Capturing data on the click-through rate by ranking position proved to be an interesting exercise, as it showed us how different CTR is between branded and non-branded queries:
As you can see, the CTR for branded queries is far higher than it is for non-branded queries, and the skew toward position 1 is far greater as well. Based on this, we believe that classical viewpoints on how CTR by SERP position works need to be updated. Past studies have not separated brand queries from non-branded queries, and these have significantly been skewed as a result. CTR for the first position for non-branded queries is actually under 20% (19.23%).
Note: Branded queries were identified here as all queries that have sitelinks associated with them.
How Search Features Influence Search Behavior
One of the more remarkable aspects of the data we're sharing here is a detailed look at how search features impact user CTR behavior. Here's a look at the popularity of search features in our data:
Please note that this distribution of search features is not necessarily representative of the search landscape in general. The high density of results with sitelinks (47%) suggests that the queries in our dataset skew toward being navigational. Nonetheless, the large percentage of knowledge graph results, “People Also Ask” boxes, and video carousels are quite interesting.
Because of the high density of results with sitelinks, we were careful to perform our analyses by separating brand versus non-brand behavior, where appropriate. In aggregate, here is a look at the total CTR of the top 10 results:
As you can see, the aggregate CTR for brand queries is quite high, whereas the aggregate CTR for non-branded results is under 38%. Next in our review is the data on how Featured Snippets impact aggregate organic CTR behavior for non-branded queries:
As you can see, there is a marginal increase in overall CTR. For clarity, since the URL for featured snippets also shows up in the top 10 search results, clicks to links within the featured snippets are counted here. Further, this data set shows the results for all results with featured snippets, as compared to all results without featured snippets.
For comparison purposes, we also looked at all queries that showed featured snippets for some, but not all, of the thirty-day period. For these queries, we compared the CTR for those queries on the days when they had featured snippets with the data for which they did not have featured snippets. For these queries, there was virtually no difference in the CTR.
Together, these data points tell us that, in aggregate, featured snippets don't have much impact on CTR. However, this is only a measurement of aggregate behavior. There are many types of featured snippets that provide the complete answer that many users desire, resulting in a significant drop in CTR.
Further, other queries have the opposite effect, with the impact of driving substantially higher CTR to the sites from which the featured snippet was derived. What this means is that Google likely has multiple ways of measuring the impact of featured snippets. In some cases, lower CTR is good, and in other instances, a higher CTR is an indicator of a better result.
What about People Also Ask boxes? Let's take a look:
These seem to lower aggregate CTR. However, unlike featured snippets, these URLs are not in the clickstream data, so it makes sense that the overall CTR is somewhat lower. This tells us that there are definitely a material number of clicks going to the People Also Ask boxes themselves, and an unknown number of clicks going to the web sites listed in them.
The People Also Ask results based on the ranking position are interesting:
Here you see that positions 1 and 2 have notably lower click-through rates than the average of 35.74%, but the remaining positions, 3 through 10, are all higher. Please note that placements of People Ask boxes in position 1 are comparatively rare, and we had only one case of this in our data set.
For the Knowledge Graph results on non-branded queries, we also see that they lower the organic click-through rate for non-branded queries:
Next, let's look at the impact of image carousels on organic CTR behavior:
This data suggests that image carousels increase overall organic CTR on non-branded queries by more than 12%. Note that URLs for image carousel links are tracked in our clickstream data, so this indicates that they are effective in increasing overall CTR. This is even more impressive is when you look at this based on the placement of the image carousel in the search results:
We see a slightly lower CTR when the image carousel is in positions 1 through 3, but a materially higher CTR in positions 4 through 6. It's almost as if the presence of the image carousel increases the CTR to the higher position results because it acts as a divider to the search results page.
Continuing this trend, we see that news carousels also tend to cause a decline in the overall organic click-through results:
Related searches appear to have a dramatic impact on organic CTR as well:
In this case, there seems to be a different mechanism underway. It's likely Google doesn't show related searches where click-through rates are already quite high.
Video carousels also appear to result in a drop in overall organic CTR:
When we look at the data from the point of view of the ranking position of the video carousel, we see that this appears to matter quite a bit in the overall CTR:
Non-Branded CTR by Ranking Position by Market
Let's look at the data split out by market category for non-branded queries:
The auto category had the highest organic CTR, followed by the beauty category. The lowest overall CTR was for retail, with travel showing only a slightly higher CTR.