What is CTR Manipulation And Does It Work?

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?

So first let’s discuss what CTR is how it can be manipulated.

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.

Testing The CTR Theory

I first tested this theory so many years ago, I can’t quite remember, except it was when CTR was introduced as a metric with PPC (Pay Per Click). 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 PPC campaign than those, many positions below you.

I believed that surely if it is being used with Google paid search, then it would be a factor in organic search. However, at that time, I found no benefit to any rankings, when organic click through rate improved with normal search and gave up on the theory.

As with all SEO strategies you should re-test, but this time I did see some improvement, but it 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 Do You Manipulate CTR?

There are four tracks for this,

  • Use automated software (emulator, CTR Bot)
  • Pay someone to visit your site and emulate a real visitor with organic clicks
  • Use several mobile phones and do it yourself, organic CTR.
  • Use multiple VPN’s on different devices and do it yourself with various SEO traffic.

The first option normally requires a subscription where an automated traffic bot, pretends to be human (emulate) and will visit your web site for the agreed amount of time. There are many emulators out there, but very few have ever got any recognition of doing the job. 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 names for this reason, this was my testing only and some may argue, I did not try it long enough. After 3 days, ranking and organic SEO traffic dropped, so I immediately cancelled and removed the Click Through Rate Manipulation bot.

The second option requires employing real people to pretending to the search engines to be genuine user behaviour. This normally involves using Micro workers from countries where the cost of living is lower, and so the project cost is affordable. After trying this 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 content and more links and get a better improvement in rankings and traffic.

The third option is to complex to mention all here, but it involves buying many “pay as you go” android phones and new sim cards, registering them in different names, only using data to visit your website.

The fourth involves using several VPN services or one that has multiple local VPN’s, then changing browsers and equipment to mix up the visitor engagement signals.

CTR Manipulation flow cart

Was This Proof It Worked?

No, it wasn’t definite proof. You see this was not just about CTR, 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 CTR 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 CTR, will actually lose you rankings.
So, the click through rate in my opinion cannot be measured as a stand alone metric, it is also about what happens after the click, this is why I think automated emulators just do not work yet. They may get the clickthrough rate manipulations right, but fail to make the engagement signals and organic user behaviour afterwards.
With a high click through rate then a high engagement with your site, then you should expect some sort of rankings boost. But a high CTR 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 CTR 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 CTR is not being manipulated, it is just a way of adding further “on page” user metrics.

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 deliver 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 click through rate manipulation, 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.

Then only if the rewards of those few places are worth it.

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 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 this SEO strategy and are looking for a SEO course? Then Craig Campbell, Chris Palmer and Holly Starks all do training on the subject of CTR Manipulation. Just google search their names.

Aboutmark flanighan
I Love SEO (most of the time!)

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