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2021 comparison of Google organic clickthrough rates (SEO CTR) by ranking position

Author's avatar By Dave Chaffey 25 Feb, 2021
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Keyword research data reveals the SEO CTR rewards for top of SERP rankings in Google. Inform your SEO marketing strategy with the latest trends

You often hear company owners saying “I want to rank top” for their target keywords. Although this may be an unrealistic hope, they’re right to say this since they realize that claiming the top position in the SERP (Search Engine Results Page) drives up your SEO CTR like nothing else.

In fact, 2021 research from Zero Limit Web reveals that the first five organic results account for 67.60% of clicks in Google. That's including paid ads too! So, if you're not already, 2021 is the right time to invest in your organic marketing strategy.

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A planned approach to SEO

A planned approach to SEO

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SERP layouts Vs Safeguarding your organic clickthrough rates

We've all noticed the changing layouts seamlessly integrating into our search journeys. with zero-click searches are becoming increasingly common mobile. But what does this mean for our organic reach in 2020? It seems that, for search engine marketers, 'search volume alone isn’t the decisive figure' anymore.

In fact, snippets and panels in 'position zero' take up valuable real estate on the SERP, often at the cost of organic entries beneath. In the chart below, by Sistrix, we can see that when a SERP includes a featured snippet, the SEO CTR for position one drops by an average of 5.3%.

Featured snippets CTR

If you are currently defending a top-ranked organic keyword, or would like to increase your reach, why not check to see if there is a featured snippet in the SERP? And while you're at it, why not find out how to win SERP features for your site too?

Featured snippet

Purely organic keyword strategy

That's not to say that purely organic results aren't still your bread and butter. In fact, even in the midst of all these user-friendly innovations, it is still the case that 'the more you work into the long-tail, the greater the proportion of purely organic SERPs'. Any SEO worth their salt will tell you it's long-tail keyword territory where you can make the biggest incremental gains - we shall be looking into the numbers that still back up this theory in 2021 later in the blog.

So, for your reference (and reassurance), here is the handy table which Sixtrix has produced demonstrating the SEO CTR for a purely organic SERP in blue against the average (across many different formats of SERP).

Organic CTR

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Understanding the latest SEO ranking factors

Understanding the latest SEO ranking factors

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Keyword SEO CTR uplift - average rankings by SERP position

Depending on your resources, there may be keywords where realistically you aren't competing for the top spot and it's good to acknowledge that - particularly for the more generic terms where competition can get quite fierce.

In this case, studying average clickthrough rates by SERP position is useful since you can estimate uplift in visits with improved visibility rankings. Using the query data from Google Search Console, or if you're very lucky Search Console Insights, will enable you to perform a gap analysis for which keywords to improve in SEO. This exercise will help you prioritize a mammoth task and can also be handy to justify time and resources dedicated to keyword uplift.

The best open source for this data today is the Advanced Web Ranking organic CTR research which we share here, so you can check out the different CTR analysis it gives. This data is from February 2021. We will look at 3 examples of how CTR varies by position depending on different searcher intent.

 1. SEO CTR for brand vs non-branded keyword intent

It's well known that clickthrough rates for branded or navigational keywords are higher - the blue curve shows this well. Here branded CTRs are selected by AWR when part of the string in the domain name appears in the search indicating a brand name.

This first chart depicts organic CTRs for branded vs non-branded keywords on all devices, globally.

The red, non-branded curve shows a steady decline in organic CTRs down the SERP. Generally, non-branded terms will have more competition with paid ads, which show up first on the SERP, which explains the lower organic CTR for non-branded.

The chart clearly shows the value of being in the top 3 keywords, with organic CTRs at 27% and 35% in the first position decreasing to 9% and 10% in the third position. In the lower positions of 11 onwards, CTR has fallen to a paltry sub 1%.

Organic clickthrough rates

Marketers who have a search term that is monopolized by a particular device may also want to check for device-specific trends.

 2. SEO CTR for generic vs long-tail terms

Generic searches for products are typically 1 or 2 words. Long-tail terms are 4 or more. This chart shows a  similar pattern of decline to above, but, after the top spot, a higher level of CTR for more keywords.

In highly coveted SERP positions 2-5, the (4 word) long-tail SEO technique outranks generic (1 word) search by 3 to 6%. Typically this will be because long-tail searches occur further down the sales funnel. Plus, at this stage, there is less competition (organic and paid) as searches get more niche. So, when considering the ever-evolving SERP layout features, SEOs in 2021 must recognize the benefit of targeting long-tail keywords from their gap analysis.

Organic long tail keywords

3. SEO CTR variation based on intent type

We see a similar decline here, but with slight variations according to intent type. For example, comparing commercial and informational intent, we can see a higher CTR on the first position for commercial intent.

Notably, consumers after answers to the who/what/where/when/how of your product are more likely to visit the second or third link on the page than number one. However, for targeting those with transactional intent - the best plan is to get your keyword in the top position and keep it there.

Organic CTRs by intent type


Here the different search intent types are defined by these keywords in the search query :

  • Commercial intent -  buy, purchase, cheap, pricing, etc.
  • Informational intent - what, when, where, how, restaurant, hotel, flight, news, etc.
  • Location intent - near, nearby, from, directions, airport, route, maps, etc.
  • Specific intent - sums up the keywords with all three intents described above.
Author's avatar

By Dave Chaffey

Digital strategist Dr Dave Chaffey is co-founder and Content Director of online marketing training platform and publisher Smart Insights. Dave is editor of the 100+ templates, ebooks and courses in the digital marketing resource library created by our team of 25+ digital marketing experts. Our resources are used by our Premium members in more than 100 countries to Plan, Manage and Optimize their digital marketing. Free members can access our free sample templates here. Dave is a keynote speaker, trainer and consultant who is author of 5 bestselling books on digital marketing including Digital Marketing Excellence and Digital Marketing: Strategy, Implementation and Practice. My personal site,, lists my latest Digital marketing and E-commerce books and support materials including a digital marketing glossary. In 2004 he was recognised by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of 50 marketing ‘gurus’ worldwide who have helped shape the future of marketing. Please connect on LinkedIn to receive updates or ask me a question.

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