I did a fun research project at the day job last week. We analyzed nearly five million Google search queries to see how click through rates are affected by ranking and how averages apply across industry segments.
We determined that those whole-web or industry-wide CTR-by-rank charts that many marketers use to predict performance have little bearing on their specific site or topic.
Bottom line? We found that averages, even when segmented by query type, didn’t provide much actionable data for a specific site. When we compared averages to site-specific data, we didn’t find much that was similar.
However, we did find that average click through rates within a site tended to hold fairly steady, and so using actual averaged click through rates for your own site can be very useful for things like calculating market opportunity of new content investments, estimating impact of rankings changes, and pinpointing issues with the site’s listings on the search results page.