How CTR Varies by Referring Webpage

How CTR Varies by Referring Webpage

  • 19 November 2013

For website owners looking to monetize their online presence, generating traffic to a particular webpage is the often the first step towards attaining that goal. Following that and other initial hurdles towards attracting a growing online audience come the nuanced aspects of improving ad click through rates (CTR) on each webpage. Attending to this need requires more than simply changing ad placements or size (although those do have an impact) - the way the average user finds the webpage can indicate a given site’s CTR performance level.

To quantify this issue, Chitika Insights examined ad click activity across the entire Chitika network, breaking the results down by referring domain (e.g. Google, within the site, an outside site, etc.) The study sample was composed of tens of millions of online ad impressions from a date range of October 1 to October 10, 2013. From this, Chitika measured the source of the traffic. Sources were classified as ‘within’ if users came to the webpage from within the website, ‘outside’ if they came to the webpage from outside the website, as well as direct traffic. The names of different search engines indicate if an impression was referred though a particular search engine, whether via paid or organic search results.

As can be seen from the indexed values, traffic originating from search engines exhibit a higher CTR as a whole, as compared to other traffic sources. Specifically, users coming from have the highest CTR, followed by Yahoo! and Bing. Google has the lowest CTR when compared to other search engines. Users who come from outside sites demonstrate a higher CTR than in-site or direct traffic. This makes intuitive sense, as users going directly to a webpage are more likely to know what they are looking for.

In terms of search engine-referred traffic,’s substantial lead in this area needs to be taken with a proverbial grain of salt, as its share of search engine Web traffic is only 2% within North America:

From the perspective of a website owner, these data underscore the importance of search engine traffic and link backs from other sites in improving monetization prospects. For the online advertising industry, this research supports the fact that search engine traffic tends to exhibit a higher CTR and should be considered when developing retargeting spend plans and advertising strategies as a whole.

It is important to keep in mind that these data does not necessarily conclude that a site should modify all of its SEO and SEM efforts to focus on attaining traffic originating from search engines or link backs from other sites. Several other factors affect CTR and need to be taken into account. For example, average CTR is higher for Windows desktop users as compared to Mac OS X users, and new site users tend to click on ads at a higher rate versus returning site users. By understanding a given site’s existing traffic mix, website owners can test different strategies in order to maximize CTR.