Just like rankings fluctuate each time a new Google algorithm update is rolled out, the same does the CTR whenever the users’ search behavior changes.

People’s behavior in search may be influenced by many different things such as a SERPs anatomy, the distribution of SERP features among organic listings, the type of features they see in a SERP, or the increase in search demand for a specific topic.

The purpose of this quarterly study is precisely unveiling these external, uncontrollable clickthrough rate ups and downs, which potentially affected your website’s traffic.

Let’s look at how user behavior shaped the CTR values in the third quarter of the year compared to the previous one.

We calculated the CTR averages for each position for Q3 2020 (July-September interval) and compared them against the ones retrieved for Q2 2020 (April-June). All significant changes were included in this analysis.

The data set is international and comprises all the available markets such as the US, UK, etc.

Since clicks and impressions go hand in hand when projecting estimated traffic, we also correlated these CTR changes with search-demand data at an industry-level.

Before we begin, I’m happy to announce the free CTR tool got the list of search intents updated for a more refined analysis of people’s click behavior concerning their intention when performing queries. This change affects the US market on both desktop and mobile queries, and the data set has been reparsed since July.

Google Organic CTR tool
Search Intent menu – CTR evolution data segmented by search intent for the US market
Google Organic CTR tool
Search Intent menu – CTR evolution data segmented by search intent for the US market

All searches

The only significant change occurred on desktop devices at a global level, where the websites ranked first registered a 0.98% drop

Branded queries

For the searches mentioning a specific brand or business name, the first two positions were affected. On desktop, the combined drop in CTR equaled 2.80%, while on mobile, the negative trend recorded a 2.24% drop.

Long-tail keywords

Significant changes were recorded on desktop searches only, with the websites ranked first for queries containing two words witnessing a 1.16% drop, while for the ones containing three words, the loss equaled 1.27%.

Search intent

In what we might call an atypical year so far, with movement restrictions imposed all over the World, it was almost certain that the location queries would be impacted. More specifically, for the queries containing words such as near, from, nearby, directions, maps, etc., websites ranked first encountered a 1.66% drop in CTR on desktop and a 1.93% loss on mobile.

However, from the search intent point of view, the highest change in CTR occurred for the commercial queries (those containing words such as price, pay, buy, etc.). Here, websites ranked first experienced no less than a 3.62% drop on desktop and a 3.13% loss for the queries made from mobile devices.


Now let’s jump to the industries section, where, just like in the previous quarter’s study, we’ll correlate the changes in CTR to the ones in search demand to better estimate the potential traffic fluctuations.

I’ll divide this CTR report into two sections, based on the search demand’s evolution.

A. Industries that experienced an increase in search demand

Following the previous quarter’s drop in search demand, the Automotive industry managed to slightly get back on track, with an 11.96% increase in impressions. Simultaneously, websites ranked first on mobile devices experienced a 2.83% increase in clickthrough rate.

The search demand in the Sports industry increased on a small scale (+3.20%) and the CTR values fluctuated only on desktop devices. Surprisingly, websites ranked first weren’t influenced by the changes, while those ranked on the second and third position in SERPs registered a combined 2.39% drop in CTR.

With COVID-19 travel restrictions lifted, it was expected that the search demand in the Travel market would bloom, and so it did: a 30.04% increase in impressions was registered in Q3. As for the clickthrough rate values in this industry, a bit curious scenario occurred on mobile searches only: the websites ranked first witnessed a 1.50% loss in CTR, while the ones on the next three positions experienced a combined 4.30% growth in CTR.

Now let’s jump to the category with the highest increase in both search demand and CTR for a single position: the Law, Government, & Politics one. Most probably influenced by the build-up for the elections (especially in the US), the growth in impressions registered an astonishing 304.32% in Q3 compared to Q2.

At the same time, the CTR for the websites ranked first on queries made from desktop devices grew, on average, by 5.07%.

One last market where the search demand grew (with 5.25%) is Food & Drink. Nevertheless, the CTR values went in the opposite direction, at least on desktop, where the top three websites registered a combined drop of 4.01%.

Here’s a graphical representation of the changes in all five industries mentioned above:


B. Industries where the search demand dropped

The first two positions in the Technology & Computing industry experienced a combined 2.37% loss in CTR on desktop. Coupled with a drop of -16.12% in search demand, it’s highly probable that the websites ranked on those two positions noticed a slight loss in organic traffic.

Despite the slight drop in search demand (-3.81%), the first three positions in the Real Estate industry recorded a combined 3.60% increase in CTR on mobile devices.

Although its search demand registered a -4.05% loss, the Careers industry remained consistent for the third quarter in a row in regards to the clickthrough rate values. Here, the CTR on mobile devices for websites ranked first increased with 2.28%.

Family & Parenting recorded a steep decline in search demand: more precisely, a record of -77.71% loss. Simultaneously, the websites ranked on the first two positions for desktop searches registered a combined 2.38% decrease in CTR and coupled with this search demand drop, might expect a significant loss in organic traffic. However, there’s a glimmer of hope for the same first two positions, but on mobile queries this time, as they got a combined boost of 1.70% in clickthrough rate.

With a decrease in search demand of -3.90%, the Shopping industry recorded a drop in CTR for the websites ranked first and second: a combined 3.38% on desktop searches and 2.62% on mobile.

Being the industry with the highest increase in search demand in the previous quarter, Home & Garden experienced a drop in impressions this time (-12.72%). The loss went hand in hand with the one recorded for the CTR values, where the websites ranked first witnessed a 3.24% loss on desktop and a 2.78% drop on mobile devices.

With no real change in search demand (only a -0.78% drop), the Business industry recorded a decrease for the websites ranked first: 1.33% on desktop and 1.86% for the searches made from mobile devices.

Science is one of the markets with the highest growth rates in CTR for the third quarter of the year. Surprisingly, the change occurred for the websites ranked second on both desktop (5.47%) and mobile queries (2.55%), while the search demand notably decreased (-31.82%). Also, websites ranked first on desktop experienced a 2.12% boost in CTR.

Despite the drop in search demand (-11.80%), the first two positions in the Education category recorded a combined 3.26% increase in CTR on mobile devices.

Last but not least, let’s have a look at the Pets market, which recorded a growth in CTR on both desktop and mobile devices. On desktop, the first two positions got a combined 2.93% boost in CTR, while on mobile, the growth equaled 5.16%. Here, the search demand decreased by -8.44%.

Here’s a visual recap of all the changes mentioned above:


That’s it for…the third quarter

With all this global data available to benchmark your website’s CTR values against, you might wonder how the SERP composition might affect these values in your specific scenario. Well, I have some good news for you, since we recently wrote an article on how to measure your organic CTR for SERP features, which might be a good starting point. Hope you’ll enjoy it!

And, as usual, make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section down below. I’ll see you with the analysis of the last quarter of the year compiled against this one. Stay safe and healthy!

  1. Wow! Thank you for the post. Very detailed and dives deep into what transpired in 2020. I will agree with you Food and drinks did shoot especially in my locality many new businesses upshot to another level. I have learned loads and will try to read the article on how to measure CTR. Blessings and happy new year.

  2. Hey Dan,
    Thank you for this article. This is what I am searching for while I am receiving lots of impressions and not generating Clicks on my posts.
    I think this will work for me.

    Thank you so much.

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