Ron Dod

Have the 4 Top Ads in Google Really Dropped CTR?

Ron Dod
Have the 4 Top Ads in Google Really Dropped CTR?

It's been roughly a month since Google has introduced the four ads on the main feed and removed the side bar ads, but what has it done to organic listings? Surely, with Google Shopping, and now these four ads, Google organic is over and SEOs will be looking for new work now, right?

No, that is incorrect. Let's look at the impact of the four ads and see if anything actually happened to organic search or negatively impacted organic search.

Below are the top three theories of the four ads in Google:

Please note: We removed some data, figures, and domains to keep client confidentiality at their request.

Have Overall Click Through Rates (CTRs) Dropped?

  1. Below are five screenshots from anonymous websites which compared 28 days to the previous 28 days. We can see the CTR dropped .14%, which should be significant, but overall organic search traffic increased by 7.53%. Really, we can see with this example that nothing too drastic has happened here.


  1. Below is another example. We can see when looking into it that their click through rate increased .07% over the last 28 days, compared to the previous 28 days, basically debunking the theory. Sales, ironically, were down .18% month over month.


  1. In the third example, we can see CTR dropped from 3.75% to 3.58%, which makes a .17% drop. Sales are up 7.45% month over month.


  1. With the below example, we can see CTR dropped from 4.96% to 4.68%, making a drop of .28%, which would be the second largest decrease across the sample size. Sales are up 12.8% month over month.


  1. In our last example, we see the largest drop from the sample size, from 4.78% to a 3.98%, which is a whopping .8% decrease. Sales were down 3.5% month over month.


    Verdict: Overall we can see pretty consistently that CTRs across the board have dropped, but it is not as substantial as the original theories made it out to be. When comparing sales from organic search, we were unable to see any difference between the two sides, although sales has a different number due to the seasonality and wide swings with e-commerce businesses.

CTRs Will Drop with High Volume Keywords

Below is a screenshot from a highly searched keyword phrase for which our client is #1 (he says it is 2.0). We can see, in comparing the 30 day window of the data we collected, clicks, impressions and CTR are all up since the new Google update. This clearly shows a positive sign for organic search for a keyword with 5,000 monthly searches. They also have been number one for the past 90 days, so this is a very good sample to use.


Below is another screenshot that shows the opposite, in regards to our findings. Click through rate is considerably down, but their impressions and clicks are also down. Seeing how they remained in the same positon, we can see his CTR was greatly affected by the update.


In our last example, we can the same as the top one. Search queries increased, which increased click through rate and clicks over the 28-day span, compared to the previous 28 days. Overall, we can see that this update has helped organic search traffic for this one particular keyword phrase.


Verdict: We can see, based on three examples, that there is no noticeable change with the new update. It seems as though CTR increased, and there is no correlation between losing CTR value and obtaining fewer clicks. From the three high search volume phrases, which had the same position, we can see their CTR remained very similar.

This Update Will Take Away Branded Searches More; Branded Clicks Will Suffer

When looking at the same individuals above, we have all three stats below:

  1. From the first screenshot above, the CTR dropped from a 50.16% to a 44.93%. We can see a large drop here, and it resulted in some lost clicks. Total loss is a 5.22% drop.
  2. From the second screenshot, this same website dropped from a 53.65% to a 50.07%, which is a 3.58% drop in CTR for their branded name.
  3. For the third screenshot, they grew from 44.74% to 45.65%, which was a gain of .91% CTR.

But, what if they have a lot of people competing for their name? Thankfully, we have one that does. Their name is constantly being bought up, and their CTR rose .41%.


Verdict: This new update has no effect on branded search, from what we can tell.

Google Four Ads Change: Conclusion

We can see, overall, that this update has very little impact on organic search. From the looks of it, there is just minor fluctuation for highly competitive phrases and for branded terms. “There is nothing to see, here, folks!"

What have your findings shown? Tell as all about it in the comments!

Ronald Dod is a partner and CEO of Visiture, LLC. After founding Grey Umbrella Marketing, an internet marketing agency which focuses on Search Engine Optimization for e-commerce businesses, he merged with Visiture to create a full service search marketing offering for eCommerce businesses. His passion is helping eCommerce business owners and marketing professionals navigate the search marketing landscape and use data to make more effective decisions to drive new traffic and conversions.


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Your citing the numeric decline in CTRs, not the relative percentage change.

Your first example is down 0.14 points (not percent). Compared to the baseline (3.04% CTR) this represents a 4.6% decline (4.6% less traffic for the same number of impressions). A 4.6% drop in traffic on the same impressions is material.

Example 3 also lost 4.5% (0.17 point drop on a baseline of 3.75% CTR). Example 4 was a 5.6% drop. In #5 you quote a "whopping 0.8% decrease"...try a whopping 16.7% drop in CTR, because that's how much their CTR actually dropped. It was a 0.8 point drop on a baseline of 4.78. 17% less traffic per XXXXX impressions is a huge impact.

In almost all of the graphs the percentage drop in CTR is from 5% to as high as 17%. The update obviously impacted different queries different ways depending on whether not G expanded adwords placements at the top of the page...but this was a big deal to many sites (including many of the sites shown above).
Here is a second opinion of the mathematical impact where ads were expanded - http://www.blastam.com/blog/in...
Ron Dod
Thank you for your comment. I see where you are coming from and there are multiple ways you can look at the data. I tried to make as simple as possible, i.e. .6% drop in traffic. You could summarize my entire post as 5 out of my 12 examples I showed actually increased in CTR which makes me theorize, based on my limited sample size, that the four ads did not effect organic search traffic. At lease to the extent everyone thought it would. Basically, some did drop but almost half of them increased from the first 12 examples I pulled. CTR fluctuates on a monthly basis and from my examples, nothing showed a big decrease outside of normal fluctuation.
In your first five examples, the ctr is down. In the next three examples, your largest sample size has ctr going down by over a percent, In the last example, you have ctr rising .41%. I'm at a loss to see how you are so dismissive of the update. I think you may have some sort of cognitive bias leading you to this conclusion.
Ron Dod
Thank you for your response, Stanton! I am sorry you felt that as it was not my intention. The theme of the examples showed their CTR barely dropping and in some instances, increased, therefore making the update not a big deal at all.
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