Measuring SERP Click Through Data and The Wikipedia Effect

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I’ve just finished reading through a great post over at SEOMoz about SERP (search engine result pages) click-through rates and thought it would be perfect to share on our blog.

In a nutshell, the post explores how different factors can impact the click-through rate of any listing in Google’s search results.

Given this data is quite difficult to obtain, a dummy search page was built to replicate Google’s search results. Users were then encouraged to visit the page and select the search result they think best matched the query.

Test 1: Great White Sharks

The first test was set to determine if users would click on the first result out of habit, or if they searched for the best match for the query. To do this the search term ‘great white sharks‘ was used with top 3 search results for ‘sharks‘ inserted at the top of the page. This means that the best result for ‘great white sharks‘ was now sitting in position 4 as indicated below.

Here are the results with the percentage of clicks that each listing received,

As you can see, the results indicate that a combined total of 65% of people clicked on the first three results for ‘great white sharks‘ even though they were in positions 4-6 on the page. It’s also interesting to note that the two listings with the highest click through have the text “Great White Shark” in the title of the listing – a well-known ranking factor.

Test 2: The Wikipedia Effect

The second test was created to determine if Wikipedia listings still claim a higher click-through than other search results. In order to do this, the test was run with the search results for ‘barack obama‘ modified so that the number 1 listing (a Wikipedia entry) was moved down to position 2 and then position 3.

The results for Wikipedia in position 2 are on the left, and the results with Wikipedia in position 3 are on the right.

In the first set of results, even though the first listing is extremely relevant to the query, the Wikipedia listing still comes in with the highest click-through rate in the second position.

In the second set of results, the Wikipedia entry again receives an unusually higher percentage of clicks in position three, despite the second listing being a relevant whitehouse.gov link.

So what learnings can we gather from these tests? Well for the benefit of those who have skipped to the end of this post, here’s a summary of some of the key takeaways:

  1. While listings in position 1 do get a fair share of clicks, the majority of searches will still spend time to look for the most relevant snippet, even if it is lower down on the page.
  2. Having an exact match of the search phrase in the Title of the search result will result in stronger click through.
  3. From the test results above, Wikipedia listings by their nature will attract a higher click-through rate.