What is Click-Through Rate (CTR)?

Click-through rate (CTR) is a metric that measures the frequency with which people click on a link as a percentage of those who have viewed that link.

What Is Click-Through Rate?

Click-through rate (CTR) refers to the frequency with which internet users click on a particular link or image that takes them to another page or website. Too many people take CTR as a measure of the success of a given link or advertisement — but it’s much more complicated than that. In its simplest form, CTR tells you what portion of people who have viewed a given link have gone on to click that link and follow it through to its target page.

CTR in Paid Search

CTR is an important metric in paid search. It tells you how many users are clicking on your paid result, out of the total number of impressions for the terms that you’ve bought. For many companies, click-through rates will also affect the bottom line. Higher click-through rates will bring more potential customers to your website and make your paid search campaign worth the money you’re putting into it.

On the other hand, low click-through rates may mean that you’re pouring money into a paid search campaign that simply isn’t paying off.

CTR in Organic Search

CTR is a term that appears often in relationship to paid search, and it can be easy to forget that CTR is a term that applies to internet marketing in general. When you remember that Google is an advertising platform, it’s easy to see that CTR is just as important for organic search.

Searchers often click-through to view paid results, but they also click-through to view organic results. When you think about how well your domain is performing in organic search, think about it in terms of click-through rate in addition to the overall search volume. Evaluate how many people who see your pages pop up on a SERP end up clicking through to those pages; this number is your CTR.

CTR may also be more than just a measurement towards your bottom line. There is some evidence that click-through rate is a search engine ranking factor. This means that, if search engines do consider CTR, they are using searcher habits to help determine a page’s quality and relevance.

Other Forms of CTR

Click-through rate is important in organic and paid search, but those are not the only places where CTR is a metric worth tracking. In virtually any online advertising platform, there is going to be a volume of people who see a link to your domain, whether it’s represented in the text, an image advertisement, or even a video. Of the people who see that link, a certain number are going to click through to your domain, allowing you to measure CTR for anything from email campaigns to your company’s social media posts.

Click-through rate is often something worth measuring in all forms of online advertising. However, as we’ll see, the raw number shouldn’t be the final word on the success or failure of your online advertising efforts.

Click-Through Rate Calculator

You actually don’t need a special calculator to determine your click-through rate. The formula for click-through rate, expressed as a percentage, is:

CTR = [(Total Clicks)/(Total Impressions)] x 100

You can often use tools like Google Analytics to evaluate how much traffic you’re getting from a given source. In the case of organic search, we like using SEMRush to determine search volume, but just about any other tool that can tell you how many people could be seeing your links is fine too.

Let’s calculate and exemplify CTR in organic search. Our fictional company sells specially made coffee mugs, and we’d really like to rank for the keyword phrase “personalized coffee mugs.” Using SEMRush, I can see that this keyword phrase has a monthly search volume of about 14,800 searches. Of course, search volume doesn’t necessarily equal impressions — if we’re on page five of the results, there’s a good chance that no one is seeing our site. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll assume that we’re high up and getting most, if not all, of the search volume in monthly impressions.

SEMrush keyword volume

Now let’s imagine that our website is getting 500 clicks per month from search results for “personalized coffee mugs.” Using the formula above, we can calculate our CTR:

(500/14,800) x 100 = 3.38

So our hypothetical online store has a click-through rate of 3.38% for the keyword phrase “personalized coffee mugs” in organic search. But what does that number really mean?

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What Does CTR Mean for Businesses?

When you calculate your CTR, you’ll end up with a number. As with various other metrics, higher numbers are usually better — but they don’t tell the whole story.

Without context, click-through rate doesn’t mean much for your business. In order to interpret your CTR in paid and organic search, you’ll need to understand three things:

  • User Intent: When people are clicking through to your page from a given SERP, what are they expecting to find? Using our example from above, we’re probably going to sell a lot more products to people who are searching for “coffee mugs” than people who are searching for “coffee recipes.” If we have a 5 percent CTR for both terms, the CTR for “coffee mugs” is going to have a much bigger impact on our bottom line. This is why it’s so important to do keyword research before launching into any search-based marketing campaign.
  • Total Impressions: A 100 percent CTR sounds pretty good, right? Like something that would be a huge boon for your business? Even if your 100 percent CTR is for a keyword phrase that has only 10 searches every month? It’s critical to consider the overall volume of impressions when interpreting CTR numbers — a smaller CTR for a high-volume search could mean a lot more for your bottom line than a higher CTR for a low-volume search. Similarly, if your emails are ending up in the spam folder, you could be missing out on a lot of potential impressions.
  • Change Over Time: As we’ve seen above, CTR isn’t necessarily a measure of how much money you’re making. Instead, it’s a good idea to use CTR and changes in your CTR as a measure of whether your online advertising is improving or getting worse. For example, you might notice that your CTR for a particular keyword in organic search has been plummeting in the past few months. This is a meaningful number, and absolutely something you should investigate! Are you dropping in rankings? Is the keyword losing volume? Have you been hit with a penalty from Google? Changes in CTR should prompt you to investigate these things. They can also tell you what strategies are working.

What Is a Good Click-Through Rate?

If you take only one thing away from this article, it should be this: CTR, as a raw number, doesn’t mean anything for your business. There is no single number that is the measurement of a good click-through rate. You can only interpret CTR in context and use it to inform things like your content marketing strategy.

Instead of setting your sights on a particular CTR, use CTR as a way of measuring your online marketing strategies. Be sensitive to the context surrounding that number, factoring in user intent and the overall number of impressions. At the same time, use CTR and changes in CTR over time as a measuring stick for the strategies that you’re using.