The last time we analyzed the CTR evolution of the first quarter of the year against the previous one was at the COVID-19 pandemic’s debut worldwide. Our organic CTR tool recorded some pretty impressive shifts in people’s online behavior back then.

This makes our current data interpretation even more interesting in our quest to answer questions such as: is the change in CTR as dramatic as one year ago? Were those changes only one-time, or was it the beginning of new behavior? Will we return to the post-pandemic search behavior, or will a “new normal” step-in?

We’ll shed some light on these questions in what comes next by presenting you the most significant changes that occurred when comparing the CTR values retrieved in Q1 2021 against Q4 2020.

We calculated the CTR averages for each position for Q1 2021 (January-March interval) and compared them against the ones retrieved for Q4 2020 (October-December). 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.

Branded vs. unbranded: 

For those searches containing specific brand or business names, websites ranked first experienced 0.79 pp growth in CTR on searches made from desktop devices.

On the other hand, websites ranked first on mobile, but for unbranded queries this time, witnessed a drop in CTR by 0.71 pp.

Keyword length:

Significant changes were recorded on one-word keyword searches only, with the websites ranked first, witnessing a 0.68 pp drop on desktop, while on mobile, the loss equaled 0.95 pp.

Industries:

Let’s move on to the industries section, where, just like in the previous quarterly studies, we’ll correlate the changes in CTR to the ones in search demand. This way, we’re attempting to point out the causes for the potential traffic ups and downs in each industry.

This part will be divided into two separate 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 Real Estate industry managed to get back on track, with an encouraging +18.49% increase in impressions. However, websites ranked first on mobile devices experienced a 2.28 pp drop in clickthrough rate.

Despite closing the previous year with a drop in search demand, the Automotive industry recovered a bit from this perspective. With an overall +6.58% increase in impressions, the websites ranked first lost 1.06 pp in CTR on searches made from mobile devices.

At  the burst of the pandemic in the same quarter one year ago, the top ranking websites in the Personal Finance industry witnessed some pretty high growth in CTR. This fear of financial uncertainty was also present during this quarter, where surprisingly, websites ranked first weren’t influenced by the changes, while those ranked in the second position in desktop SERPs registered a 1.02 pp increase in CTR. Combined with a +11.28% increase in search-demand, it’s highly probable that these websites recorded an increased amount of organic traffic.

With increase in search demand of +1.99%, the Food & Drink industry recorded a drop in CTR for the websites ranked first and second: a combined 4.44 pp on desktop searches and 3.75 pp on mobile.

With some of the COVID-19 travel restrictions lifted, the Travel market registered an impressive growth in search-demand: no less than +34.76%. As for the clickthrough rate values in this industry, only the websites ranked first were affected: on desktop, they recorded a 0.92 pp loss, while on mobile the decrease was even higher, equaling 1.32 pp.

The Pets industry starts the year in force, with growth on all fronts. With a global +7.18% increase in search-demand, websites ranked first recorded a 2.22 pp boost on desktop and 1.18 pp on searches made from mobile devices.

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

B. Industries where the search demand dropped

Despite the drop in search demand (-19.43%), the websites ranked in the first position on desktop searches in the Technology & Computing industry recorded a 1.71 pp increase in CTR.

The previous quarter’s drop in CTR seems to have only been an isolated event since the websites in the Careers industry managed to register some encouraging results. With no real change for mobile queries, the first two websites ranked in this industry witnessed a combined 4.21 pp growth in clickthrough rates on desktop. However, the total number of impressions slightly decreased, by -8.36%.

Although its search demand registered a -5.17% loss, the Family & Parenting industry made it again into the quarterly CTR report thanks to its growth in clickthrough rate values. Here, the CTR for websites ranked first on desktop devices increased by 2.70 pp, while for the very same position on mobile, the growth equaled 1.57 pp.

After two consecutive quarters with impressive growth in search demand, most probably influenced by the elections (especially in the US), it’s time for the Law, Government, & Politics market to lose some interest. Here, our search-demand tool recorded the highest decrease of the quarter (by -84.79%), while the CTR for the websites ranked first on queries made from desktop devices grew, on average, by 1.58 pp.

Disappointingly, the interest in the Education category translated into impressions recorded a significant decline: more precisely a -29.45% loss. Simultaneously, the websites ranked in the first position for desktop searches registered a 1.63 pp decrease in CTR, while on mobile, the drop equaled 0.91 pp

The search demand in the Arts & Entertainment industry decreased on a small scale (-6.72%), and the CTR values fluctuated only on mobile devices. Surprisingly, websites ranked first weren’t influenced by the changes, while those ranked in the second position in SERPs registered a 1.14 pp drop in CTR.

Following the previous quarter’s negative record established for its average CTR, unfortunately, the Science industry retains its unofficial title once more. Here, the clickthrough rates for the top two websites registered a combined drop of 10.15 pp on desktop and 5.12 pp on mobile devices. At the same time, people’s interest in science also dropped in this first quarter of the year compared to Q4 2020 (-3.21%).

Last but not least, let’s have a look at the Hobbies & Interests market, which recorded a drop in CTR on mobile devices only. For these queries, the websites ranked first witnessed a 1.34 pp drop, while this industry’s overall search demand decreased by -12.48%.

Here’s a visual round-up of the CTR evolution for the industries mentioned above:

That’s it for…the first quarter

It’s time to conclude the first quarter’s clickthrough rate analysis and, with that, prepare for the second chapter of the year. 

As you might have noticed, most of the changes included in this report occurred at an industry level. So that’s why you’ll need to reassess this metric regularly and benchmark your website’s CTR values against the industry ones. 

AWR can help you with that, so if you haven’t done that already, you can start a free 30 days AWR trial.

And, as usual, make sure to leave your thoughts in the comments section down below. I’ll see you with the analysis of Q2 2021 compiled against this one. Stay safe and healthy!

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