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    Is CTR a ranking factor?


    Hi,

    I was wondering what the community's opinion is on crafting titles and meta descriptions with a good CTR, and whether or not Google rewards that? I know Google says they don't factor in CTR as a ranking factor, but Google's not always open about their algorithm (for obvious reasons) and some SEOs are arguing that it is a factor.

    Note: I know a good CTR means more traffic to your site, so it's a good thing to focus on.

    Thoughts?

    Cheers,
    Julian

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  3. SeoRaptor
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    Some will say Yes, some will say No, some will say yes and no

    Disclaimer: Like everyone else, I do not know how Google algo is exactly build ( I'm sure you wouldn't imagine that).

    There are several criteria layers when it comes to Google ranking. I put CTR on the last one, Post-retrieval adjustments (next to Rank Brain). For me it's used only to smoothen results.

    Moz tested a lot of time to ask people to click on the 3rd or 4th results for a particular query and noticed that it could raise the page in SERP (not always but more than 50% of the time if I remember correctly) but this is only temporary and the page gets back down to it's normal position later.

    Here is a nice SMX presentation by Gary Illyes at 2016 SMX West https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iJPu4vHETXw and the related Q/A https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGSGZMI4Z_I

    Worths listening.

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    Last edited by Pierre Benneton; Apr 11th, 2017 at 10:22 AM.
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    Thanks! I'll check out the Q+A.

    I know Moz tested this and the results were temporary, but to me this suggests that CTR is a ranking factor. If CTR spikes (because Rand tells everyone to click a link), rankings might rise. But when that spike goes away a week later (when Rand is no longer doing the experiment), Google would pick up on that and drop the site back down in the rankings. I would hypothesize that a sustained boost in CTR (say, from writing a better title) would yield a sustained boost in rankings.

    Of course, as you point out, it's not settled science...so I'm not sure.
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    IMHO, if someone claims to be an Internet Marketer or SEO Consultant and has not watched the Paul Haahr video referenced above and the Andrey Lipattsev one referenced below, at least 3 times, then their advice deserves little credibility!

    I ask folk to consider the Paul Haahr statement, "for every word, it (the G index identifies) creates a list of the pages that the word occurs on...".

    Does this change your thinking about the relevance of "keyword targeting"?
    If it does NOT, it DAMN well should for all those "keyword" chasing SEO practitioners!

    Then there is this video:

    YouTube Video: Google Q&A+ #March (2016)

    This is a heavy going piece of SEO research...

    Participants:


    Summary of the Googler's response to various engagement signal questions like click-through-rates:

    • We don't do it
    • "It is impossible" - we can't do it, technically
    • These signals are inconsistent
    • They would be too easy to spam/game

    G is telling us that these "engagement" signals are often spurious or misleading. What more do we need to know?

    In this video a Googler directly replies to R. Fishkin's (MOZ) questions about the transient and questionable "fooling around" CTR results that subsequently became described as an "experiment" or "test". Fishkin claims the occasionally seen ranking change lasted up to 3 days.

    Questions:

    • What SEO value is a three day ranking boost?
    • How would you use it? Do you hire a bunch of the cheapest labour in the world to spend all day clicking on search results to your clients' pages?
    • How long would that obvious tactic last before G killed sites that used it?

    Topics in the video:
    • Loss of PageRank tool bar
    • At 10min 35 sec. Engagement signals - Eg. CTR, bounce rates, pogo-sticking, etc. Rand Fishkins: "Having a little fun" with engagement signals...
    • RankBrain/Hummingbird
    • Quality of SERPS in different countries

    SEO can be very heavy going but attention to the constantly changing details and their interpretation is what sorts out the pretenders from the real SEOs.

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    Last edited by JohnAimit; Apr 12th, 2017 at 04:42 AM.
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  9. Dinosaur
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    I have been trying to find a old post I did but cant find it. So this is from memory.

    At the time it was reported that you could negatively effect a sites ranking by clicking on the competitors around it in SERPS. By ignoring the target site Google lost confidence in it and dropped its ranking.
    I thought this cant be fact so set about trying to test it as it was saying that CTR had an effect in SERPS, I set up a test to the opposite, to increase the CTR of a site I controlled quite drastically over time. Lots of people said oh google will know what your upto blah blah blah but I was really careful in hiding what I was doing with the use of proxies clearing cache, changing what browser was being used etc etc.

    I wrote a bot that then went about its business and I left it running for a few weeks, The CTR increased and also the bounce rate dropped according to google analytics so I can only assume my test was not detected.
    The point was to see if doing this would improve the SERPS position even if it was a temporary increase while the test was running.

    The test failed and SERPS remained static.
    The domain was a very old one I own, (over 20 years) with fairly stable SERPS positions.

    So in my option CTR is useful metric for webmasters to monitor so they can adjust page titles, meta descriptions etc but as far as it being part of a signal for google I very much doubt it.

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    @Chedders: very interesting. What was the CTR boost that your bot delivered--1%, 2%, something else? Basically I'm wondering if a bigger CTR boost might have had a different effect. Maybe not.

    @JohnAimit: Just to clarify, if CTR is a ranking factor, most SEOs would respond by writing better titles and meta Ds (since the ROI would be higher)--NOT by doing black-hat stuff like hiring cheap clicks or building bots (except as a test). Of course, optimizing titles and meta Ds would be something a) Google is unlikely to penalize, even if it was obvious what was going on and b) would last a lot longer than 3 days.

    Also, if Google says it's not technically possible to use CTR as a ranking factor, I'm inclined to disbelieve them based on their own docs: https://twitter.com/randfish/status/...680576/photo/1
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  13. Dinosaur
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    I am talking in the region of 20% increase

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    Good to know. I wonder what the difference was between the tests you ran and the tests Rand ran?

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  17. SeoRaptor
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    I guess one Rand's was short term and Chedders was longer term, but it's just a guess.

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    Pardon my "pet peeve" rant showing and apologies to contributors above but this CTR debate seems to have been largely generated by Mr. Fishkin from around 2014(?).

    My peeve is that people keep calling it a "test" in countless articles on the subject.

    FAKE NEWS!!!!

    A "test" needs to be defined with aims, a methodology, controlled and properly measured results, discussion and a logical conclusion.

    Whatever Mr Fishkin did, it most certainly does not qualify as a "test". We do not know exactly what Fishkin asked his undefined audiences to do, when, where, what their browser settings were, how many acted, how results were assessed over what periods of time, what changes in the algo ranking system occurred over his undefined "bit of fun" period, what data index the results were delivered by and there are no logical conclusions, etc., etc., etc., etc.

    Faced with a panel of his peers, Mr. Fishkin was constrained to describe his "test" as, "just having a bit of fun". (Ref. the Google Q & A video, above.)

    He also admitted that the results of his "fun" were inconsistent in that sometimes they seemed to cause an effect but at other times they did not.

    All he reports is that occasionally something different seemed to happen for a small period of time.

    He then jumped to the conclusion that click-through-rate may have been the cause. Others on the panel including the Googler suggest it could have been a number of factors including a query deserves freshness effect.

    On such haphazard anecdotes are so many SEO myths and rumours started...

    Correlation does not imply causation.

    Consider some of the unwanted consequences of CTR as a ranking factor...

    Over time, SERP results would tend to feature fewer web pages.

    G is scraping more content from our sites and displaying it in cards so folk do not need to click through to our websites. Should we be hiding this info so G can't scrape it and thereby encourage people to click through to our pages to improve our SERP ranking?

    Mobile site rankings would be disadvantaged vs desktop versions - the LAST THING G. WANTS!

    According to a recent study: (https://moz.com/blog/state-of-search...avior-revealed)
    40.9% of mobile searches result in a SERP click
    62.2% of desktop searches result in a SERP click

    Wow! Desktop CTR is 52% higher than mobile.

    That small mobile algo boost factor of Apr 2015 must have been overpowered by desktop page CTRs as high as this.

    Anyone seeing non-mobile pages pushing back into the SERPs?

    PS To Julian_SEO,
    You certainly want to focus on improving SERP CTR as this is the essential first step in converting a site visitors into a client.

    I just don't believe that we have been given any good reason to believe that CTR is part of G's ranking algorithm.

    PPS. Interesting to read the Twitter thread from Fishkin that you posted. Seems he was well on the defensive of his CTR position then.

    It also looks like it was published before his participation in the Q & A video referenced above. Q & A video published 23 Mar 16. His Twitter thread seems to stop at 17 Mar 16.

    I wonder what his CTR as a ranking factor is post his SEO panel discussion that included a Googler?

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    • Doodled agrees : Great to see someone calling out some of the many limitations these "tests" have even though in many circles they have become "facts"
    Last edited by JohnAimit; Apr 16th, 2017 at 05:49 AM. Reason: typo
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    This discussion is great - I think I'll move this to our Search Engine Optimization section for more visibility.

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    I would agree with the above contributor that CTR is NOT a google ranking factor. It is only about the visistors. When CTR is high, it means that you have more site visistors. That is all.
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    May I suggest that CTR is not a ranking factor per say, but an indication you are doing things right. If you CTR increases you are obviously getting it right and making your serp listings look more appeasing to Searchers on the web.

    An example of this would be Google Starred Ratings showing up in the serps. Folks see the starred serps and know they are votes by common folk, satisfied customers, that give an honest review, hopefully. Badabing bababoom, your CTR goes up, your conversions should go up, depending on what your conversion goal is.

    ie..
    Conversions could be a phone call, or an contact email from the vistor, or if you are an affiliate site, a sale. Since I work on local mom and pop businesses, my clients want phones calls and request for quotes from a form on the site.

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    Last edited by KnowOneSpecial; Apr 21st, 2017 at 04:38 PM. Reason: spelling correction
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    I dont know if it is but to if you want to improve ctr rate then you should add a good meta description

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    • KernelPanic agrees : Good call Tom!
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    CTR is definitely a very important part of paid search, it's silly to think it's not part of the organic algorithm.

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