Data: Google organic search CTRs decline on desktop, see big drop on phones

January 24, 2019

New data and analysis from SparkToro’s Rand Fishkin and Jumpshot shows the continuing decline of click-through rates (CTRs) on Google search results on desktop and smartphones in both the U.S. and Europe in favor of paid clicks and no-clicks. Fishkin asserts the decline is attributable to “Google siphoning away large percentages of traffic to their own properties and answers in the SERPs [search engine results pages].”

Desktop decline is moderate. The graphic below shows and compares the U.S and EU markets. It reflects a gradual decline in organic CTRs on the desktop over a two year period. Paid clicks have grown modestly as have no-click searches.

data-google-organic-search-ctrs-decline-on-desktop-see-big-drop-on-phones Data: Google organic search CTRs decline on desktop, see big drop on phones

Mobile’s 10 point decline. The trend is more dramatic on mobile search results. In the UK-EU zone, organic CTRs have declined from 45 percent of SERPs to 36.7 percent, while paid clicks have more than doubled since 2016. In the U.S. the drop in organic CTR has been greater, going from 40.1 percent to 29.7 percent of all SERPs. Paid clicks have also more than doubled.

The obvious reason why organic CTR on the desktop has declined less than on smartphones is the larger screen size and more real estate available. Carousels, answer boxes and ads dominate mobile search results. For many queries there are four paid ads, which may be followed by a map and local pack (for local queries), followed by organic links.

It’s not entirely clear whether the CTR data from Jumpshot captures Knowledge Panel or local pack interactions or Google My Business click-to-call buttons. It’s also not clear what positions the organic clicks are coming from — in other words, how far users are scrolling on the mobile SERP.

data-google-organic-search-ctrs-decline-on-desktop-see-big-drop-on-phones-1 Data: Google organic search CTRs decline on desktop, see big drop on phones

Why you should care. Expect “ads and answers” to continue to dominate mobile results. This will compel greater participation in paid ads and Google My Business (for marketers with locations). It’s not clear whether organic CTRs will continue to decline at the same rate or where the bottom is. But it’s going to continue to be challenging, outside of local searches and branded queries, to drive organic clicks from mobile SERPs.

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