The Latest on Click-Through Rate by SERP Position
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 around 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 show 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%
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 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%
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:
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%.
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.
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.
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 examples:
Organic Listings with News Results
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 of that is covered in the next section.
Organic Listings with Video Results
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.
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% that preferred videos and 2% that 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.