click here gif

click here gifClick-through rate, or CTR, is one of the most important metrics you can measure in paid search. Why? Simply put, click-through rate is the rate at which your ads are attracting clicks, calculated as a percentage of impressions. The higher your CTR, the more your ad is resonating with people who see it. As we’ll see in this post, CTR also has a huge effect on your AdWords Quality Score.

Today we’re going to look at why a high CTR is so important to your account, and I’ll explain how you can increase the CTR of your ads through A/B testing and 3 optimization techniques:

  1. Targeting the right kinds of keywords
  2. Writing more compelling, emotional ads
  3. Testing your ads

Why is CTR So Important in PPC?

A high CTR is vital to the success of your paid search advertising campaigns, because it tells Google that your ads are attracting clicks. This is an indication that you’re providing a good user experience for people using Google and helping them find the products and services they want.

Another crucially important metric that Google uses to evaluate the strength of your ads is Quality Score, a score between 1 and 10. The higher your Quality Score, the better: A high Quality Score means your ad will likely be served to more users (known as impression volume) and with better rankings on the search engine results page. Even better, you’ll pay less per click than ads with lower Quality Scores, saving you money. And accounts with high Quality Scores don’t just save on cost per click (CPC), they save on cost per conversion too. This post explains how.

Cost per conversion by Wordstream

Here’s the kicker: CTR is one of the primary metrics that helps define the Quality Score of your ads. Let’s take a look at this relationship in the figure below.

Quality Score Graph

My company, WordStream, has analyzed the performance of tens of thousands of AdWords accounts. Our data shows that the higher your CTR, relative to your ad position, the better your Quality Score. As you can see above, there is a direct relationship between CTR and Quality Score.

Why is Quality Score So Important?

Every time somebody performs a Google search, Google evaluates the ads of advertisers who have placed bids on relevant keywords. This is known as the ad auction.

The ad auction takes many factors into account when determining which ads to display to the user. One of them is – you guessed it – Quality Score. Let’s see how this works.

Wordstream infographic1

Wordstream infographic 2

The rank of your ad on the search results page is known as the ad position. Ads displayed at or near the top of the results page are considered better than those in the middle or toward the bottom because they’re more visible – users scan the page from top to bottom. The position of your ads is also related to the cost-per-click, or CPC. This is how much each click will cost you. The higher the CPC, the more money you could end up spending. But some advertisers are willing to place higher bids for those desirable top ad spots.

However, ads with high Quality Scores can earn higher rankings and still have lower CPCs. This means your ads could be displayed toward the top of the results, making them much more visible, and each click could cost you less, making your ad budget stretch further. As you can see in the figure below, it is possible for ads with lower keyword bids to achieve higher positions due to the difference in Quality Score:

Wordstream infographic 3

This is why Quality Score is so important. With higher Quality Scores, you can own your competitors and still pay less.

3 Ways to Increase Your CTR

Now that we know how important a high click-through rate is, let’s look at some ways you can achieve higher click-through rates, and consequently higher Quality Scores, in your AdWords account.

1. Target the Right Kinds of Keywords

Let’s say your business provides behavioral training for dogs. Who hasn’t met a dog who just wouldn’t sit, stay or roll over? You might think that the following keywords would be relevant to your business:

  • Dog behavior
  • Dog training
  • Dog discipline
  • Bad dog

At first glance, all of these keywords could be relevant to your business. However, it’s important to think about user intent when bidding on keywords.

For example, the keyword “dog behavior” could relate to a search for a dog trainer, but it could also be an informational query in which the searcher just wants to know why dogs do the things they do. Similarly, “dog discipline” could be a relevant keyword, but maybe the searcher just wants to know which breeds tend to be more disciplined than others. The only definitively relevant keyword in the list above is “dog training.”

These keywords, on the other hand, are much more closely related to a dog-training business:

  • Dog behavior training
  • Teaching dog discipline
  • Bad dog problem

Think carefully about user intent when selecting and bidding on keywords – if your ads show up for keywords with a weak intent match, your CTR and Quality Score will suffer. PPC ads perform best when the keywords you’re bidding on have clear commercial intent. Learn more about commercial content in this blog post.

2. Write More Compelling, Emotional Ads

People don’t click on ads because they want to buy something – they want to solve their problems. With this in mind, write ads that appeal to your prospective customers’ desire for the emotional payoff of solving a problem.

Many PPC ads use the same tired, boring verbiage and calls to action, which makes them easy for prospective customers to ignore. There are several ways you can make your ads irresistibly clickable:

  • Write eye-catching headlines
  • Include highly specific calls to action
  • Use strong verbs

Here are some examples of eye-catching headlines that break the mold. Notice how they appeal to a prospect’s desire to solve a problem?

  • Lose Weight – No Dieting
  • Start Getting Dates Now
  • She’ll Never Leave You
  • Drowning in Debt?

Check out the following calls to action. See how they promote the benefits of the product or service? This ties back to the idea of appealing to the prospect’s desire for an emotional payoff.

  • Highlight testimonials (“Read the rave reviews we got!”)
  • Be highly specific about cost savings (“Lower your costs by…”)
  • Make prospects use their imagination (“Imagine your wedding in…”)
  • Show off satisfied customers (“Jim Rice trusted us – see who else did”)
  • Include a bonus offer (“Plus Free Friendly Travel Advice!”)
  • Appeal to their impatience (“Get an Answer Right Now”)

Strong, active verbs can also be highly persuasive and result in higher click-through rates. When writing and testing ads, see if these verbs have an impact on your CTR:

  • Get
  • Save
  • Discover
  • Improve
  • Increase
  • Double (or Triple)

3. Test Your Ads

The best marketers and advertisers don’t rely on assumptions or guesswork – they rely on hard numbers. You can’t always predict which ad text will perform better; the only way to know is to test. This is crucial when first starting out, but many newcomers to AdWords simply don’t bother to actually test their ads.

A/B testing is the process of running two different ads simultaneously and comparing the performance of each. When a clear winner emerges, repeat the process with subtle changes and see which ad did better. This is known as optimization. (Something Optimizely obviously knows a lot about!)

To provide an example, we recently ran some tests to improve the CTR of a set of display banners:

display ad banner tests

Interestingly, we discovered that users responded negatively to banners featuring images of people – in every single instance, banners featuring people performed poorly compared to more graphical banners. This isn’t something we could have predicted without testing!

Learn More About PPC

You can learn more about all these key concepts – CTR, Quality Score, conversion rate optimization and more – over at WordStream’s PPC University (it’s free!). Start with PPC 101 and work your way up to Advanced PPC.