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Correlation between low organic CTR and dropped rankings?

 4:03 pm on Apr 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I recently lost top positions for ultra competitive keyword phrases, yet retained top positions for other phrases. I opened up GG webmaster tools and sorted by organic CTR. I noticed all of my keyword phrases with high CTR held their positions, while those with CTR <10% dropped, and those <4% CTR fell completely out.

Has anyone else observed this? Could GG's new factoring of organic CTR in its Algo explain this drops many have incurred lately?





 5:11 pm on Apr 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

It's possible that Google uses CTR as a ranking factor. But from the information you provide it's hard to judge your case. For example, 10% is usually a good CTR for ranking positions such as 6. 7, 8, or 9, but is very poor for the number 1 ranking.


 7:23 pm on Apr 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is data from one site, in a highly competitive industry. Extremely compelling data that Google is currently factoring CTR in their live SERPs. I will fill in the data gap between 7 - 26% CTR. Columns 'ctr' = Click Through Rate from GG Webmaster Tools. Mon = Monday GG Position. Thurs = Thursday's Position (today)
ctr Mon Thurs
54% 1 1
49% 1 1
49% 1 1
30% 1 1
30% 1 1
28% 1 1
28% 1 1
28% 1 1
28% 3 3
26% 1 1
7% 5 not found
4% 5 16
3% 6 not found
2% 3 not found
0% 7 not found
0% 7 not found
0% 5 not found
0% 7 not found
0% 11 not found

Everything with a Top 10 ranking Monday and <7% CTR was dinged (one term) or completely gone from the SERPs today. There was no change to ANY of the positions of terms with a >26% CTR in our sample. Looks pretty clear cut.

I am curious if anyone else that has experienced a drop recently can correlate as I have to CTR data.



 8:29 pm on Apr 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm still not sure about your conclusions. For one thing, the CTRs in your table could have existed at about the same level for months or even years, but the big ranking changes apparently occurred this week. Also, if a page is good enough on other factors to reach the top ten, it seems unlikely to me that it would suddenly drop completely out of the rankings for this reason.


 9:02 pm on Apr 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

...unless they just started factoring it in the results. The CTRs probably did exist for years, but they weren't factored in until today. What else would cause only the Top 10 results with low CTR to drop while all the other Top 10's with high CTR to hold positions? Too me, it seems like a good isolation of a variable.

This may be a 'live run' of changes to come. If you've experienced a drop recently, lmk if your data looks like mine.



 9:08 pm on Apr 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've long thought that Google would use the CTR from organic SERPs as a metric for end user satisfaction. They've got the data to make statistically significant comparisons, and it seems like a no-brainer.

Up to now, webmasters didn't have any data on impressions to test out the concept, so this is the first such report I've read. It's true that a correlation is not proof of causation, but I'd say this idea is worth testing.


 10:40 pm on Apr 22, 2010 (gmt 0)

In my opinion this metric would mostly lead to small movements in the rankings. For example, if the page at position 5 consistently gets more clicks than the page at position 4, then Google's algo might swap their positions. But I doubt that this type of factor would cause a page to suddenly drop completely out of the rankings.

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