What is the Relationship Between CTR and SEO?

Part 2: Short Clicks vs Long Clicks, and Dwell Time

Have you seen two people who seem to be very close, but you have no idea what their relationship is? Are they siblings? Dating? Mortal enemies? Complete strangers? That is what most people have felt when it comes to SEO and CTR.

In this article, we will explore how “quality of clicks” impacts on Google’s complex algorithms – it’s not just a simple calculation of the number of clicks.


Short Clicks: this is sometimes called pogo sticking, and it’s pretty self-explanatory really. A person Google’s something, lands on your website, realizes that the content is not what they’re after, and scurries back to Google immediately. This can also be referred to as bounce rate, a concept which has been previously explored in Benchmarking Bounce Rate For Online Retailers.

This is bad – users were so utterly repulsed by what they saw on your website that they had to retreat whence they came. To counter this, make sure your content is superb, the layout is intuitive, and you have valuable information.

Long Clicks: this term describes when someone clicks on a search result and spends some time reading the content on the page that they landed on, or clicked on another link to access another page on that same website. The user doesn’t return to Google immediately or at all.

They may not be on your website for very long – perhaps they saw you had a Facebook page or went to another page on your website – but the fact that they didn’t return to Google immediately is a good sign that the content on your website is relevant to what they were looking for.

This is good – both, for your website and from Google’s perspective.

Dwell Time: how long a person stays on a website, from when they click on the Search Result to when they go back to Google. The longer they stay, the better.


As noted in Part 1 of this series, there is definitely a link between CTR and SEO. However, Google doesn’t necessarily link the two directly, as that is something that can easily be abused and manipulated by nefarious black hat techniques.

Although, who knows what Google actually does? When it comes to Google, most SEOs make highly educated guesses or conduct trial and error CTR experiments. So, if you have insider information, please come forward – you would make a lot of SEOs and CTR experts (such as us) very happy.

All modern SEO experts agree that if there is a connection (despite the slippery responses from Google), then it is a nuanced and specifically targeted measurement. And this measurement comes from the quality of the clicks.


Google most likely relies on a combination of bounce rate as well as dwell time to determine their CTR ranking factor.

Whilst, in theory, having a low bounce rate may be beneficial for a website, then they are clearly interested in your brand, content or what you may have to offer elsewhere (such as on your Facebook page). So long as the searcher doesn’t return to their original search, Google assumes that your website must have good quality information.

However, pogo sticking is something Google takes notice of in a negative way. If large numbers of searchers are clicking on your site, and jumping straight off again, then you are clearly not answering their search. As a result, Google will penalize you accordingly.


If someone is on your website for several seconds before they withdraw back to Google, then that is a poor dwell time. If they are there for ten minutes, then clearly your content has enthralled them to a certain degree.

Google, in it’s mysterious fashion, can track how long someone spends on a website, including if they move onto a second page of the website. Getting large numbers of people to not only click on your website, but stick around long enough to consider going to a second page, clearly indicates you are doing something right.

And Google does reward websites for providing that quality content that makes people hang around.


There is an interesting trend that is developing in Google, and that is rewarding those with a higher than average CTR. If you have an optimized result on a SERP, and people are clicking on your website like nobody’s business, then Google will pay attention.

The little Google-bots that decide the fate sorry, rank of websites will notice that you’re doing something right, because so many people are clicking on your link. They see that, considering a website may be in seventh place, you may be performing at a website that is in third place. If that is the case, you may be bumped up several spots.

As can be seen, having a solid CTR can have high quality benefits, so there’s no harm in ensuring that it is optimized. In fact, it could be harming your website if you’re not ensuring your search ad is optimized.


This entire point is completely academic if no-one is actually clicking on your website, so make sure you have an optimized Search Result for your SERP.

As a side, it should be noted that although CTR is a factor, it is not the primary factor, or even perhaps the most important factor out there. There is so much out there that Google takes into account, and CTR is a medium fish in a pond the size of a small sea.

So make sure you are not neglecting link building (which is still a very important aspect of SEO), or social media interaction, or any other form of SEO.

There seems to be a common thread across most of SEO these days, and which is very related to CTR: if your content is good, then you will be rewarded. Make sure this is the case.