The Latest on Click-Through Rate by SERP Position

Position numbers 1, 2 and 3 on rectangular colored backgrounds.
For years, the old saying was that Page 2 of the search results was the best place to hide a dead body. And that’s still true today. Almost 100% of clicks happen on Page 1. And the number of clicks you get depends on what position you rank on that page.

So the bottom line is that you need to be on Page 1 — we know that. And to get the most clicks, you need to consider what position you appear there. In this article, I’ll share data and make some observations about click-through rates and search engine results page (SERP) position.

Before We Dive In

The way people search is complex. Do they only look at the first result? Not always. Searchers are getting savvier, and many will look at several results before choosing the one they want.

Not only that, but the search engine results pages change for every query. That means you’re not just getting “10 blue links,” you’re getting potentially a whole host of different SERP features. And each combination of SERP features can impact the average click-through rates.

At the end of the day, we cannot simply rely on the data. We have to work to understand why the data is the way it is.

While the numbers may seem straightforward, as SEOs especially, we need to reverse engineer from the outcome — why did they click on that result? What factors led to that result being in the No. 1 position in the first place?

This is where we can begin to derive value from this type of data.

Click-Through Rates by SERP Position

Even though the data varies slightly from study to study, all the latest research on click-through rates by SERP position shows the same thing: the first organic listing on the page gets the most clicks, and each position after shows a decline.

The largest discrepancy across studies is just how much the click-through rate changes per SERP position. And that is because the companies that put out this data each used different methodologies.

For example, data from Ignite Visibility shows the following data for the first three positions:

  • Position 1 – 43.32%
  • Position 2 – 37.36%
  • Position 3 – 29.90%

On the other hand, a Sistrix study analyzed billions of search results and found the following overall click data:

  • Position 1 – 28.5%
  • Position 2 – 15.7%
  • Position 3 – 11%

And, Backlinko showed the following data instead:

  • Position 1 – 31.73%
  • Position 2 – 25.71%
  • Position 3 – 18.66%
Graph showing comparison of data on click-through rates by SERP position.
Comparison of data on click-through rates by SERP position

As the comparison chart shows, the percentage differences between the studies don’t seem to change the overall trend. The fact is, every study shows that, in general, the higher up you are in the search results, the better chance you have of a click.

But SERPs Change … Does CTR Change Too?

The general averages are interesting, but we have to consider the fact that each SERP is different with different features. How does that impact the click-through rate?

Sistrix wanted to answer that question, too, so their research looks closer at how different SERPs produce different click-through rates. With the majority of traffic coming from mobile devices these days, Sistrix looked only at mobile behavior, not desktop.

As a reminder, here was the average click-through rates they found, and then they compared this data to the click-through rates of the different types of SERPs:

  • Position 1 – 28.5%
  • Position 2 – 15.7%
  • Position 3 – 11%

SERPs with Just the 10 Blue Links

When a SERP layout had just the 10 blue links and no other distracting elements, the percentage of organic clicks was much higher for the first two positions compared to SERPs in general, though clicks were about the same as the average for the third result:

  • Position 1 – 34.2%
  • Position 2 – 17.1%
  • Position 3 – 11.4%

Google click-through rate organic ranking graph.

SERPs with Featured Snippets

Featured snippets are often referred to as “position zero” because they show up above all the other organic links, as pictured here:
Screenshot of SERP for the query 'what is a featured snippet.'
Sistrix found that when there is a featured snippet on the SERP, it costs the first organic result about five percentage points in click-through rate. They go on to explain:

The first ranking (with the featured snippet) has a click rate that is 5.3% percentage points below the average value for this position. The website from which the information in the featured snippet is created does not benefit from the featured snippet.

Interestingly, the websites at positions # 2 and # 3 benefit significantly: the second place winner gets almost five additional percentage points compared to the average (15.7% to 20.5%) and the third place site will also get an increase in CTR from 11% to 13.3%.

Graph showing Google click-through rate featured snippets rankings.
If your target keyword tends to serve up a featured snippet in the search result, it’s worth trying to optimize your webpage for that featured snippet so you can get more clicks. For more, see: 3 Surprising On-Page SEO Techniques You May Not Know About

SERPs with Direct Answers

When a SERP featured a direct answer from Google (think calculators, measurement conversions, weather, etc.), average click-through rates for the first organic position and subsequent positions plummeted.

Sistrix explains:

The CTR in the first position almost halved and plummeted from 28.5% to only 16.3%. But there is also a first in the data: the second organic position receives more clicks than the first position with this SERP layout: 16.7% of Google users click on # 2 and not on # 1.

Graph showing Google click-through rate Google apps rankings.

SERPs with Other Universal Results

When SERPs had other features like news, images, recipes, and other types of universal search results, the organic blue links did not get as many clicks as they would if no other distracting elements were on the page.

Here are a couple of examples:

Organic Listings with News Results
Google click-through rate news rankings graph.
Organic Listings with Recipe Results
Graph showing Google organic listings with recipe results.
Interestingly, SERPs with videos increased the click-through rate of the first organic listing by quite a bit. One possible explanation for that is covered in the next section.

Organic Listings with Video Results
Google organic listings with video results graph.

How Searchers Look at the SERPs

The data shows that the first position gets the most clicks. But does that mean that searchers only look at the first result before clicking? Data from Ignite Visibility suggests no.

In its report on searcher intent, Ignite Visibility reported the following:

When asked how many search results they read before clicking a link, 17.4% said they looked at three results, followed by 15.6% who only read the first result, 14.2% who read five, 14% who read 10+, 13.4% who read four, 8.4% who read two, and 7.6% who read six.

Data chart from SEO and Intent 2020 study by Ignite Visibility.
Data chart from SEO and Intent 2020 study by Ignite Visibility

This is in line with other (older) research that showed desktop users will scan the results from the top left and down to find the result they want to click.

The study also found that despite all the SERP features available to searchers, the majority (55.1%) preferred written content, followed by 29.1% that preferred images, 13.8% preferred videos, and 2% preferred audio content.

This might explain why, as outlined in the previous section, the first organic “blue link” listing actually gets more clicks when video is in the SERP for that search.

Takeaways: What Does This All Mean?

Overwhelmingly, the results that show up the highest on the SERP get the most attention. That we know. But what does it mean from a practical standpoint?

In terms of SEO, you need to first have a whole-SERP strategy. That means understanding what types of features show up for your target keywords on the SERP, and then optimizing for them.

Of course, you might have to contend with things like direct answers in your SERPs, which make it really difficult to compete. For these situations, I recommend reading: How to Adapt SEO in a Zero-Click World.

Once you know who is in the top spot for your keyword, that’s when you start analyzing the competition. Remember, your goal is to be least imperfect compared to the competition. So use the right tools to better understand what they are getting right (and wrong). See: How to Do Competitor Research for SEO.

If you need the help of an expert team to meet your website’s SEO goals, contact us for a free consultation today.

FAQ: How do search engine click-through rates relate to SERP positions and user behavior?

Understanding the relationship between search engine click-through rates (CTR), SERP positions, and user behavior is paramount. These elements converge to shape the success of your online presence, and grasping their dynamics can significantly enhance your SEO strategy.

Search engine click-through rates (CTR) are a pivotal metric, reflecting the effectiveness of your website’s positioning in search results. The symbiotic relationship between CTR and SERP positions is undeniable – higher positions inherently attract more clicks. Research consistently confirms that the first organic listing captures the lion’s share of clicks, with subsequent positions experiencing a decline in CTR.

User behavior on SERPs is a multifaceted phenomenon. Contrary to the notion that users solely focus on the first result, studies reveal a more nuanced approach. Savvy searchers often scan multiple results before clicking, reflecting a more discerning attitude. The rise of SERP features further complicates the landscape. These features, like featured snippets and direct answers, alter user interaction and CTR patterns.

Featured snippets, often called “position zero,” significantly impact CTR. While they provide immediate answers, they can decrease the CTR of the first organic result. However, positions 2 and 3 experience CTR boosts, illustrating the complexity of user preferences. Additionally, SERPs with direct answers, such as calculators or weather forecasts, sharply decline CTR for organic positions.

Optimizing SERP features requires a multifaceted approach. Understanding the type of feature prevalent for your target keyword is crucial. Embrace strategies to secure featured snippets or craft content that aligns with direct answer queries. A holistic SERP strategy empowers you to adapt to evolving user behavior and capitalize on varied CTR patterns.

Mastering the interplay between search engine click-through rates, SERP positions, and user behavior is pivotal in today’s competitive digital landscape. By deciphering user preferences, adapting to SERP feature dynamics, and optimizing your content strategy, you can unlock the full potential of your online visibility.

Step-by-Step Procedure: How to Understand the Connection between CTR, SERP Positions, and User Behavior

  1. Begin by grasping the significance of search engine click-through rates (CTR) and their impact on online visibility.
  2. Explore the concept of SERP positions and their correlation with CTR, highlighting the influence of higher positions on attracting clicks.
  3. Delve into user behavior on search engine results pages (SERPs), considering the multi-result scanning pattern and the rise of SERP features.
  4. Examine the impact of featured snippets on CTR, acknowledging both their benefits and potential drawbacks.
  5. Understand the consequences of direct answers in SERPs, particularly how they alter CTR patterns for organic positions.
  6. Recognize the need for a holistic SERP strategy that accounts for diverse user behavior and evolving SERP feature dynamics.
  7. Determine the prevalent SERP feature for your target keyword, whether it’s a featured snippet, direct answer, or other element.
  8. Devise content optimization strategies to secure featured snippets, enhancing your chances of attracting clicks.
  9. Craft content that aligns with direct answer queries, positioning your website as a valuable source of immediate information.
  10. Leverage tools and analytics to monitor CTR variations across different SERP positions and feature scenarios.
  11. Continuously adapt your content strategy based on emerging user preferences and changing SERP dynamics.
  12. Prioritize user engagement and relevance in your content, as these factors influence CTR and overall user satisfaction.
  13. Monitor industry trends and algorithm updates, as they can shape SERP feature prevalence and user behavior.
  14. Collaborate with SEO experts and peers to share insights and stay updated on best practices.
  15. Regularly analyze and refine your content based on user interactions to improve CTR and SERP performance.
  16. Monitor competitor strategies and CTR patterns to identify potential areas for improvement in your strategy.
  17. Experiment with different approaches, such as creating visually appealing content or incorporating multimedia elements.
  18. Utilize data-driven insights to fine-tune your SEO strategy, maximizing click-through rates and SERP positioning.
  19. Continuously iterate and optimize your content based on user feedback and emerging trends.
  20. Embrace a proactive mindset, recognizing that understanding and adapting to the intricate connection between CTR, SERP positions, and user behavior is an ongoing journey toward online success.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn or through the BruceClay.com website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

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2 Replies to “The Latest on Click-Through Rate by SERP Position”

Hello Bruce ,

I really appreciate you hard work, it was really excellent update you share here with us.

Thanks, please please keep share valuable and informative with us like this!!

Hi Team,

Is it possible to illustrate the tips for ranking in Google’s Featured Snippets. Please share here.

Thank you in advance!

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