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Study: Forget About Average Organic CTRs, They Mean Nothing

Study: Forget About Average Organic CTRs, They Mean Nothing

Many marketers try to benchmark their organic search performance against industry average click-through rates (CTRs). This turns out to be a mistake.

According to a massive keyword performance study by Keylime Toolbox, which looked at nearly 5 million queries across a range of industries, there is so much variation by vertical category and site that averages “didn’t provide much actionable data for a specific site.”

Instead, Keylime Toolbox founder Vanessa Fox says companies should determine baseline organic CTRs and then evaluate market opportunity or measure subsequent performance against those earlier self-benchmarks. Branded and non-branded keywords should also be segmented out because branded queries typically produce higher CTRs, sometimes significantly higher.

The charts below, based on the extensive Keylime Toolbox analysis, reflect CTR variation by position and category. They are averages but they show the variability that can exist and why individual site performance may be significantly different.



Another insight from the study is that top position doesn’t automatically generate the highest CTRs. While CTR is correlated with position, other factors can influence consumer clicks. Fox says that rather than chasing more third party links, in many cases SEOs might be better served by enhancing their search results display.