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Compare percentages of click-through rate based on types of web searches.

April 25th, 2011 by Leslie Carruthers

Ever wondered what the click-through rate is for the coveted top spot on Google’s search engine results page?

As SEOs, we can think of no better place we want our clients to be than in that number one spot at the top of the Google search engine results page (SERP) for keywords relevant to their businesses. Since it’s not exactly easy to nab that first place, people will usually be happy with any spot on the first page of results.

But have you ever wondered what the difference is in the click-through rate (CTR) from the number one result to the second? In other words, what percentage of clicks does the first result get compared to the second, or third, or fourth, and so on?

Brace yourselves. One study has shown that the second result receives less than half the number of clicks than the first result. Other research puts the number even lower, at about one-third. Still another study shows the click-through rate of spot #2 to be less than 30% of spot #1! And the percentages keep going down the further down the page you go.

In addition, these studies show that the first result gets a click-through rate between 34% and 42%. The second spot gets 12-17% of the clicks. Ouch.

Intent of web searches: navigational, informational or transactional

What these studies don’t take into account are searchers’ intent and their position in the buying cycle. What is the purpose of the web searches? Does that make a difference in the click-through rate of the various positions on the search engine results page? Indeed, it does.

Here are the three types of web searches:

  • A navigational search is when a user is looking for a specific site. Most often a search for a company will turn up the company’s website in the first result; therefore navigational searches increase the click-through rate of the first result to about 70%, skewing the aggregate click-through numbers mentioned above. These searchers don’t look beyond the first half of the first page, because they don’t need to.
  • An informational search is just what it sounds like; the searcher is looking for specific information. According to this web queries study, more than 80% of searches are informational. Informational searchers will generally bail if they don’t find what they’re looking for in the first few search results. They’ll simply try a different search.
  • A transactional search is performed by people who are looking to buy. Interestingly, an eye tracking study found that these searchers will scan much further down the page for results – good news for ecommerce sites. Consider that pre-internet, buyers would generally obtain a minimum of three bids or prices before making a purchase decision, and it seems that behavior continues online.

Businesses who know their online audience will be better able to target one or more of these types of web searches. Monitoring CTR and impressions through Google Webmaster Tools can provide additional insight as well.

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