Mitch Perkal

Director, Analytics

Calculating Real Organic CTR Using Google Webmaster Tools Impressions

While click-through-rate is one of the main metrics everyone uses to evaluate performance, SEO does not have any similar easily accessible statistic. We are often left to use data from Google Webmaster Tools impressions even though it does not paint the entire picture. In a recent Google Webmaster Tools Office Hours Hangout, John Mueller spoke to different ways we can explore GWT’s Top Queries feature to pull more precise information about organic CTR. Here are some ways we can utilize Google Webmaster Tools to find more in depth impression information:

At first glance it appears one could use the table at the bottom of the main Top Queries page. Here is a screenshot of the GWT for a particular site’s brand name.

One would expect the click thru-rate for a company’s brand name would be much higher than 25%, if its average ranking position is 1.0.

The first misleading factor behind the calculation of click is that total impressions include multiple results for the same search. In a hypothetical example, if you are ranking in the first, second, and third position for a single search and the user clicks on the first result, the CTR will display 33%. The second misleading factor in webmaster tools is the average position ranking. To continue with the example where we are ranking in the first, second, and third position for a search, the average ranking would only count the highest ranked word, which in this case is 1. In other words, it would appear that our CTR is only 33% when we are ranking in the first position, even though – in this case – it is actually 100%.

We can further dive into statistics for our brand name by clicking on the keyword and scrolling down to the bottom of the page.

Here, we see our click through rate exclusively for the first position. This gives a more accurate picture of how many searches are actually taking place by looking at the results for only the first position to prevent double counting. The click thru-rate of 56% is much more realistic when we take into account our PPC traffic.

So while Google Webmaster Tools impression data can be useful, it is important to understand how the GWT statistics are calculated and where you can find the data that is actually useful in calculating organic CTR.

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