Impact of Google Result Position on Online Ad CTR

Impact of Google Result Position on Online Ad CTR

  • 1 October 2013

In June 2013, Chitika Insights published a study examining the value of each Google result position. Analysis of the study data revealed that the first position on an average Google search engine result page (SERP) garnered about 33% of Google search traffic. However, as part of Chitika Insights’ latest study examining the advertising implications of the earlier data set, it was found that visitors who got to a site via clicking on the first position in a Google SERP exhibit dramatically low ad click-through-rates (CTR) on the subsequent website.

A Web page’s traffic is just one possible key performance indicator (KPI) for the online advertising industry. One closely-watched applicable KPI is conversion rate, commonly known as CTR, which is the conditional probability of a user clicking on an ad given that the ad is shown.

To study how CTR varies depending on the Google result clicked, Chitika Insights examined tens of millions of online ad impressions in which the user was referred to the page via a Google search. From the referring Google URL, Chitika is able to extract the position that the webpage was on within the prior search results page. From this, Chitika can measure what percentage of Google traffic comes from each position of the search results page. The data set was drawn from a date range of August 1st to August 7th, 2013.

The results show that of the first 100 positions on a given Google SERP, the highest CTR was from 10th position and not first position. In fact, the first position had the lowest CTR among first 100 positions. (Note: all percentages mentioned in the above graph is indexed CTR and not actual CTR). The chance of a user clicking on an ad increases when that user finds something that they are looking for in the form of an ad. Hence, this disparity may be due to the fact that most users clicking on a link in first position are keenly focused on what they are looking for and/or have already found what they need.

Along the same lines, when a user scrolls down and clicks on a link at position 10, it is more likely that they have not found what they were looking for, increasing the probability of that person clicking on an ad related to their search query. Leaving aside these possible behavioral causes, what is clear from the data set is that although the first position of a Google search result drives the most search traffic, an average visitor coming from that link is the least likely to convert into an ad click.

It is important to keep in mind that these data do not necessarily mean a site should tailor all of its SEO efforts to focus on attaining the 10th ranking for a given term. If a site's daily traffic is already high, say hundreds of thousands to millions of visitors per day, looking to maximize CTR by way of Google placement may be a worthwhile idea. If, however, a site's daily traffic is low, the first priority should be to increase site visitors before going after that smaller number of higher-value users.

With these caveats and the traffic breakdown by Google SERP ranking in mind, what these statistics point to is that for high volume search terms or phrases in particular, the 10th position is a great place to be.

On a popular search term, 2.4% of potential visitors still represents a sizable audience, and by being the number 10 result, it’s likely a site will see higher ad revenues. However, for lower volume or specialized search terms, ranking as high as possible will help in attracting the largest audience, since the proverbial “pie” of users on those terms is already fairly small, along with the potential revenue impact of higher visitor CTRs.

Note: A slightly expanded version of the SEO implications of this post appears on the Flippa blog.