Searchmetrics Glossary – The Dictionary of Search Engine Optimization and Content Marketing

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Click Through Rate (CTR)

The click-through rate, or CTR for short, is an online marketing metric that describes the relationship between the number of impressions and the number of clicks on an ad or link. The higher the CTR, the more users have clicked on the ad or link in question. The CTR in the search engine results pages is an important topic for search engine optimization.

What can we learn from the CTR?

The click-through rate is an important metric for measuring performance. When talking about CTR, we can differentiate between two main uses:

  • CTR in Online Marketing: The click-through rate shows how often an ad or link has been clicked compared to the number of impressions. If an advert or a link in an email newsletter has a high CTR, then marketers can assume that this was a popular advert or an attractive topic in the newsletter. However, the CTR also has to viewed in the context of conversions. An E-Commerce operator can’t just rely on the CTR to judge success – they also need to see how many leads and/or sales their shop generates.
  • CTR in search engine optimization: For SEOs, the click-rate on a snippet in the results of search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo is of great relevance. The higher the CTR, the better the snippet is likely to be optimized. However, if lots of users, after clicking on the snippet, then click back from the landing page to the search results, this will cause a higher bounce rate – which can be considered the opposite metric to CTR.

How high should a good click-through rate be?

There is no universal definition of what is needed for an average or good CTR. The values can vary enormously. What is universal is how the CTR is calculated: the number of impressions divided by the number of clicks.

  • Click-through rate for display ads: The CTR for classic display ads is around 0.1 percent. This means that, on average, only one impression in every thousand leads to a click.
  • Click-through rate for Google ads: The CTR for Google ads is usually around 0.35 percent, rather higher than that of classic display ad banners provided by the large networks. The reason for this improved CTR is likely that Google AdWords are displayed on a smaller group of targeted websites, and that Google ads are displayed based on the context of the website being visited. The same is true for Google ads that are based on keywords and displayed on the search results pages: Ads that are closely related to the context of the searched keyword can enjoy a higher click-through rate than regular ads.
  • Click-through rate for Facebook ads: According to Wordstream, the average CTR for Facebook ads is 0.9 percent – this is considerably more than for display ads in general and more than for Google ads.
  • Click-through rate in email marketing: Typical open or click rates for email newsletters can vary a lot according to industry and target audience. As a rule of thumb, an open rate of 30 percent and a click rate of 10 percent can be considered a good CTR.
  • CTR for organic search results: A high CTR in the SERPs is a relevant metric for search engine optimization. In organic search, it is possible to establish click-through rates for the results at different ranking positions. Searchmetrics has investigated these rates for its ranking factors studies. The highest rate is around 45 percent, for the top search result, with the rate falling continually the further down the SERP the result is.

Why is CTR important in online marketing?

Anyone setting up a marketing campaign with paid Google ads for particular keywords will view the CTR as an important metric. If the ads have a high ratio of impressions to clicks, then the ad is clearly appealing to users, meaning that the snippet is well optimized. The same is true in email marketing. As a performance metric, the CTR can be used to measure how well a newsletter has been received by the target audience.

Viewed in isolation, however, the CTR doesn’t tell the full story. The conversion rate is an essential piece of information for online shops and affiliate websites. If 100 users click on an ad that gains 10,000 impressions, then this is a click through rate of one percent. But if only two of these 100 users then complete a transaction or convert into a confirmed sale or lead, then the ultimate conversion rate (conversions/impressions) is only 0.02 percent. This rate has to be compared alongside the cost-per-click (CPC) and the company’s targets.

Why is CTR important for search engine optimization?

Measuring click-through rates is not only relevant for online and content marketing. It is also valuable in search engine optimization. The CTR tells us whether an organic result, based on its position in the search results, is receiving a relatively high or low number of clicks.

As with online marketing, the click-through rate of organic search results cannot be viewed in isolation. The bounce rate and time on site are also important. If the snippet promises something that the landing page can’t deliver, the user will quickly return to the search results page, which is ultimately a negative outcome for your website.

How can you optimize the CTR in SEO or SEA?

  • SEO: There are opportunities for optimizing the CTR of organic results in the SERPs, for example, by changing a page’s meta description or by integrating rich snippets. It can also help if the snippet and the landing page content closely match.
  • SEA: An online marketing campaign can be optimized for improved CTR. If the click-through rate is found to be lower than expected (taking into account typical industry levels), then the applied targeting can be adjusted or the ad/banner can be placed in a more favorable position.


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