In our quest of analyzing the evolution of clickthrough rate values, we couldn’t have let aside the rankings and SERP anatomy. In this context, where CTR values are highly impacted by these factors, we’re proud to bring you two more metrics in your search visibility tracking inside our app: Pixel Position & Visibility Distribution.
Just before kicking off our quarterly analysis, let’s have a glance at the Year over Year changes by comparing the average CTR values for each position in 2020 vs. the ones in 2019.
While on desktop there wasn’t much of a difference, the CTR values were significantly impacted on mobile devices. Therefore, websites ranked first on desktop recorded a 0.66 percentage points (pp) growth in CTR in 2020 vs. 2019, while on mobile, the top five websites registered a combined 6.28 pp boost.
Now let’s look at how user behavior shaped the CTR values in the fourth quarter of the year compared to the previous one.
We calculated the CTR averages for each position for Q4 2020 (October-December interval) and compared them against the ones retrieved for Q3 2020 (July-September). All significant changes were included in this analysis and expressed as percentage points (pp).
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.
At a global level, the change affected only the websites ranked first on mobile queries, which registered an almost 1 percentage point drop in CTR (-0.98 pp more precisely).
Branded vs. unbranded
A massive drop in CTR affected the top 5 ranked websites for searches containing branded keywords on mobile devices: no less than 19.06 pp combined loss.
On the other hand, websites ranked first on desktop, but for unbranded queries this time, witnessed a boost in CTR by 1.29 pp.
Desktop and mobile CTR values went in opposite directions this time around, for websites ranked first, as follows:
- on desktop, for 1-word queries, the increase in CTR was 0.99 pp
- on mobile, for queries containing two words, the loss was 1.50 pp
- still on mobile, for 3-word queries, the decline equaled 1.22 pp
After the previous quarter’s drop in CTR, the clickthrough rate for commercial queries (containing words such as buy, price, etc.) got on the rising slope this time. Here, the websites ranked first experienced a 1.47 pp increase in CTR on desktop and 1 pp on mobile searches.
As for location queries (containing words such as near, from, nearby, directions, maps, etc.), the websites ranked first gained 1.31 pp in CTR on desktop searches.
As you might have already been accustomed to already, we’ll correlate the changes in CTR to the ones in search demand, in an attempt to point out the causes for the potential traffic ups and downs in each industry.
This CTR report will contain two separate sections, based on the search demand’s evolution.
A. Industries where the search demand increased
Following the previous quarter’s drop in search demand, the impressions for the Technology & Computing industry went back on track with a significant +17.71 pp increase. As for the clickthrough rate vales, only websites ranked first on mobile were affected, experiencing a 1.97 pp boost.
While the search demand continued to grow in the Law, Government, & Politics market (+20.75 pp), websites ranked first on mobile devices registered a 2.88 pp loss in CTR.
A similar trend occurred in the Sports category, where the CTR values for the top three websites registered a combined drop of 5.43 pp on desktop and 6.60 pp on mobile devices. Be that as it may, people’s interest in sports grew in this final quarter of the year compared to Q3 (+14 percentage points).
The last time the News industry made it into the quarterly CTR report, it was associated with the highest decrease in search demand of that period. Tables turn, and the industry managed to record the highest increase in impressions in Q4: no less than +30.39 pp. As for clickthrough rates, websites ranked first recorded losses on both desktop (2.54 pp) and mobile (2.29 pp) queries.
In the Food & Drink industry, websites ranked first recorded a 1.26 pp boost in CTR on desktop. At the same time, the total number of impressions increased slightly, by +4.79 pp.
With no real change in search demand from Q3 to Q4 (only a +0.77 pp growth), the Travel industry recorded a massive decrease in CTR for the top ten websites, which registered a combined drop of 18.07 pp in CTR on desktop.
Arts & Entertainment is one of the markets with the highest growth rates in search demand for the fourth quarter of the year (+24.44 pp). As for the CTR values changes, only websites ranked first on mobile witnessed a 2.98 pp drop.
In what might be considered as one of the most significant steep declines in clickthrough rates, the top three websites in the Science category recorded a 10.66 pp loss on desktop and 13.62 pp on searches made from mobile devices. On a more positive note, the search demand increased by +13.55 percentage points for this industry.
As for the Education category, websites ranked first recorded a 3.02 pp boost in CTR on desktop, while the industry’s search demand increased by +7.21 pp.
The search demand in the Personal Finance industry increased on a small scale (+1.22 pp) and the CTR values fluctuated only on mobile devices. More precisely, websites ranked first in SERPs registered a 3.37 pp drop in CTR.
With the holiday season taking place in this fourth quarter, it was expected that the search demand would increase in the Shopping industry, and so it did: our search-demand tool recorded a +18.89 pp increase in impressions. As for the CTR values, websites ranked first on desktop registered a 1.14 pp drop, while this quarter’s highest drop occurred on mobile, where websites ranked first lost 4.09 pp.
Here’s a visual recap of all the changes mentioned above:
B. Industries that experienced a drop in search demand
Websites ranked first on desktop searches in the Real Estate industry experienced a 1.84 pp decrease in CTR. Coupled with a decline of -6.72 pp in search demand, it’s highly probable that these websites noticed a drop in organic traffic.
With no real change in search demand (only a -0.19 pp drop), the Careers industry recorded a decrease of 1.94 pp in CTR for the websites ranked first on desktop.
Despite the drop in search demand (-11.15 pp), the Automotive industry closes the year with the fourth consecutive quarter of growth in clickthrough rates. This time, websites ranked first gained 1.15 pp in CTR on desktop and 1.72 pp on searches made from mobile devices.
Now let’s look at the industry with the highest decrease in search demand: Health & Fitness. With a significant drop of -25.26 pp in impressions, the websites ranked first on desktop grew on average in CTR, by 1.78 pp.
One last market where the search demand dropped (with -4.43 pp) is Business. Nevertheless, the CTR values went in the opposite direction, at least on desktop, where the websites ranked first registered an increase of 1.21 pp.
Here’s a graphical representation of the changes in all five industries mentioned above:
That’s it for…the fourth quarter
It’s time to conclude Q4’s clickthrough rate analysis and, with that, close the previous year’s chapter and look forward to a new one.
As you can see, there was a lot of movement in the CTR evolution this quarter also, and that’s why you’ll need to reassess this metric regularly.
Benchmarking your website against your industry’s values will benefit you and help you understand where you might try and improve your click rates.
And, of course, since the results pages have different compositions for each of your keywords, you can always go further with your analysis and measure your organic CTR for SERP features.
See you with the analysis of the first quarter of the new year compiled against this one. Stay safe and healthy!