Just before we dive into the third quarter's CTR changes analysis, I'm happy to announce the addition of a new filtering option to our free CTR tool. The clickthrough rate US values in the SERP Features view can now be filtered by the newly added 'Recipes' result type, besides the other ten existing ones.
Since SERPs anatomy is under continuous development which leads to changes in searches’ behavior, it’s fundamental to assess the CTR evolution regularly to be able to pinpoint changes in traffic to these external factors.
That being said, 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 2021 (July-September interval) and compared them against the ones retrieved for Q2 2021 (April-June). 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 changes affected only the desktop queries, where the websites ranked first registered a 2.22 pp decrease in CTR, while the decline equaled 1.11 for those ranked in the second position.
Branded vs unbranded
The declining trend in CTR for the first two positions on desktop queries was reflected in both the branded and unbranded queries.
More precisely, for those searches containing specific brand or business names, websites ranked first experienced a 2.46 pp decline in CTR, while those ranked second lost, on average, 1.70 pp.
As for the unbranded queries, the drop in CTR equaled 2.18 pp for the websites ranked first, while for those ranked second, the negative trend recorded a 1.03 pp drop.
Here, while there was no real change for the searches made from mobile devices, the CTR values for the websites ranked first on desktop dropped, regardless of the queries’ length.
More exactly, for 1-word searches, the loss equaled 2.39 pp, for 2-word queries, the registered loss accounted for 2.27 pp, for 3-word queries, the registered drop was 2.30 pp, and for searches containing four or more keywords, the decline was 1.89 pp.
Websites ranked in the first two positions for commercial queries (those containing words such as price, pay, buy, etc.) recorded a combined 2.70 pp loss in CTR on desktop (1.85 pp for those ranked first and 0.85 for those ranked second). On mobile, the loss affected the websites ranked first only, which witnessed almost an entire percentage point decline in clickthrough rate.
Significant changes were also recorded for the websites ranked in the first two positions for location queries on both desktop and mobile. Therefore, for queries containing words such as near, nearby, from, directions, route, maps, etc., websites ranked first on desktop experienced a 1.24 pp drop in CTR, while those in the second spot recorded a 1.76 pp decrease.
The combined decline was even steeper on mobile, with the websites ranked first witnessing a 3 pp drop in CTR, while those ranked in the second position registering a 1.31 pp decrease.
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.
An increase in clickthrough rate for a website’s positions correlated with a growth in search demand for a given industry will most likely result in a spike in traffic. The same goes when both the CTR values and search demand decrease, resulting in a drop in traffic.
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
The Technology & Computing industry continued its CTR decline, which began in the previous quarter, for the websites ranked first but only on desktop devices. This time, websites ranking first on desktop got a decrease in clickthrough rate of 1.74 pp. At the same time, the search demand stopped from falling and seemed to recover, since it recorded a slight increment of +5.37%.
Although its search demand registered a spectacular +68.01% growth, the CTR values remained quite steady in the Careers industry. The only significant change registered here affected the websites ranked first on desktop, who lost, on average 1.10 pp in CTR from Q2 to Q3.
In what might be considered as one of the most significant steep declines in clickthrough rates for a single position, the websites ranked first on desktop in the Family & Parenting category recorded a 4.65 pp loss, while those ranked second registered a remarkably lower decline rate (1.26 pp). The drop in CTR was consistent on mobile, as well, where websites ranked first lost, on average, 3.61 pp, while those in the second position registered a 1.45 pp loss.
On a more positive note, the search demand increased by +21.40% for this industry.
With some of the COVID-19 travel restrictions lifted in most countries around the World, and during people’s preferred vacation season, the Travel market registered this quarter’s highest growth in search-demand: no less than +145.46%. As for the clickthrough rate values in this industry, only the desktop queries were affected, with the websites ranked first losing 1.81 pp, while those in the second position registering a 1.45 pp loss.
People’s interest in the Automotive industry grew sharply, by +68.21%, while the CTR values went in the opposite direction, at least for the top two positions on desktop. Websites ranked first registered a 1.78 pp drop, while those ranked second witnessed a decrease in clickthrough rate of 1.07 pp.
Despite the slight growth in search demand (+11.39%), the websites ranked first in the Personal Finance industry recorded a 2.30 pp drop in CTR on desktop devices and a 1.27 pp loss for the queries made from mobile devices.
Now let’s have a look at the Hobbies & Interests industry, where drops have been recorded for the websites ranked first on both desktop and mobile searches. More exactly, on desktop, the loss was 2.17 pp, while on mobile, it equaled 1.58 pp. On the other hand, the search demand grew remarkably for this industry, by +37.51%.
In the Shopping industry, websites ranked first recorded a 1.92 pp drop in CTR on desktop. At the same time, the total number of impressions increased substantially, by +39.41%.
With no major changes since Q4 2020, the websites ranked first in the Health & Fitness industry recorded drops in CTR on both desktop (1.53 pp) and mobile queries (1.92 pp). Nevertheless, the search demand for this industry recorded growth when compared against the previous quarter (+19.50% to be more precise).
Desktop and mobile CTR values went in opposite directions this time around in the Arts & Entertainment market, for websites ranked first and second, as follows:
on desktop, for the websites ranked first, the drop in CTR was 1.72 pp, while for those ranked second, the decrease equaled 1.05 pp
on mobile, websites ranked first recorded growth in clickthrough rate of 1.40 pp, while for those in the second position, the increase was even higher, of 1.83 pp
Concurrently, the number of impressions for this industry grew steeply, by +64.84%.
It’s been a year already since the Home & Garden market last recorded fluctuations in clickthrough rate and it didn’t fail to impress. Unfortunately, there were drops recorded for the websites ranked first, on both desktop (4.07 pp) and mobile devices (1.56 pp). However, the industry’s search demand was on the rise, by +16.76%.
A similar situation occurred for the Business category, where websites ranked first registered a 3.58 pp drop on desktop and a smoother decline on mobile, by 1.58 pp. At the same time, the overall industry’s impressions increased by +48.56%.
Pets market had an asymmetrical evolution in CTR in regards to the devices and positions affected in the third quarter of the year. Surprisingly, while the websites ranked first on desktop lost, on average, 2.48 pp in CTR, those in the second position but on mobile this time, experienced a 1.30 pp boost in clickthrough rate. Simultaneously, the industry’s overall search demand recorded a consistent increase of +23.81%.
Society is the last one to make it into this quarter’s group of industries where clickthrough rate variations were recorded, and the search demand increased. The number of impressions increased at a small scale (+1.03%), while the CTR for websites ranked first decreased on both desktop (1.57 pp) and mobile devices (2.12 pp).
Here’s a visual round-up of the CTR evolution for the industries mentioned above:
B. Industries where the search demand dropped
The first three positions in the Sports industry experienced a combined 6.27 pp decrease in CTR on desktop (3.47 pp for those ranked in the first position, 1.69 pp for those ranked second, and 1.11 pp for the ones in the third spot). Coupled with a decrease of -5.54% in search demand, it’s highly probable that the websites ranked in those three positions noticed some loss in organic traffic.
It’s time to turn our attention to the highest drop for a single position in CTR: the Law, Government & Politics market. Websites ranked in the first position experienced a 9.20 pp decline in CTR on desktop devices. On the other hand, on mobile, for the very same position, the decline recorded was 2.77 pp. At the same time, the impressions for this industry recorded a decline of -9.01%.
The highest decrease in impressions (-22.19%) recorded by our search demand tool was for the News market. Here, the CTR values for the websites ranked on the first two positions experienced a combined 4.70 pp decline in CTR on desktop devices and a round 2 pp drop on mobile.
After a quiet quarter (the latest changes date back to Q1), the Food & Drink industry experienced a slight change in CTR, and only for the websites ranked first on desktop, which lost about 1.10 pp of their estimated clicks. At the same time, the industry’s search demand dropped by -11.24%.
With a decrease in search demand of -17.02%, the Style & Fashion industry recorded drops in CTR on desktop queries only: websites ranked first lost 1.68 pp and for those in the second position, the loss equaled 1.22 pp.
In what might seem surprising from the low number of CTR percentage points gained, this quarter’s winner comes from the Science industry. Here, both the websites ranked first and second on desktop went head-to-head with 2.43 pp gained and 2.47 pp, respectively. On the other hand, on mobile, the changes affected the websites ranked first only, who lost 2.14 pp. The industry’s overall impressions decreased a bit, by -3.79%.
Last but not least, let’s have a look at the Education market, which recorded a drop in CTR on both desktop and mobile devices. On desktop, the websites ranked first witnessed a 2.88 pp drop, while on mobile, the loss almost halved, equaling 1.42 pp. Here, the industry’s overall search demand slightly decreased by -1.46%.
Here’s a graphical representation of the changes in all seven industries mentioned above:
That’s it for…the third quarter
As you might have noticed, the majority of CTR ups and downs in this quarter occurred on desktop, so our next changes report analysis becomes even more interesting since it could shed some light on Google's continuous scrolling on mobile.
The assumption is that by encouraging searchers to look beyond the first few results and scroll more, the websites ranked below the first page might get some additional clicks.
This remains to be found out soon, so make sure to subscribe to be the first to find out the results of our coming study.
Until then, stay safe and healthy!
Dan Popa is an Online Marketing Strategist at Caphyon. He is passionate about both Online and Offline Marketing and he's always looking for new ways of applying the basic principles of marketing in the fast-evolving SEO field. He's always in the mood to chat about new creative ideas for campaigns, so you can find him on Twitter.
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