What Really Influences Searchers to Click on (Your Website’s) Search Results

Posted on March 27th, 2020 by nms

In today’s connected world, the practice of conducting online searches for information is familiar to nearly everyone. So, too, is selecting search results from long lists of possibilities. Most people do not give much thought as to why they choose to click on certain search results; there are many factors that may influence us to select the results we click on.

Optimizing for Search Engine Clicks

Search engine optimization (SEO) professionals analyze factors, such as search intent, to improve click-through rate (CTR), and increase search engine clicks for their clients. In this guide, we will explore the factors that influence Web users to click on search results, unlocking new possibilities in Web content and online visibility.

Organic Click-Through Rate

To get a better understanding of how certain features and factors influence Web users, the SEO information resource Backlinko conducted an extensive study of Google search results. The idea behind the study was to investigate something called “organic click-through rate”, or the act of Web users clicking on certain search results or links that they discovered through searches.

The Backlinko study analyzed over 5 million Google searches encompassing click-through rate (CTR) over nearly 900,000 individual webpages. Several interesting findings came from the data analysis, including:

  1. Position in the coveted “top 5” search results is paramount. Users are far more likely to trust the links in positions 1-5 on search engine results pages (SERPs), and overwhelmingly choose these to click through.
  2. The number one position in SERPs has a CTR rate of just over 31%, further demonstrating the power of top 5 results.
  3. For results in positions 7-10 on any given SERP, the CTR is about the same. In other words, links outside the top 5 have the same general CTR, and exact positioning below the target threshold doesn’t seem to make much of a difference in influencing Web users.
  4. Movement within top 5 results can make a huge difference in CTR. In the study, a jump from number 3 to number 2 in a given SERP improved CTR by 30% or more.

The major takeaway from the Backlinko study is this: for a given keyword or long-tail key phrase, landing a spot in the top 5 results should be the goal of every website and SEO campaign. This isn’t always possible, but by doing so, traffic can increase dramatically.

Understanding Search User Preferences

Now that we know how SERP position can influence Web users, what about other factors that may encourage or influence them to click on certain links? Ignite Visibility polled a group of 500 users aged 25-60 to determine how user preferences – along with features found on SERPs – create incentives to click on a given link. In the survey, several important characteristics were discovered, including:

  1. Ads can generate clicks, but too many can drive away users. About 2/3 of survey participants indicated that an increase in ads would influence the use of Google as a search engine, potentially sending them to other search platforms.
  2. Descriptions in search results had the strongest influence on CTR, with just under 63% of survey respondents indicating that good descriptions drive clicks.
  3. Featured snippets within Google search results also had a powerful influence on CTR. About 55% of those surveyed said that snippets were a sign of Google’s improvements in quality search results.
  4. Brand recognition is an important part of the SERP click-through puzzle. 55% of survey respondents indicated that they were influenced to click on a link only if they recognized the brand behind the link.

What About Clicks on Ads?

Organic search excludes ad links or other paid search results. However, understanding how ads – including paid links on search results pages — work and how they can influence Web users to click on them can be important from an SEO perspective.

An SEO research firm called Clutch undertook a study to do just that, and looked at user interaction with ads on multiple platforms, including Google, Amazon, YouTube, and Bing.

The Clutch study revealed that user habits have become more sophisticated over time, with more survey respondents indicating that they can discern between an organic search link or one that is an ad or other paid link. The study illustrated the top four reasons a user clicks on a paid ad in search:

  • To answer a specific search query or question;
  • Recognition of a brand;
  • Top 5 position in SERPs, and;
  • Links with good descriptions, titles, or images included.

Click-Through Rates and Search Engine Clicks Optimization Summarized

The search environment is evolving constantly; Google and other search providers add features, functionality, and technology at a steady pace to improve the quality and relevance of search results. Professional SEO services are advised to study these changes in order to deliver great results for their clients. By understanding user habits, user preferences, and the factors that influence click-through rates, insurance SEO specialists can unlock new potential, driving business growth and organic traffic to target websites.