Are CTR (Click-through Rate) and Click Data Google Ranking Factors?

How click-through rates and click data impact Google rankings.

Written by
Daniel Højris Bæk
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April 24, 2024

In the world of search engine optimization (SEO), understanding how Google utilizes click-through (CTR) and click data is important in understanding a important element in website rankings.

While the use of clicks as ranking signals may encompass various factors such as CTR, long clicks, and pogo-sticking, it is important to note that these signals do not exist in isolation.

This article explores the different ways Google employs clicks and highlights the significance of click training data in shaping SEO strategies.

Types of Click Data Forms

When it comes to click data, there are various forms and metrics that Google utilizes to gain valuable insights into user behavior. Understanding these different types can provide a deeper understanding of how clicks impact search rankings.

Google has access to data about user behavior through various channels, which enables them to gather information on long clicks and other engagement metrics. Here's how Google obtains access to this data:

  1. Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs): When a user performs a search query on Google, the search engine provides a list of search results on the SERP. Google tracks user interactions with these search results, including the clicks users make on the displayed links.
  2. Google Analytics: Website owners can integrate their websites with Google Analytics, a web analytics service provided by Google. By implementing the necessary tracking codes on their websites, website owners can collect data on user behavior, including the duration of user sessions, page views, and other engagement metrics.
  3. Chrome Browser: Google's Chrome browser is widely used by internet users. Chrome allows Google to collect data on user behavior, including the websites visited by users and the time spent on each website. This data is anonymized and aggregated to maintain user privacy.
  4. Google Search Console: Website owners can also register their websites with Google Search Console, a tool that provides insights into how their website appears in Google search results. Search Console offers data on user clicks, impressions, and average position in search results.

Through these channels, Google is able to collect and analyze data on user behavior.

Here are a few key forms of click data:

1. Click-Through Rate (CTR)

Click-through rate (CTR) is one of the most commonly known click metrics. It represents the ratio of users who click on a specific search result to the total number of users who view that result. CTR is often used as an indicator of the relevance and attractiveness of a search result to users. Higher CTRs generally suggest that a result is more appealing and satisfies the user's query.

Click Through Rates in Google can be found in your Google Search Console.

2. Long Clicks

Long clicks refer to instances where a user spends a significant amount of time on a website after clicking on a search result. Longer website visits indicate that the user has found the content valuable and engaging.

Google takes into consideration the duration of these long clicks as an indicator of user satisfaction and relevance. A higher occurrence of long clicks can positively influence search rankings.

3. Pogo-Sticking

Pogo-sticking occurs when a user clicks on a search result, quickly returns to the search results page, and clicks on another result.

This behavior suggests that the initially clicked result did not meet the user's expectations or fulfill their query intent. Pogo-sticking can indicate that the content or website was not relevant, engaging, or authoritative enough.

Google uses pogo-sticking as a signal to understand the gap between user expectations and the actual content provided. By analyzing pogo-sticking patterns, Google can refine its algorithms to provide more accurate and relevant search results.

4. Dwell Time

Dwell time refers to the amount of time a user spends actively engaging with the content on a website after clicking on a search result. It is a measure of how long a user remains on a website before returning to the search results. Longer dwell times suggest that the content is informative, engaging, and satisfies the user's intent.

Google considers dwell time as an indication of content quality and relevance. Websites with longer dwell times are seen as providing valuable information to users and are likely to receive a boost in search rankings.

5. Scroll Depth

Scroll depth measures how far down a user scrolls on a webpage after clicking on a search result. It helps Google understand how much content users consume and whether they find the content engaging enough to scroll through.

A higher scroll depth indicates that users are actively engaging with the content and finding it relevant. Google may use scroll depth as a signal to determine the quality and usefulness of a webpage, potentially influencing its search rankings.

By considering these different forms of click data, Google gains insights into user behavior, relevance, and satisfaction. This enables the search engine to continually refine its algorithms and provide users with the most accurate and valuable search results.

How Google Uses Click Data

Google uses click data to train its ranking systems, such as BERT and Rankbrain, improving their understanding of user intent and refining search results. Additionally, Google leverages click data to personalize search results in real-time, tailoring the rankings to individual user preferences and enhancing the overall search experience.

1. User and Training Data

During a recent Google antitrust case, Eric Lehman, a former member of the Google search quality team, revealed a significant distinction between user and training data.

This understanding sheds light on how Google incorporates click data into its ranking algorithms.

Firstly, Google utilizes click data for training its systems, including BERT (Bidirectional Encoder Representations from Transformers) and Rankbrain.

These systems rely on machine learning techniques to understand and interpret search queries, providing more relevant search results.

Click data plays an instrumental role in training these systems, enabling them to continuously improve their understanding of user intent and refine the search results they deliver.

However, the use of click data doesn't stop at training alone. Google implements changes based on this data during algorithm updates.

This means that the click behavior of users influences the evolution of Google's search algorithms, ensuring that they adapt and evolve to provide better search experiences.

By leveraging click data in algorithm updates, Google aims to improve search result relevance and overall user satisfaction.

In essence, this is always Google's aim. To provide the user with the best search results.

In addition to training systems and algorithm updates, Google utilizes click data in real-time to personalize search results for individual users.

Personalization involves analyzing the click behavior of users and adjusting rankings accordingly. For example, if a user frequently clicks on specific types of content, Google's algorithms may prioritize those types of results for that user in future searches. This personalization aims to tailor search results to individual preferences and improve the overall user experience.

2. SERP Features and User Intent

Google leverages click data to determine the display of SERP (Search Engine Results Page) features.

SERP features include elements like featured snippets, knowledge panels, image carousels, and more. These features provide users with quick information and enhance their search experience.

Example of SERP Features

By analyzing click data, Google can understand which types of SERP features are most relevant and helpful to users.

For example, if users frequently click on a specific feature within the search results, Google may prioritize that feature for related queries in order to provide valuable information upfront. This ensures that the SERP features displayed align with user preferences, improving the overall usefulness of search results.

Furthermore, click data serves as a valuable indicator of user intent. By analyzing click patterns, Google can gain insights into how users interact with search results and refine their understanding of user intent.

For instance, if users consistently click on different results after reformulating their search queries, it suggests that the initial search results did not meet their needs. This information helps Google adjust its algorithms to better match search results with user intent, ultimately delivering more relevant and satisfactory search experiences.

3. Experiments and Engagement Signals

Google actively utilizes click data for conducting experiments and refining its search algorithms.

Similar to other content platforms like TikTok and YouTube, Google recognizes the importance of engagement signals, including clicks, in understanding user preferences and optimizing the search experience.

For example, Google may conduct experiments where it compares the engagement metrics of different search results.

If a result receives significantly more clicks than the one ranking above it, it may trigger Google to test the two results against each other and determine which one should rank higher based on meaningful engagement.

This process ensures that search results reflect user preferences and help users find the most relevant content quickly.

Moreover, click data provides valuable insights into user behavior, allowing Google to identify emerging trends. By analyzing click patterns across a broader context, Google can detect shifts in user intent and adapt its algorithms accordingly. For instance, if there is an increase in clicks on a specific type of content related to a trending topic, Google can adjust its algorithms to prioritize that type of content for relevant queries. This responsiveness ensures that user intent is accurately accounted for in search results.

By leveraging click data for experiments and engagement signals, Google aims to continually refine and enhance its search algorithms, providing users with the most relevant and useful search results.

Implications for SEO Professionals

The utilization of click training data in Google's ranking systems reinforces existing SEO strategies rather than necessitating a complete overhaul.

Consider the following implications:

1. Helpful Content Meeting Search Intent

Creating helpful and relevant content that aligns with user search intent is essential for attracting clicks and improving rankings. Understanding the specific needs and queries of your target audience and crafting content that addresses those needs can significantly enhance click-through rates and user engagement.

2. Emphasize Design and User Experience

Investing in website design and optimizing user experience becomes even more critical, as these factors directly impact user retention. Encouraging users to return to a website contributes to higher engagement and potentially increased click-through rates.

3. Optimize Snippets for Clicks

While Google may rewrite titles in search results, continuously optimizing snippets increases the chances of attracting user clicks.

Crafting compelling and informative snippets greatly improves the chances of attracting user clicks. Optimizing snippets with relevant keywords, engaging copy, and accurate descriptions entices users to click on a search result, ultimately improving click-through rates.

4. Build Brand Awareness

Fostering brand recognition is crucial for increasing user trust and encouraging clicks on your domain in search results. Investing in brand awareness strategies ensures greater visibility and click-through opportunities. You can also focus on and old-school asset - your favicon - and whether you can start building brand recognition.


In conclusion, click-through (CTR) and click data play a significant role in Google's ranking algorithms and the overall search experience. Understanding the different types of click data and how Google utilizes this information provides valuable insights for SEO professionals. By analyzing click patterns, Google can refine its algorithms, personalize search results, and improve the relevance and satisfaction of search results for individual users.

For SEO professionals, it is important to focus on creating helpful and relevant content, optimizing website design and user experience, and crafting compelling snippets to attract user clicks and improve rankings. Additionally, building brand awareness contributes to increased user trust and click-through opportunities. By staying informed of the latest developments in click data and adapting strategies accordingly, SEO professionals can create high-quality content faster and achieve better search rankings.

Are CTR (Click-through Rate) and Click Data Google Ranking Factors?

This is an article written by:

+20 years of experience from various digital agencies. Passionate about AI (artificial intelligence) and the superpowers it can unlock. I had my first experience with SEO back in 2001, working at a Danish web agency.