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SEO Sleuthing Uncovers How a High CTR Can Boost SERP Ranking

Many digital marketers suspect that a high CTR (click-through rate) on a web page can boost that page’s organic ranking on a SERP (search engine results page). Thanks to some experimentation by Larry Kim of WordStream, we now have compelling evidence that this effect could definitely be real, especially for long tail queries.

Based on this information, business websites seeking to gain ranking over competitors could earn top SERP spots by improving CTR. Read on to learn more about how Mr. Kim arrived at his conclusion as well as some advice from our Atlanta SEO agency on how to use this information to your advantage.

The Mythical Link Between CTR and SERP Ranking

Let’s take a step back. We already know that a heavy amount of quality backlinks and high-quality content are two of the most important ranking factors.

But it’s long been debated as to whether or not your ranking improves if more people tend to click on your appearances in SERPs. The theory goes like this:

Let’s say you have a webpage that shows up as position #11 for the query “gourmet PB&J recipe”. All other things being equal, your recipe page earns a higher rate of clicks from search users compared to other results.

According to the operating theory, this high CTR should send signals to the search engine that your recipe is more valuable to search users than others ranking above it, so over time it jostles them out of position and climbs the SERP rankings.

Considering that behavior signals indicating quality content have strong correlations to high SERP ranking, this theory isn’t preposterous at all. But because it lacked any sort of hard evidence, proving it was like trying to insist that Bigfoot was real because of blurry photos you had on hand.

Well, thanks to some sleuthing, we may have finally found our first piece of compelling evidence.

The Case for CTR Boosting SERP Through RankBrain

Based on the detective work of Mr. Kim, he paints a pretty convincing case for why SERP rankings are boosted by a high CTR.

By looking at the ranking of certain Word Stream pages for keywords in a niche group, Kim was able to show how ranking and CTR were strongly correlated. This correlation was much stronger with long tail queries between 3-5 words long compared to “head” queries of 1-2 words.

Using some statistical modeling, Kim suggests that Google’s AI-controlled algorithm RankBrain sets a certain benchmark value for CTR according to a page’s SERPs position. Positions 1 and 2 for long-tail queries have a high expected CTR of 15% to 30%. Lower-ranked queries have a benchmark CTR below 10%. If a page outperforms its expected CTR, it gets a little bonus boost to its ranking.

Similarly, if many pages on a domain have a high CTR from SERPs, then the domain as a whole could receive small ranking boosts to its pages.

Ergo, improving your CTR can improve your ranking!

How to Enhance Your SERP CTR According to an Atlanta SEO Agency

Here are a few recommendations we would make to improve your CTR:

  • View your “organic Quality Score” in Google Search Console, and fix pages with a low score with the tips they recommend
  • Improve your headline writing abilities to succinctly indicate value and stir interest
  • Write informative meta descriptions that offer information and leave people wanting more
  • Ensure that your headlines and meta match up accurately with your content; a high CTR can be counteracted by a high bounce rate if people feel deceived once they click
  • Use emotional triggers within your headlines (without getting too clickbaity)
  • Use social media ads, paid search ads and remarketing to improve brand awareness and search volume since recognizable brands help drive higher CTRs
  • A/B test headline and copy combinations in AdWords, and use the data to inform your organic SEO practices
  • Improve your other engagement-related metrics, like page views per visit, by creating lots of relevant, interesting content and encouraging additional article views

Finally, you can work with our experienced Atlanta digital marketing company to improve the volume and quality of your content, in addition to following technical best practices for SEO.

Putting work into these improvements could yield huge returns based on the data above, so keep trying and reach out to us if you have any questions!