6 Reasons Organic CTR is Dwindling Making Branding More Important Than Ever

Google SERP Features
Google SERP Features

Getting more customers to find your site should be a top priority in order to fuel the growth of your business. The investment in an inbound marketing campaign can provide you a return that continues to give back through leads and new clients, however, the game is changing making branding a top priority.

Generating traffic from Google’s search engine is what most of us focus on and although it still provides the most business for websites, a percentage of clicks from the total volume of traffic has shifted in favor of the search engine giant.

Since 2015 we have witnessed a larger number of “clickless” searches as well as a declining number of clicks to the organic results.

An increasing rate of appearances in Google products that push the organic listings further down the page.

In order to bridge the gap in the loss of traffic, it’s best practice to optimize to appear in Google features that are present in the top positions for your keyword topic.

Factors that affect organic click-through rate

  1. Featured snippets
  2. Google Ads
  3. Carousels
  4. Local listings
  5. Knowledge panel
  6. “People also ask”

Featured snippets

If you’ve been living in a cave for the last 6 years, you may not have realized that 40% of the questions posed in a search trigger the appearance of featured snippets. This display is one of Google’s answers to providing a more efficient user experience for people searching for quick answers to questions.

Featured snippet example for "What's the value of my brand"
Featured snippet example for “What’s the value of my brand”

Featured snippets can be excerpts from a page, tables, charts, videos, lists or images. Content is chosen from websites that rank on the first page (top ten). On average Google will use 40-60 words to respond to the search either in a chunk of text taken from the article or Google will extract what they determine to be the most important details to provide the most comprehensive answer.

Featured snippet example: "Games for a Mac"
Featured snippet example: “Games for a Mac”

The rise of snippets has resulted in more searches that end after the user reads the snippet. If there is no reason to click any further because of a complete answer, it generates a zero-click search. This is an issue because if businesses optimize for a zero-click search they have wasted time, effort and resources.

It seems that there have been many pitfalls created with a feature that absorbs traffic but the truth is that opportunities have also been created. Many featured snippets are beneficial to websites-especially in positions 2-10 because of the extra traffic provided.

In a study by Ahrefs, it was concluded that featured snippets steal clicks from the number one ranked website and distribute them to whoever owns the snippet.

If you are the number 10 ranked website but you appear in position zero-it will generate roughly 8% of the total traffic for your site in addition to what you receive in the #10 spot. The number one website normally receives 27% of the traffic with no snippet, but in the presence of a snippet, it is reduced to 19% (assuming it is not the site selected for position zero).

Takeaway: Websites in the top ten need to make sure their content is optimized to appear in the snippet to even be eligible to win the additional traffic featured snippets generate.

Google Ads

The presence of Google Ads has not only grown in frequency but evolved in appearance. A clever decision was made to disguise Google Ads to appear as a regular organic listing. This tactic has led to an increase in the number of clicks that a Google Ad campaign in averaging.

Most people are averse to advertisements and the natural reaction is to glaze right over them. If you remember what Google’s result page used to look like, there was a marked difference between the ads and the listings that were shown organically. In fact the ads were highlighted with a separate colored background.

Today the only distinguishing characteristic is the tiny “ad” that lives in the corner of the advertisement. The result is a higher click-through rate with Google Ads now averaging 3.17% in 2019 which is up from the traditional 1.9% seen in 2016.

Carousels

The emergence of carousels began years ago but the significance of their presence now is related to search intent and the frequency in which carousels take the top position in a search result.

The undying commitment to user experience and the evolution of the search engines ability to sniff out search intent has led to the carousel being used to cover more demand that may be presented by a search.

For example, if the search is product related, a carousel of products may appear at the top of the SERP because Google has determined that a selection between multiple products provide a higher chance of meeting the users needs. Using a carousel of sponsored results has been one ingenious way of getting more sponsored solutions in front of more eyes.

Google Carousel
Google Carousel

The same is true for video in the sense there are more options for the user to find what they are looking for in a solution. Youtube is owned by Google so there will definitely be bias in featuring a carousel of videos but aside from that, people prefer to learn things by watching a video. The best solution for a “how-to” search maybe a carousel of options to watch videos.

Google Carousel with Videos Examples
Google Carousel with Videos Examples

Takeaway: Carousels are housing a multitude of options that are easily accessed and presented in the top position. In order to compete with specific searches the display of the result page needs to be identified in order to be eligible for the top position.

Local listings

The local pack is now frequently triggered whenever a website’s content matches the search and the search is made in proximity to the business. Three listings pop up and push the organic listings down. Although in many cases the websites listed in the local pack are also listed below in the organic result, the businesses who don’t make the top three don’t benefit from the appearance of the local pack.

Google Local Listing Pack
Google Local Listing Pack

Knowledge panel

The knowledge panel appears whenever a brand name search is performed. This doesn’t sound like a bad thing but if a site’s performance is being measured, the knowledge pane is another Google product that can result in stealing clicks from the actual business website. In order to get to the website it’s necessary to make another click on the knowledge panel.

Google Knowledge Panel example
Google Knowledge Panel example

People also ask

This has been another product that provides more convenience in solutions related to a users original search but pushes down the organic results with every click. When a user clicks on “People also ask” questions, more questions populate the box which seems to continue indefinitely. Another way Google is stealing the traffic.

Google People Also Ask Example
Google People Also Ask Example

Conclusion

With all of these features becoming more popular on the SERP the clicks to the organic traffic are slowly dwindling. In order to capitalize on this inevitable trend, businesses need to focus on branding and optimize for the features that occupy the top position for their keyword topics.

Christian Carere is an SEO consultant and the founder of Digital Ducats Inc. Christian specializes in search engine optimization services for SMB’s to improve traffic to their sites and generate new clients on a regular basis.

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