Reaching the first page of Google is just one critical step toward increasing your website traffic, which then you need to convert into audience, leads and sales.

Think about the bottom line. Making your business website visible does not guarantee a click through. Frustrated website owners often wonder why their site rarely converts even though they have lived on page one of Google for weeks.

Page one on Google does not guarantee a flood of traffic nor an instant increase in conversions.

Understanding how and why users click links on page one of Google gives you critical insight into boosting your click through rate. A recent Google CTR Study: How User Intent Impacts Google Click-Through Rates conducted by Catalyst is an excellent example of how one can use data to uncover trends and insights.  In fact, this study shows that having the most compelling listing in the SERPs could be more important than “ranking #1.” The key takeaways of the research study include:

  • O n average, the top organic SERP listing gets visitors from ~17% of those searchers
  • Top 4 positions receive 83% of page one organic clicks
  • 48% of searchers result in page one organic click

See the infographic below for more details.

Try to reach the top 4 positions as these above the fold spots generate 83% of first page organic clicks. Since mobile users see few listings due to smaller screens place a greater premium on reaching the top spot for this demographic. If you want to be seen on tablets or iPhones set high SEO goals. The Google heatmap below shows the behavior of internet user on Google.


With the evolution of Google SERP (Search Engine Result Pages), the CTR trends in search engines are impacted by myriad factors, often beyond the control of the website owner. For example, Google SERP used to display website links relevant to the keyword. Today, only 15% of search results are the 10 blue links and the remaining 85% comprise of: videos, images, product listings, maps, local listings, and other visual media.

According to Brent Cardnuff of Steamfeed, the new research by Catalyst suggests that Page One should not be the goal. The research instead indicates that reaching the first page is important, but is only one step in the process. Once there, the searcher must choose to click your listing among the growing number of available options.

Chritine Degraff, a social and search strategist, proposes that a better key takeaway would be something along the lines of: “Because the top 4 positions on average receive 83% of organic clicks, focusing on improving the factors within your control to increase your SERP will likely improve your CTR as well.” She also expressed concerns about how the study would be received by the SEO community due to lack of clarification on measurement and results being ‘weak’ compared with other industry studies; however, the SEO community on Moz have responded overwhelmingly positive to its findings.

Download the full Google Click Through Rate study


Optimizing Your CTR (Click through Rate) on Google

1: Solve Problems with Detailed Answers

Solutions-based blog posts generate steady interest from targeted viewers. Tune in to industry questions by keeping your eyes and ears open on social networking sites. Join relevant Facebook and LinkedIn groups to observe scuttlebutt related to your niche. Craft your blog posts on these pressing topics to increase your clicks.

Google searchers are looking for answers, they don’t care how optimized your content is. They care what it says… 

High ranking posts on Google generally solve some particular problem suffered by your ideal customer or client. Practice listening to these problems through multiple online and offline channels. Tap into a goldmine of content creation ideas which can boost your positioning on page one and increase your click throughs.

2: Leverage PPC to Nail Down the Top Spot (and Learn)

Sometimes you need a little extra boost to improve visibility on page one of Google. Consider building a pay per click marketing campaign to augment your organic search marketing strategy. Adwords platform offers you an inexpensive but effective way to place your ad in the top spot. Studies show that high ranking in both paid and organic search give brands more credibility and aid in your overall CTR.

Resist the urge to cheap out on your paid search marketing campaign.

Prideful content marketers might overlook PPC but paying a small amount of money to complement your organic marketing strategy might put you over the top.

Moreover, you can test different types of ad copy efficiently in paid search, which should inform your meta data strategy. Use paid search learnings to test response rates across different messages and leverage it in SEO (meta description, page title, on-site copy, etc.).

Have you heard about the 100% Non-Provided? Google now obscures your organic search keyword data so more of a reason to do paid search to get access to data that can inform your SEO tactics. In addition, paid search are proven to have a unique advantage over organic listings on mobile phones.

3: Make SEO a Priority….Still

After hearing SEO naysyaers you might want to toss search engine optimization into the trash. This is a massive mistake. SEO is still important because search engines like Google place a premium on targeting your content with keywords.

Before jumping on the “SEO is dead” bandwagon take a deep breath.

Craft your content using search engine optimization if you want to nail down any spot above the fold in search results. Targeted, interested searchers click through to websites more frequently than casual web traffic.


4: Build Strong Listings

Craft helpful reviews, set up Google Authorship, create enticing meta descriptions and use your keyword in both the URL slug and title field to transmit a loud and clear message to search engines. Using these strategies will instantly increase visits to your blog or business website.

Optimize your visual assets, including video titles and description and image alt text. If you have a local business, optimize your Google+ Local Listings.

How is the 2013 Catalyst CTR study unique? (source)

  • RECENT DATA: This CTR study is the most current large-scale US study available. It contains data ranging from Oct. 2012 – June 2013. Google is constantly tweaking its SERP UI, which can influence organic CTR behavior.
  • MORE DATA: This study contains more keyword data, too. The keyword set for this study spans 17,500 unique queries across 59 different websites. More data can lead to more accurate representations of the true population.
  • MORE SEGMENTS: This study segments queries into categories not covered in previous studies which allows us to compared CTR behavior attributed to different keyword types. For example, branded v. unbranded queries, and question v. non-question based queries.


Since search engine marketing is not going away any time soon build your content around niche specific keywords. Set a goal to pop up above the fold on page one of google for your organic marketing campaign. Use PPC marketing to seize the top spot on Google. Combining these strategies can quickly boost your click  through rate, increase web traffic and skyrocket your conversions.

Note: I have been selected to participate in a paid SEO Peer Review of a recent study about Google click-through rates prepared by Catalyst. The FTC requires bloggers properly disclose when they are getting paid to work with a brand

8 replies
  1. Adrienne
    Adrienne says:

    Hey Matthew,

    Great post and wonderful information you’ve shared here.

    I’m not a big SEO gal myself although I still get plenty of organic search results from Google. I mostly concentrate these days on referral traffic because to me word of mouth means more to me for what I offer then people finding me through Google and probably either not sticking around for long or never coming back after the first visit. They’re usually just on a mission where I prefer to build a community.

    I also believe that by focusing just on search engine traffic you’re doing more harm then good because Google keeps changing things so often I keep hearing about people’s horror stories of losing all their traffic because they were so focused on search engine traffic only.

    We can’t ignore it though but I also don’t put all my faith in Google either.

    Great share though and I did see that infographic on Brent’s post. Still interesting and knowledgeable information.


    • Matthew Capala
      Matthew Capala says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience Adrienne, I would also not recommend driving SEO traffic as your primary website marketing strategy, and I would trade 100 visits from Google for one engaged community member who shares my message to hundred engaged followers, who in turn share it and so on.

      In fact, Google gets it, so they look very much at signals such as community size, authorship, community engagement, social sharing, and ect. So you are doing great SEO! 🙂

      Where SEO adds a lot of value is in researching the keywords your customers or audience are using to find your product or information, and optimize your content so that search engines can understand it and rank it. What’s the point to upload a video on your blog that users love, but search engines cannot understand?

      User first, algorithm second, but do both 🙂


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