Keyword Click-Through-Rates (CTR’s)

One thought I wasn’t able to put in the last post about missing and misleading click data, was about keyword click-through-rates. Do keywords really have click-through-rates? Objectively they do because the engines report them. But does that make sense? If A Keyword Falls In The Forest, And The User Doesn’t See It… The user doesn’t even know the keyword exists. The user typed a query (which in some small percentage of searches was exactly matched to the keyword, but far more often was only related to the keyword) and was shown (if they even saw it) a text-ad (containing some specific copy) in some position on the page in relation to a number of other text-ads (not to mention the organic search results.) What portion of the influence in that click, or lack thereof, did the keyword have?

  • We know different text-ad copy produces different CTRs.
  • We know different positions result in different CTRs.
  • We know that the presence or absence of specific competitive adds produce different CTRs.
  • We know different queries that may match to the same keyword in broad or phrase match type have different CTRs.
  • We can assume that CTRs vary by time and the geography of the user.
  • There must be a couple of other factors I’m not thinking of right now… (comments?)

So does the keyword really have a CTR, or do the combinations really have CTRs? Clearly the Keyword CTR is the average of a range of different situations and conditions. The Average Average is Only So-So There are a lot of averages presented in search analytics. That’s necessary as we can’t handle all the granules, but close attention must be paid to the composition of these averages, lest they be less than clear or useful. If the campaign is reasonably constructed in terms of organization and match type application, and are being reasonably run (meaning the text-ads and bids have both logic and dilligence being regularly applied to them), then the average CTR as reported for keywords can be useful. If any of these elements are missing, the utility dwindles rapidly. As with most averages in PPC reports, if you aren’t sure dive down and look at the components – the more performance diversity you find inside the less weight you should place on the average. Know Your Metrics Just another example of the fact that even the simple metrics of paid search have more to or behind them than you might realize, and how some understanding and healthy skepticism can help you get closer to truly understanding what’s happening in your campaigns. (Credit where it’s due: The idea of questioning KW CTRs, and many other ideas you’ll find in this blog from time to time, was first suggested by Bruce Ernst) (Upcoming Events: I’ll be at the Semphonic XChange Conference in San Francisco on Aug 17-19, and am Speaking on “Identify, Analyze, Act: SEM by the Numbers” at Search Engine Strategies in San Jose on August 19th)



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