What is CTR? Is it a ranking factor? How can you improve yours? Let’s explore.

Here, you’ll find:

  • How to define “clickthrough rate” (CTR)
  • Why you need to analyze your CTR
  • How CTR factors into rankings
  • Expert tips for improving your rate

In digital marketing, it’s all about the click.

Sure, impressions are great and social media follows are awesome, but getting that elusive click on your ad or hyperlink is what starts your target audience member on the buyer’s journey.

So it’s no surprise that clickthrough rate is a metric marketers keep a close eye on. In fact, many of them view CTR as an indication of success or failure. 

In reality, the click-through rate is a significant piece of data that can help analyze your marketing efforts and make timely adjustments as needed.

While the ideal CTR may be different for any given website, improving it is a common marketing goal. Let’s take a closer look at what CTR is all about and how to leverage it in your marketing campaign.

person clicking a mouse

CTR demonstrates how relevant your ads and content are to the audience you’re trying to reach. (Image via Pexels)

What is CTR?

The click-through rate or CTR is the rate of people who go from viewing a link to your website to clicking it. 

CTR can be measured for links that appear on:

  • Pay-per-click or PPC ads
  • The search engine results page (SERP)
  • Social media ads and posts
  • Marketing emails
  • Other pages on your website

The formula is simple:

Number of clicks/number of impressions (views) x 100 = CTR

For example, let’s say 1,000 people viewed your ad and five people clicked on it. 5/1,000 x 100 = 0.5. That means your CTR is 0.5%.

PPC CTR can differ from organic search CTR or social media CTR — and so can your goals for improving them.

Why is CTR important?

CTR demonstrates how relevant your ads and content are to the audience you’re trying to reach. It can help you understand how effectively your campaign content will perform. 

However, a high CTR doesn’t paint the whole picture.

If users are clicking your ads, coming to your website, and bouncing immediately, you may need to beef up your landing pages or adjust metadata.

On the other hand, a low CTR may illuminate a flaw in your campaign. A low rate could be due to:

  • Poor choice of keywords (and negative keywords)
  • Incomplete or sub-par meta descriptions
  • Irrelevant landing pages
  • Unrealistic CTR goals

Generally, a higher CTR means lower cost per click (CPC) and a better return on investment (ROI) to boot.

If you want to analyze your ad’s or content’s relevance as a whole, the best way is to view CTR together with other metrics such as bounce rate and conversion rate.  

Pro tip: Don’t be spooked by a high bounce rate — here’s why that’s not always a bad thing.

two young men doing calculations

While Google has stated that CTR isn’t an official ranking factor, some SEO experts remain skeptical. (Image via Unsplash)

What is a good CTR?

The fact is, there’s no such thing as a universally “good” clickthrough rate. Obviously, you want most of the (qualified) people viewing your ad or content to click through. But what qualifies as “good CTR” isn’t one size fits all.

Benchmarks depend on a handful of factors, including:

  • Industry – the average CTR for one industry may be higher than for another, such as the entertainment industry vs. home improvement
  • Ad network – the average CTR for Google Search Network is usually higher than CTR for Google Display Network
  • Marketing channel CTR for email marketing links can be higher than the rate for PPC

You can start by determining your own CTR, then setting goals to increase it. To get a better understanding of what you should aim for, you can check out the average CTRs by industry.

Is CTR a ranking factor?

Since Google isn’t forthcoming about its ranking factors, marketers argue about CTR being one of them. There isn’t a clear answer yet. 

Some marketing experts conducted experiments to figure out whether CTR is a ranking factor and came to different conclusions. And while Google has stated that CTR isn’t an official ranking factor, some SEO experts remain skeptical. 

It makes sense: seeing as how CTR is an out-of-context piece of data, Google isn’t likely to use it too heavily when it comes to ranking websites.

But while CTR doesn’t seem to be a direct ranking factor, it’s still a metric worth monitoring. It allows you to evaluate the relevance of your content and provide a better understanding of the target audience, which in turn helps you climb higher on the SERPs.

How to improve your CTR

Even if it’s not a direct ranking factor, a low CTR could hurt your paid search, social media, email marketing, and SEO efforts. Here are a few expert tips on how to improve it.

  • Review your meta descriptions: A poorly written meta description can prevent searchers from clicking the link, even if your website is on the first page of the SERP. Make sure it’s descriptive, accurate, and eye-catching.
  • Aim for the featured snippet: Optimize your content to appear in the featured snippet. Websites featured in this snippet get an average of 8.6% CTR. If you manage to make it into the snippet and kick your website up to the first spots on the SERPs, your click-through rate could reach 29%.
  • Focus on long-tail keywords: If you use too many broad keywords, your ads could be irrelevant to a large amount of searchers. Try to enhance your keyword game with long-tail keywords — and take advantage of negative keywords.
  • Revisit your ad: A low CTR could signal that your ad’s messaging is too vague or the CTA isn’t compelling. Don’t hesitate to A/B test your ad content, format, and design — a simple photo swap could spike your CTR.
  • Localize your content: If you’re a local business, proper localization is integral to your CTR. Implement local SEO and make sure your Google Business Profile is complete and accurate.
  • Adjust audience targeting: Is it time to revisit your audience targeting? You may find out that you aren’t segmenting your leads properly and trying to appeal to the wrong audience.

While it’s important to monitor your CTR to see how well you’re moving toward your goals, try not to overanalyze. In many cases, a low CTR with a high conversion rate simply means you’re effectively targeting a specific segment of your audience.

Looking for more ways to improve your click-through rate? We’re here to help.

The takeaway

It’s clear that click-through rate is an important metric that can help you analyze and optimize your marketing strategy. 

While an ideal clickthrough rate doesn’t exist, you can set CTR goals for your business based on industry benchmarks and previous campaign metrics.

Clickthrough rate may not be a direct ranking factor, but improving it can usually help achieve higher spots on the SERPs, increase conversions, and decrease your CPC.

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