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Understanding Click-Through Rate

Though often misunderstood as primarily a metric to be concerned with for paid search, it’s well worth your time to also pay attention to your click through rate (most commonly shortened to CTR, as it will be for the remainder of this article) when analyzing your organic search performance. It’s a valuable indicator of audience engagement with your content and/or products and as such can assist you in defining your overall SEO strategy. The simplest definition of CTR is it is a percentage of impressions that resulted in a click (e.g. if you had 100 impressions that resulted in one click that would be represented as a CTR of 1%). Defining what constitutes a high or low CTR, and when either outcome can be considered positive or negative, is a bit more complex.

Generally speaking, page titles that focus on keywords that are broader will likely have a lower CTR, as they are targeting topics that are highly competitive and are addressed by a wide variety of content distributed throughout many different sites. Similarly, keyword ambiguity tends to be more of an issue for broader keywords; this concept refers to keywords that can have multiple meanings and applications depending on the audience and their variable intents. For example, if your content is targeting a broad keyword like “Top 10 Safety Tips” that could apply to any number of searchers with varying intents (such as users looking for information on how to travel safely abroad, how to prepare chicken without risking food-borne illness, halloween costumes with reflective panels, etc.). 

At this point you may be wondering what then constitutes a desirable CTR to aim for, and conversely what level can it sink to before you should be concerned there’s something wrong; is 10% the goal? Is anything below 2% cause for alarm? It’s important to note that there is no useful definition of what you should consider to be a high or low CTR for your content, not only because of the issues described above but also because that standard differs greatly from industry to industry. In order to determine what constitutes a good CTR for your site you should combine internal data (such as CTR over long periods of time, broken out by different content types and calls to action) with research on average CTR for your specific industry. Once you’ve arrived at benchmarks for low and high CTR you can use that information to identify content that is failing to perform, as well as take lessons from content that is performing well and then determining whether they can be applied to content that is struggling to engage with your audience.