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Analysis of 250 million SERPs finds no-click story more complex than it appears

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No-click search results are much less of a factor where (commercial) queries trigger the appearance of ads. There are significant differences in CTRs for position 1 for branded and non-branded queries. And featured snippets don’t impact CTRs in the aggregate.

Those are the three major findings by Perficient Digital in a new report on the impact of Google SERP features (snippets, boxes, etc.) on organic click-through rates (CTR). It’s based on analysis of roughly 250 million searches.

Perficient Digital and its partner AuthorityLabs looked at the major Google SERP/search features — ads, snippets, carousels, people also ask boxes, sitelinks, etc — and clickstream data over a 30 day period to evaluate their impact on organic CTR.

Percentage of no-click results: desktop vs. mobile

Ads take clicks from no-click results. Overall, the study found a blended desktop and mobile no-click percentage of about 44%. This stands in contrast to the now familiar Jumpshot-SparkToro chart showing just over 50% no-click results. The Perficient Digital number is 33.5% for the desktop and 54.6% for mobile.

When ads were present, triggered by commercial queries, the study found that the percentage of no-click results declined significantly on the desktop. The majority of clicks came “at the expense of no-click results.” The percentage of organic clicks remained fairly close: 55.5% with and 61% without ads.

The presence of ads impacts no-click results

Traditional CTR models ‘meaningless.’ The CTR percentage for branded/navigational queries is radically different (and higher) than for non-branded queries, according to the study. The chart below shows that for position 1, branded organic CTRs are nearly 70%. But for first position non-branded queries, the number is significantly less, just under 20%.

Based on this finding, Perficient Digital argues that “traditional CTR models that have been published are largely meaningless because they don’t separate CTR behavior for branded queries from non-branded queries.”

Branded queries: dramatic CTR differences in position 1

Snippets don’t really impact CTR overall. Perhaps another surprising finding of the study is that, in the aggregate, featured snippets, are what might be called “click neutral.” The conventional wisdom is that snippets contribute to no-click results because people get sufficient information from them without having to click through to a site.

But Perficient Digital found that the “CTR for queries with featured snippets are slightly higher than they are for queries without,” though insignificantly so. In some cases, the snippet answered the question without a click, in others it drove “substantially higher CTR to the sites from which the featured snippet was derived.” Thus, overall, the study concluded that featured snippets in the aggregate had a negligible impact on CTR.

Why we care. There are two, high-level tactical recommendations coming out of the report. The first is try to optimize for and rank in these SERP features (Local Pack, carousels, snippets). The second is: produce content “that addresses the long tail of search. The long tail of search still represents 70% or more of all searches” and Google can’t provide no-click answers to all these queries.


About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor to Search Engine Land, a member of the programming team for SMX events and the VP, Market Insights at Uberall.



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