Written by Ryan Jones. Updated on 21, February 2023
In this article, we'll be looking at the reasons why the click-through rate for a page or query is dropping in Google Search Console, even though the ranking position has not changed (or maybe even improved!).
Most of the reasons listed here ultimately require you to do some manual investigation of the SERPs for the affected queries or pages.
SERP stands for Search Engine Results Page - effectively the search results from Google that the user sees. The term is used throughout this article.
Let's dive in!
Google will often change the layout of the SERPs and introduce more search features to move the organic search listings further down the page.
Common search features that move organic listings further down the page include:
Various SERP features can appear in the middle of the SERP results as well
Anything that pushes the organic listing more pixels down the page will decrease the likelihood of a user scrolling down and clicking on them. Ultimately this negatively affects the click-through rate.
We have already mentioned featured snippets in the SERP layout changes, but they are such an important SERP feature they deserve their own section.
A featured snippet can decimate the click-through rates of the results on the first page of Google, especially if it answers the searcher's query in full. This is what is known as a zero-click search query/result.
If it's a zero-click featured snippet - it's still better for you to be there than one of your competitors. In fact, a Search Engine Land study completed back in 2017 showed that when a featured snippet is present, the CTR for the first organic result falls below 20%! It also concluded that the URL appearing within the featured snippet takes 8% of all clicks.
Google may have increased the number of paid ads it displays above the organic search listings.
This will push your entry in the SERPs more pixels down. While it will be getting the same number of impressions, it will be less likely that a user will scroll down to click it, so the click-through rate will drop.
It's also worth noting that Google makes it incredibly difficult to tell the difference between a paid advertisement and an organic listing within their search results. As a result of this, more users could be inadvertently clicking on ads rather than organic results anyway.
If you have made changes to your page title or meta description, these changes could be negatively affecting your click-through rate. If your title or meta description is less attractive to users, in terms of "will that page answer my query", fewer people will click on it.
Also, Google may have decided to re-write your page title or meta description. Check the SERPs to see what page title and meta description Google is displaying for your page. As of September 2020, Google was rewriting meta descriptions over 70% of the time.
If you are using structured data on your page, you may be getting some rich results applied to your listing in the SERPs.
Rich results add extra information to your listing, and take up more pixel space in the SERPs.
Anything that gives you more space in the SERPs can usually improve your click-through rate for the position you are in.
But has there been an issue with the structured data that has meant the rich results have been removed without you realising? A drop in click-through rate could be an indication that this has happened.
Your page or query may have improved the position it ranks, but unfortunately, impressions and clicks do not track linearly. This means clicks do not increase at the same rate as impressions.
You may have moved from position 12 in the SERPs (on page 2) into position 8. While this will lead to a large increase in impressions, the clicks may not jump as much. This would lead to a drop in click-through rate.
If your page starts to rank for a larger set of queries due to a content update being performed, these queries may have a lower click-through rate than the pre-update queries.
This will mean the average click-through rate of the page will drop post-update.
To check if this is the case, you'll need to check the total number of queries pre and post-update.