As we were coming out with a new clickthrough rates analysis format, we thought it would go along pretty well with an updated CTR tool.

Advanced Web Ranking Google Organic CTR tool.

Google Organic CTR tool
Left – Trends menu – CTR evolution for the websites ranked first during the past 12 months;
Right: Year over Year menu – comparison of average CTR by position between different year ranges

When you’re looking at the Google values in the CTR tool, you’ll see two new tabs: “Trends” and “Year over year”. In the first one, you’ll see the CTR evolution for each position of the top 20 over the past up to 12 months. The second one shows a comparison, one year to another of the percentage of organic traffic that Google drives to each website, based on their rankings.

We’re updating the clickthrough rate values monthly, so make sure to bookmark our free Google CTR tool.

To avoid temporary spikes and drops in CTR values in a month-by-month analysis, we switched to looking at quarterly data for this report. This helps remove some of the “noise” and better observe trends.

With our new methodology, we calculated the CTR averages for each position for Q1 2020 (January-March interval) and compared them against the ones retrieved for Q4 2019 (October-December). 

We expected reasonable changes in user behavior when it came to distributing clicks among the top-ranking websites on Google, influenced, for example, by seasonality or SERP anatomy reconfiguration. Then, COVID-19 struck.

That changed all our lives, our demand for search and our behavior in the SERPs in ways we could have never predicted.

So let’s have a look at how the amount of traffic the websites in each position potentially get, based on their position on Google, changed in the first quarter of the year.

Long tail keywords

The websites ranked first for queries containing more than three words recorded a 1.54% increase in CTR on desktop searches, while on mobile, the gain equaled 1.45%.

Search intent

With all the new movement restrictions and closed businesses in many areas, it’s interesting to find out how the clickthrough rates for location intent queries were affected. Therefore, websites ranked first for queries containing words such as near, nearby, from, directions, route, maps, etc. experienced a 3.05% increase in CTR. What’s even more interesting is that this change applies to desktop searches only.

As for the informational intent queries (containing words such as what, when, where, how, etc.), the top two ranked websites lost 3.12% in CTR on desktop, while on mobile, the drop equaled 1.41%.

Branded queries

For the searches made without any mention of a specific brand or business name, websites ranked first experienced growth in CTR: 1.80% on desktop and 2.50% on mobile.

Industries

And here comes the most eventful part of our analysis — so fasten your seatbelts and bear with me on this one. 

To try to understand the massive fluctuations in CTR for some industries when comparing Q1 to the previous quarter, we can’t ignore the new context established by the pandemic with significant implications for user behavior.

There are two effects of restrictions that led to shifts in individuals’ habits:

  1. In this “new” reality, where the “offline world” moved almost entirely online, people suddenly found themselves spending more time browsing, which translates into a higher number of overall impressions.
  2. There was an unexpected and drastic shift in needs. People have become glued to the news media to find out the latest information on this state of the world. Uncertainty led to industries such as “Personal Finance” to blossom, while the need to stay connected while working remotely boosted even more the “Technology & Computing” market. Some invested more time in their hobbies, or even discovered new ones, while industries such as “Travel” or “Style & Fashion” recorded steep drops in search demand.

Back to our clickthrough rate analysis, an increasing number of impressions doesn’t necessarily mean an increase in CTR or its perfect steadiness.

Since the CTR represents the percentage of users who click on a certain result and it’s calculated from the total number of those who viewed the SERP, it’s even more intriguing than ever to study how the organic traffic is being distributed during these atypical times.

Take, for instance, the Travel industry: although the search demand is seeing a decline, the CTR witnessed an increase for the websites ranked first. We’ll take a look at the exact values further on (trust me, they’re quite spectacular), but now let’s focus on the type of content consumed.

Up until this pandemic, travel-related searches were mostly made around research for new destinations, things to do, places to visit, etc. Now, the nature of the search most probably shifted toward canceled flights and hotel reservations, then toward the reimbursement process.

Overnight, industries were faced with this “new” audience that behaves differently than the way they used to know, and the impact on their clickthrough rate values is no exception. 

In response to the new needs, users were catapulted in a new stage of the customer journey funnel. Awareness, to be more precise. Whether we talk about a new hobby, learning a new skill, or even exercising indoors, some people needed to start from scratch.

Customer journey funnel.

During these hard times for the global economy, we witnessed some unexpected and drastic shifts in supply and demand. 

Let’s approach shortages (of safety masks, toilet paper, flour, or home workout equipment), for example. Users visit the website ranked first, the item they’re after is out of stock, they visit the website ranked second. If they’re lucky enough, the saga ends here.

Or maybe they’ll dig deeper and even compare prices to the ones listed on the next websites in SERP. 

We can only assume that the extra time spent online during this coronavirus pandemic, combined with a potential uncertainty about personal finance, has been invested in more detailed research before making a purchase decision. 

More websites visited within the same SERP can only mean one thing: an increase in CTR for a “range” of top results.

Now let’s get to actual stats and see which industries were the most impacted by the changes in clickthrough rates in the first quarter of this year.

The first two positions in the Technology & Computing industry experienced a combined 9.25% increase in CTR on desktop and 5.92% on mobile searches.

Tables turn in the Real Estate market, and the increase in CTR for websites ranked first is higher on mobile this time (10.89%) than on desktop searches, where the increase is 5.09% higher in this first quarter.

Another interesting change in CTR occurred in the Family & Parenting category, where only the searches made from mobile devices were significantly affected: the top 3 results gained 13.85% in total.

In times of uncertainty, one of the highest growth in CTR came from the Personal Finance industry. Here, websites ranked first witnessed an increase in clickthrough rate on both desktop (10.35%) and mobile queries (12.45%).

It’s time to turn our attention to the highest and only significant drop in Q1: the Careers market. Websites ranked on the first two positions experienced a combined 7.39% decline in CTR on desktop devices. On the other hand, on mobile, these very first two websites gained 3.13% in clickthrough rates.

With no real change for desktop queries, the Automotive industry recorded a 6.60% increase in CTR for websites ranked first for the searches made from mobile devices.

An increase that might be considered quite balanced when comparing desktop vs. mobile changes occurred in the Business market. Here, the websites ranked first registered a 6.18% increase on desktop and 5.73% on mobile.

With all the current spotlight on it, the News industry didn’t fail to deliver when it came to massive clickthrough rate changes. Here, websites ranked first saw a 15% growth on desktop and no less than a 15.77% increase for the queries made from mobile.

I owe you some actual figures about the Travel industry. Yes, the one with a visible decline in search demand and growth in CTR values. More specifically, websites ranked first grew on average in CTR, with 7.70% on desktop and 11.20% on mobile.

As for the Food & Drink industry, websites ranked first recorded a 3.72% boost in CTR on desktop and almost double (6.8%) on mobile queries.

Deciding on a winning industry this quarter, for the highest CTR changes recorded at the top of the SERPs, is a matter of perspective.

We can either look at the sum of changes from desktop and mobile together, or look at the highest change for each one of these two segments, or even consider the streak of fluctuations for the top X positions.

Take it as you will, but during these tough times, the clickthrough rates for the Hobbies & Interests industry skyrocketed, pushing this market as the winner in the “all devices” category. Websites ranked first registered 15.10% increase in CTR on desktop and an impressive 17.45% boost on mobile devices. 

And still, there’s another industry on course for the “highest impacted market” nomination which you’ll discover pretty soon.

Now let’s address two what might look like a bit converging industries at first glance, although different after all: Health & Fitness on the one hand and Sports on the other.

The Health & Fitness market recorded growth, especially on mobile devices: 5.77% for websites ranked first and 16.81% for the top five websites combined. On desktop, the change could be observed, especially for the websites ranked first as they gained 2.65% in CTR.

The Sports industry refers to sports such as Football, Tennis, Boxing, etc. It is to easily differentiate it from the Fitness one; we might generally relate to the difference between watching and practicing health activities. Here, websites ranked first experienced a CTR spike: 10.50% increase on desktop and 11.56% growth on searches made from mobile devices.

Last but not least, it’s time for the second contender for the most active industry, this time for the streak of fluctuations in CTR for the top ranking websites: Arts & Entertainment. Here, websites ranked first gained 14.40% in CTR on desktop queries and 18% on mobile. Glancing down the SERP, the top 5 positions attracted 27.8% more traffic on desktop and achieved an astounding 40.87% increase in mobile traffic.

That’s it for…the first quarter

When we were switching to this new quarterly analysis format, we didn’t expect such an eventful evolution of the clickthrough rate values. However, they are just a consequence of a massive switch in people’s habits. Whether this is just something temporary or it will be the “new” ordinary, we’re only about to find out in one of our next CTR evolution analysis to come.

So how about you? Apart from the examples and presumptions above, what other user behavior changes do you think that affected the amount of organic traffic each website gets? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below. I’ll reply to each and every one of you – I promise 🙂

See you with the analysis of the second quarter of the year compiled against Q1. Until then, stay safe and healthy!

7 comments
  1. Hi Dan, this is a great report which goes a long way to unpacking the current CTR trends. I find the differences between desktop and mobile very interesting, and can most probably understand why they occur in some industries, but not so obviously in others. My main concern (I’m a marketing strategist and not a digital specialist) is how do businesses ensure they come up as number one or two as indicated in your report. Specifically I was battling to understand the section about the location and informational searches. I also would like to hear from you your opinion on website SEO and how extensive it has to be before Google starts to block it, and how this interacts with SEM (e.g. Google Adwords)

    1. Glad to hear you found our report useful, Jennifer! Getting their websites to rank in the top results requires long and complex efforts that businesses need to make. However, since there are more than 200 ranking factors Google takes into consideration, the more on-site and off-site optimization techniques are being applied for a website, the more chances it gets to rank higher for the desired set of keywords.

      Speaking of keywords, location searches are the ones containing words such as near, nearby, from, directions, airport, route, maps, etc., while the informational ones are defined as having the following words in the keyword: what, when, where, how, restaurant, hotel, flight, news, etc.

      As for the extensiveness of SEO, since we don’t have acccess to Google algorithms on ranking websites in SERPs, as long as you follow their guidelines, there is nothing for you to worry about 🙂

      Hope this helps!

  2. In coronavirus epidemic, my CTR has been decreased but traffic has not changed. I wrote so many contents on coronavirus. And I have been generating a huge traffic from these contents. However the CTR has decreased. Can you tell me about the search trends during COVID-19?

  3. In this pandemic one of our client’s traffic has reduced drastically. But on the other hand now people are looking more for shifting to digital marketing. As a consequence to covid-19, digital marketing traffic has increased a lot to our website.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like