Many Search Engine Optimization professionals are looking for additional ways to increase Google rankings and CTR manipulation has recently been seen as a SEO technique or an extra ranking factor to gain those few extra google search engine ranking places, but does it really work?
Rand Fishkin had a lot to do with introducing this theory, when he invited people to click through to his website from a Twitter link and then proved he got a positive rankings boost. From then on, many have tested it’s effectiveness through their digital marketing campaigns. Not just through online search engines, but through social media, Google My Business, Google Maps and other referring platforms
What Is The CTR History And Its’ Meaning?
CTR stands for “Click Through Rate” and measures the amount of traffic and clicks a page receives for a particular search versus the number of times it is presented on Google search. (The rate has nothing to do with the speed of the clicking process).
So, if Google showed a page off your web property for a particular search term 100 times and it was clicked on 5 times, that would be a CTR of 5%. A fair argument could be that a webpage search term that has a CTR of 5%, would get a ranking boost over a webpage that only delivers 2%, where everything else is equal. You can see the clickthrough rates within your Google search console.
What Is A Good CTR Rate?
That often depends on the niche you are in and the services you provide. I used to run a very large car parts website, that offered a free service. I would often achieve click through rates of 10%, because it was free. But other services that require payments may be much less, some commercial sites work on 2%. So balancing this out a 3% to 5% CTR should be deemed as average and above this good..
Testing The Click Through Rate Theory
I first tested this manipulation theory so many years ago, I can’t quite remember, except it was when click through rates were introduced as a metric with PPC (Pay Per Click) with Google Ads. The better the CTR, the less you paid for a click. In fact, if you got this right, you could be paying a lot less for a Google ad PPC campaign than those, many positions below you.
I believed that surely if it is being used with Google paid search, then it would influence ranking in organic search. However, at that time, I found no benefits to any search engine result, either national or local SEO, when the manipulated organic click through rate improved and gave up on the theory.
As with all SEO strategies you should re-test, but this time after re-testing I did see some improvement, but the benefit was so small it was not worth the investment of time or money.
That was then, so, let’s bring you up to date.
So How Can CTR Be Manipulated?
There are four tracks for this,
- Use automated CTR software (emulator, traffic bots)
- Pay someone to visit your site and emulate a real visitor with organic clicks
- Use several mobile phones and do it yourself, “organic CTR manipulation”.
- Use multiple VPN’s on different devices and do it yourself with various SEO CTR traffic.
The first option normally requires a subscription to a CTR manipulation service where an automated traffic bot, pretends to be human (emulate) and will visit your web site for the agreed amount of time, first to manipulate the clicks then to emulate some time on the website.
There are many emulators out there, but very few have ever got any recognition of doing the job. probably the most respected is “CTR Booster” at the time of writing. I have tried 3 different options, the last one, came with some recognition, but in my opinion, it made no difference. I won’t mention their brand names for this reason, this was my testing only and some may argue, I did not try it long enough to control and results. After 3 days, ranking and organic SEO traffic dropped, so I immediately cancelled this Manipulation service and removed the CTR traffic bot.
Employing Micro Workers To Emulate Real Traffic
The second option requires employing real people to pretending to emulate genuine user behaviour. This normally involves using Micro workers from countries where the cost of living is lower, and so the project cost is more affordable. After trying this CTR Manipulation SEO technique for a few months, I did see a small rise in rankings, but it never rose to the point where I felt it covered the cost of return. In better words, for the same cost, I could add great content and more links and get a better improvement in rankings and traffic.
The third option is too complex to mention all here, but it involves buying many “pay as you go” (or prepaid) android phones or iPhones and new sim cards, registering them in different names, only using data to visit your website. In theory, every CTR visit from each phone should be on a different I.P. address and give the impression of different users, and of course increasing clicks and manipulating the metrics.
The fourth involves using several VPN services (Virtual Private Network) or one that has multiple local VPN’s, then changing browsers and equipment to mix up the visitor engagement signals. Again when visitors arrive from a different I.P. address, it can give the effect of new visitors with fake clicks.
Was This Proof That CTR Manipulation Worked?
No, it wasn’t definite proof. You see this was not just about CTR data, it was also about the metrics that occurred after the click. “Let me explain with a question”.
Suppose your search term appears 100 times, then visitors clicked on that page 50 times, this would be a Click Through Rate of 50% amazing, right?
But just suppose every one of those visitors immediately bounced back to Google from your site, without engaging in it? Would you still expect to get a ranking boost from this? Of course not.
I believe that a high bounce rate after a high click amount, will actually lose you rankings.
So, the click through rate in my opinion cannot be measured as a stand alone metric from an internet search engine, it is about what happens after the click, this is why I think automated CTR emulators just do not work yet. They may get the fake clicks right, but fail to make the engagement signals and organic user behaviour afterwards that would come from real traffic.
With a high click amount then a high engagement with your site, then you should expect some sort of rankings boost. But a high “Click Rate” followed by a high bounce rate, could give you a rankings loss in my opinion.
A Metric Based Summary
When I had gained rankings using click through rate manipulation it had been because of the good metrics after the click, where visitors had viewed more than one page and explored the site or had completed a form etc.
It is also fair to say, that the local business sites I had been working on, had a relatively high yield from fewer clicks and I design pages with conversion in mind, so I don’t need thousands of clicks a day for example. Sometimes only a handful of clicks per page is enough in these niches. This does mean I would preferer the VPN solution should I do more experiments today, from a cost point of view.
You could use paid social media clicks such as Facebook ads to deliver traffic to your site, if you are confident the user behaviour will be positive. But in this case the clicks are not being manipulated, it is just a way of adding further “on page” user metrics.
Other Traffic Sources To Gain Engagement Signals
Many CTR Geeks believe sending traffic through other platforms will improve rankings, it shows that your website is popular and it’s brand goes beyond Google search. Popular ways of increasing traffic include, paid search, (i.e. Google ads), Facebook, twitter, Google My Business, Google Maps. email campaigns, even traditional marketing (local papers, TV) where visitors type in the URL, can be used.
If you research other articles on this subject, it is suggested that this process will increase rankings. But I am not sure this by itself is correct, I think it all depends on the engagement signals from these visits.
Yes, send more traffic, but make sure your visitors will stay and engage, which means a great website with as many angles of the chosen subject you can write about.
Basic SEO Principles May Still Yield A Better Return
But I go back to a previous point, I do not have any websites, which has used up all its opportunities for adding great content, or better link building. I believe these basics still yield a better return than CTR manipulation, but it has taken these SEO experiments to prove the worth.
The only time I could see the benefit of implementing this CTR Manipulation strategy, is when you are at position 3 or 4 and are looking for that last bit of extra respect from Google, to get you up to position 1 and improve your website traffic.
Then only if the rewards of those few places are worth it.
CTR Manipulation Could Be Seen As Black Hat
Manipulating anything to enhance rankings in Google’s eyes could be seen as “Black Hat“. But it is hard to see how any website owner could be punished for it, as even John Mueller, claims Google does not use “Click Through Rates” as a ranking factor. It is also true that Google want you buy website traffic through their AdWords’ platform, where of course more traffic would be delivered to a website.
But if you still think it is time to implement a Click Through Rate Manipulation SEO strategy and are looking for a SEO course? Then Craig Campbell SEO, Chris Palmer Marketing, Dan Petrovic and Holly Starks all do training. Just google search their names.
Why don’t you think CTR Manipulation works?
It is not that the process does not work, it is more how we name the process. In better words I don’t believe the actual “click percentage to view rate” makes any difference, it is the amount of traffic plus engagement signals afterwards that improves rankings. A far more accurate term could be “Traffic plus Engagement Signals, Manipulation”.
So If The CTR Process Works, Is It Worth Doing?
In my case no, it just isn’t worth the effort. There is always content that can be improved, or backlinks to acquire. In my niche the return on investment is not just not big enough, bearing in mind there is a continuous cost to this strategy. But if a few places on Google can seriously improve your profits and the costs are low enough in your niche, then go for it.
Can the engagement signals obtained through CTR Manipulation Improve rankings a great deal?
In my opinion not that much. It could get your web page from from page 2 to page 1 or from position 5 to position 3 or 2 for example. But if you are ranking back in page 4 don’t expect suddenly to rise straight to position 1. However, if you already have great engagement signals because of great content and you gain even more engagement through CTR, who knows!!!
At What Point Should I start Testing CTR Returns?
Make sure everything else is in place first, a fast website, good content and links. A CTR manipulation campaign should compliment an existing strategy not replace it.
Remember if you are paying for ads on Facebook, Google, Quora or anywhere that delivers genuine interested visitors to your website, who then explore your website and deliver great engagement signals, then you are not manipulating anything. This is just good marketing!