Whether click-through rate (CTR) is a Google search ranking factor or not is a much-debated topic within the SEO community. Some say it is, some say it is not, but what is the truth? First, let’s start with what click-through rate is. CTR on Google is a percentage showing the ratio of users who click on a result in the SERP (search engine results page), compared to the total number of users who saw the result. Now, we’ll never know exactly how Google ranks pages, as that’s something they’ve been holding close to their chest since the rise of their search engine in the early 2000s, but we are sure of a few ranking factors. For example, we know search query relevance and Core Web Vitals and their elements (page performance/experience KPIs) contribute to ranking.

The real question is if CTR is a direct ranking factor or an indirect ranking factor. SearchEngine Journal mentions, “there are potentially thousands of factors that indirectly support direct ranking factors, and we need to be careful not to confuse the two.” Many have conducted experiments trying to prove one way or the other if CTR is truly a ranking factor; however, there can always be more factors at work. Search engines are complex and include many nuanced algorithms, making it difficult to tell what’s actually a ranking factor unless it comes straight from the horse’s mouth. Clicks can be bought and manipulated with bots; however, they can also show searchers’ interest and are an important metric to track how well your page is performing and indicate the quality of your title tags and meta-descriptions.

Well, at Pubcon Las Vegas 2016, Gary Illyes, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, confirmed that CTR is not a Google ranking factor: “If you think about it, clicks, in general, are incredibly noisy. People do weird things on the search result pages. They click around like crazy, and in general, it’s really, really hard to clean up that data.” He also confirmed that CTR is used for personalization as it can “teach” Google’s algorithm which types of results a person prefers, as it’s important to remember that Google’s first priority is it’s providing quality results for its searchers.

According to the evidence, click-through rate is not a direct Google search ranking signal. It is too messy and easy to manipulate to consider for ranking your site higher in the SERPs. However, tracking and improving your CTR is still vital as it’s a metric you can use to determine if your content is successful. While it will not ultimately be a direct ranking factor, gaining more organic website traffic is always important. To learn more about how your business can successfully rank on the SERPs with an expert SEO strategy, contact our team at LSM today!