SEO Expert's CTR Experiment

by SEO Expert on 10/24/08 at 9:37 am

A/B Testing is what we SEO Experts do contstantly. Sometimes these tests result in the discovery of great data, which helps us improve how we help customers rank better in Google. I recently ran a test using one of my blog tests to see how CTR influences search engine ranking and the results were outright scary. Here’s what happened:

My Hypothesis

Since Google’s algorithm for organic search is similar to it’s algorithm for paid search, one can assume that click-through rate (CTR) would be important an important factor in both. Therefore, if a listing on 2nd, 3rd, or 4th page of Google’s search results received a higher volume of clicks than those on page 1 or within the top 3 search results, that listing would improve in ranking.

The Test

Here’s what I used to test this hypothesis: RSS for quick indexing, social bookmarks for 2nd/3rd page placement, and social networking to compel an audience to assist me test CTR.

I used my very-syndicated blog (www.ocseoexpert.com), which is optimized with good permalink structure, unique titles, descriptions, and headings, and created the post. Through blog and ping I was able to get indexed in about 15 minutes. I was on page 3 of Google for “Business.com Contest” in 15 minutes.

Once indexed, I used social bookmarking tactics to create a few links to the blog post, using a variation of “Business.com Contest” link text. This brought me to page 2 of Google within about 2.5 hours.

My network in LinkedIn assisted me by searching for “Business.com Contest” and choosing my listing from page 2 of Google’s search results. By 4pm of the next day I had been seen in 1st to 10th position on the first page, varying by geography of the searcher. Don’t get too excited.

The Result

By 7:30pm on the 2nd day, my listing was completely GONE from Google’s search results. This may have been due to a number of factors, but based on feedback from other SEO Experts, my assumption is that users skipping the 1st page search results altogether and then choosing my listing was creating “noise”, which caused Google to filter it out.

Many “black hat SEO’s” use browser emulators to try and fake clicks to listings. Having an audience replicate a similar click-through exercise is what most-likely got the page removed.

The Lesson

When you get to page 2 of Google, leave well enough alone. Try to drive a consistent stream of new inbound links from related web pages across the Internet, but don’t try to influence CTR until you get to the top 3rd or 4th position; and even then, make sure people are clicking on the other listings once in awhile as well.


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