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When considering click through rate (CTR) as a factor in ranking, there are numerous questions that come to mind. Does it affect how well your website performs or how well your website helps you earn money? This article will look into how CTR affects ranking with regard to organic results found in the search engines results page (SERP). First, it is essential to define the terms CTR and organic results.
CTR is the click through rate that measures the number of people who manage to click a link as opposed to the number of people who have had the opportunity to do so. Essentially, this means that there are the websites that appear on the SERP. Therefore, if 30% of people who view your website on the SERP click on the link, then the CTR is 30%. This means that the other 70% did view the website on the SERP but did not actually click on the result or link.
Organic results are those listings found on the SERP. They appear due to their particular relevance to the search keywords used. The organic results are the ones that determine the number CTR; however, they do not determine the ranking of your website. Here is the reason why. As mentioned earlier out of 100% of those who view your page, only 30% may click on your website if it appears on the SERP due to relevance of keywords search. This 30% will represent the CTR but in no way represent your ranking.
It is imperative to note that ranking does affect the CTR of your website. The higher ranked you are by a search engine, the higher the chances that the CTR of your website is higher. Therefore higher placement in search engine page results affect your click through rates. However, massive organic traffic will have no effect on the ranking or position of your website on a search engine.
There has been popularity of CTR over the past few years. It has come to be considered as an imperative SEO metric. Nonetheless, since 2014, the popularity of CTR has risen due to its relevance in Searchmetrics. According to Searchmetrics, analysis was “used to describe differences between certain URL rankings from position one to 30”. This goes to show that some of the factors explained above my have influence on high rankings but do not have to influence the ranking factors.
Subsequently, CTR became relevant and was mentioned at conferences and in blogs as an essential factor in ranking. Additionally, there have been some case studies that have sought to show how you can boost your rankings by using artificial CTR boosting. However, in 2015, all this changed and CTR no longer has any direct influence on rankings. The discussion that follows in the article will look through evidence showing that this is true.
The experiment done intended to show that a website’s rankings can be improved using an increase in CTR. The hypothesis argues that the CTR is a ranking factor and that manipulation of the said CTR was likely to influence the website’s position as far as Google ranking is concerned. This means Higher CTR = High ranking on Google.
Objective of the experiment
The main goal was to focus on the isolation of CTR from other ranking factors and measure the impact of this isolation on the engine rankings. It was important to place into consideration that there were other factors that could affect the results of this isolation. These included; Chrome data, back links and social media among others. Therefore, this experiment was not meant to measure CTR purely.
There was a need to leave out the human factor with regard to the CTR to be measured in this type of crowd source experiment. Therefore, the main goal was to make an SEO experiment that would measure CTR influence and not be affected by other metrics.
In order to test the CTR’s impact on the rankings, the plan was to send traffic to a domain and make it look like a viral trend. For instance, one based on a new product launch or TV advertisement. Once this was done, a test would be done on the increase in organic rankings.
There was a case study in which the keywords used were “negative SEO”. This page managed to rank number 2 to number 4 on the organic search results. Therefore, the aim of the experiment was to push the organic search results to number one in order to prove the influence of CTR on rankings.
There were other keywords added in order to make the ranking more precise. The experiment began when the researcher found that there were no new links coming in and appearing above in the SERP. The experiment was run in the 2nd and 3rd week of March 2015.
It is imperative to note that Google is precise when it comes to noting fake traffic. It is part of their algorithm that is imperative to its operations. It is used to protect AdWords that are a valuable asset to the search engine giant. The researcher had a set up of proxy scrapers, proxies, CTR bots and tools as well as servers used in the previously done experiment. There was a chance to test the bots set up with the “Negative SEO” experiment and around 60% to 70% of the previous visits had been filtered by Google Analytics and the Google Search Console.
In order to for the researcher to take the experiment up another level, these changes had to be made. The goal was to influence the Google traffic data in a way that would affect Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends. Therefore, the goals to be achieved to make the experiment valid included the following:
- Ensuring that similar traffic would not be filtered out by tools such as Google AdWords
- Achieve a 60% to 70% success rate (previous fail rate) for having traffic recorded by Google Search Console and Google Analytics. (This meant the traffic sent as well as the traffic recorded)
- Make use of a different IP address for every visit
- All the traffic should come from Google.com
Naturally, the task was not simple for the researcher. However, after a few weeks there was success and all that was left was sending the fake Google Organic traffic to the website and wait for results.
Execution of the experiment
Once everything was set up, the researcher sent bots to his domain name and made use of the following structure to make queries for his site. The domain name was https://goralewicz.co
- Open browser
- Go to Google.com
- Enter query and search query on Google.
- Search domain name page by page until the domain name is found
- Click on the result
- Go through random pages on the site until for two to four minutes
It was essential to test various key words found on the site. They included
- Negative SEO
- International SEO consultant
- SEO training
- SEO Consultant
- Goralewicz.co negative SEO
As mentioned earlier, the blog post had ranked number 2 and 4 for the keyword search; negative SEO for a number of months after publication on 4th of December 2014.
Here is what was affected by the experiment;
Impressions, clicks and CTR as well as average position of the site regarding the term “negative SEO” (this was based on Google Search Console)
- Google Trends was also affected for the Keyword “Negative SEO”
- Monthly keyword data for the term “negative SEO ” was affected for Google AdWords as well as Keyword Planner
- Search Engine Ranking were affected with regards to the keyword “negative SEO” as per SEM rush
After the experiment, the average position with regard to search results for the keywords was at 2.9. It then went up and these were the changes:
- Average Position: 4.4
- Total clicks: 35 573
- Total Impressions: 41 909
- Average CTR: 84%
The traffic increased by 3781%, as there were no clicks that were being filtered out as spam based on the Google AdWords Keyword Planner that the researcher/blogger used to check. The search ranking remained for two months before plummeting.
Based on the hypothesis, it is clear that there were no changes in ranking as the final result before the organic searches started plummeting remained at number 2, as was the case when the domain was previously operational.
Heavy organic traffic was created for the domain and was not filtered out by the tool Google algorithm. The CTR also increased and a fake Google trend was created by the blogger. In addition, the research/ blogger was able to affect Google traffic using the Google AdWords Keyword Planner. However, there was total failure when it came to increase in ranking for any keywords mentioned above.
In conclusion, Google’s Gary Illyes mentions “Google uses clicks made in search results in two different ways- for evaluation and for experimentation- but not for ranking”. That summarizes the fact that CTR and organic results do not affect the ranking of a domain on Google.
Feature image: Steven Lilley via Flickr