Why CTR Matters More Than Rankings in 2024





Blog Date

June 3, 2024


UK, Manchester

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Why CTR Matters More Than Rankings in 2024

Why CTR Matters More Than Rankings in 2024

I’m so tired of covering this clickthrough rate (CTR) debate – we’ve been going back and forth on it for well over a decade. But you know what they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Just when I thought we’d finally put this myth to rest, Google goes and stirs the pot again.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Not this again, Brian! Didn’t Google clearly state that they don’t use CTR for ranking?” Well, my friend, that’s exactly what I thought too. But apparently, the folks over at Google’s Cloud team didn’t get the memo.

You see, a Googler (let’s call her Britney) recently discovered a new developer page that flat-out says, “When you click a link in Google Search, Google considers your click when ranking that search result in future queries.” HAHAHAHA, can you believe it?

Of course, Britney – being the Moz expert that she is – took this as a sign that CTR is, in fact, a ranking factor. And who could blame her? I mean, it’s right there in black and white, isn’t it?

But here’s the kicker: just a couple of weeks ago, Google’s Gary Illyes said the complete opposite. In his words, “Dwell time, CTR, whatever Fishkin’s new theory is, those are generally made up crap.” Ouch, Gary. Tell us how you really feel.

So what’s the deal here? Is CTR a ranking factor or not? Well, my friends, buckle up, because we’re about to dive deep into the rabbit hole.

The Personalization Twist

After doing some digging, I think I’ve got a pretty good idea of what’s going on here. You see, that Google Cloud team document is likely referring to personalized search, not the core ranking algorithm.

As Google explained in a blog post way back in 2009, they do use previous search history and clicks to personalize results for individual users. So if I always search for [recipes] and click on Epicurious, Google might show that site higher for me next time I search for recipes. But that doesn’t mean they’re using CTR to rank the results for everyone else.

And let’s not forget, Google is a massive company with over 100,000 employees. The person who wrote that Cloud team document is probably clueless when it comes to the nitty-gritty of how search ranking works. Heck, even within Bing, there are “relatively few people who truly understand how core ranking works,” according to Frédéric Dubut.

So in my opinion, Google doesn’t use CTR for their core ranking algorithm. They may use it in a limited way for personalized search, and they definitely use it to evaluate how their algorithms are performing. But CTR isn’t a real-time ranking factor that affects the search results you and I see every day.

The Bigger Picture

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But Brian, if CTR doesn’t matter for rankings, why do so many SEOs swear by it?” Well, my friends, that’s a great question.

The truth is, CTR can be a valuable metric for understanding user behavior and evaluating the performance of your search listings. If your click-through rate is low, it could be a sign that your title and meta description aren’t effectively compelling users to click. And that’s important information, even if it doesn’t directly impact your rankings.

But here’s the thing: Rankings still matter, a lot. I mean, let’s be honest, if your page is buried on page 10 of the search results, no amount of optimization is going to give you a decent CTR. Users simply aren’t going to find you.

So while CTR is certainly important, I believe it’s secondary to rankings in 2024. After all, if you’re not even showing up in the top results, who cares how enticing your listing is? Your potential customers will never even see it.

That’s why I always tell my clients at MCR SEO in Manchester: focus on improving your rankings first and foremost. Once you’ve got a solid position in the SERPs, then you can start optimizing your titles, descriptions, and other elements to boost your CTR.

Because at the end of the day, what good are high click-through rates if nobody can even find your page? It’s kind of like having the world’s most delicious burger, but burying it 20 feet underground. Sure, it might be amazing, but it’s not doing you any good.

So there you have it, my friends. The great CTR debate rages on, but in my humble opinion, rankings are still king in 2024. Of course, I’d love to hear your thoughts – drop me a comment and let me know what you think!

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