have higher CTR.

This means you must be careful interpreting the data you get on organic CTR. Only analyze relevant terms, and keep in mind that unless you rank on page one, it’s likely your CTR will be close to zero.

Important Point: Impressions are calculated differently for organic search traffic and paid search traffic from Google Ads.

On paid search, an impression is only counted when your ad shows on a page the user viewed. If your ad displays on page 2 of results but the user doesn’t go to page 2, it doesn’t count as an impression.

On organic, Google counts impressions any time your website shows up in results, including images. So if you’re on page 9, an impression is counted even though nobody will see it. If you have images that get a lot of impressions, your CTR will be lower.

What’s a Good Target CTR?

There is no definitive answer to this question because of the variables we’ve outlined. You might have a keyword with a CTR of less than 1% that still delivers excellent results overall. Likewise, you might have a term that’s over 10% that you’d like to see do better.

For paid search, the longtime baseline has been 2%. If you’re over 2% it’s considered at the performance minimum. Generally on paid search, anything over 10% is considered exceptional.

You can apply these baselines to organic terms when (1) they are a target keyword that’s relevant to your page content and (2) your rank on page one.

The higher you rank on the page, the higher you should expect your CTR to be.

Tips for Analyzing and Increasing Organic CTR

  • Exclusivity and branding. If the term is exclusive to your offer or it’s a branded term, expect higher CTR.
  • Total impressions. The more impressions you get, the lower your CTR is likely to be, regardless of ranking.
  • Emotional appeal. If your ad copy and snippet have a strong emotional appeal, they’ll tend to get higher CTR.
  • Message match. You’ll get higher CTR when the keyword query, SERP headline/snippet, and landing page content all match (these things also contribute to higher ranking).
  • Call to action. A call to action that entices people to visit your website will improve CTR.
  • Specific offer. If applicable, make an offer in the headline and/or snippet.
  • Focus on benefits. Use your SERP content to describe the value/benefit a person will get by visiting your webpage.

The goal of our Natural Listing Ads® service is to optimize your listings for rankings and CTR. Learn more about these services.

CTR and Ranking

One question that comes up often is: Does CTR impact ranking?

That begs another question: If your CTR is low because it doesn’t rank, how will you get it to rank when that low CTR is weighing it down?

Google states that CTR is not a direct factor in organic rankings, and they surely realize that pages that are off page one of results (but are still getting impressions) will have virtually no traffic.

However, if your term is on page one, CTR is a metric to watch, because it is a user metric that indicates relevance for the search query.

If you’re ranking for a target search query and your CTR is low, Google may interpret this as low relevancy and drop your ranking.

If your CTR is lower than 2% with a high number of impressions or lower than 10% for the term you think you should dominate (like a branded term), follow the tips above to improve your CTR.

Access Plans & Pricing Now

(Plans starting at $0/mo)

(Access code sent via text)

No credit card required

Already have an access code?