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No. 1 Position in AdWords Doesn’t Always Get Highest CTR [Study]

What share of clicks does the No. 1 position in Google’s paid search results get? This is the question digital marketing agency Accuracast attempted to answer in a 12-month study of ad activity covering nearly 2 million clicks.

What they found was the No. 1 position in Google’s paid search results had an average click-through rate of 7 percent, versus just 3 percent in the No. 2 position and 2 percent in No. 3 position.


But Accuracast’s research revealed No. 1 wasn’t always the best place to be for click-throughs. In its research, Accuracast studied activity across a variety of Google advertising channels, including its search partners and display network.

Data showed advertisements on Google’s search partners (search results on sites like AOL,, etc.) showed a spike in click-through rate (CTR) for Position 5 in the results at 1.16 percent versus 0.83 percent for Position 1.


In a blog post on the findings, Accuracast points out that the “influence of position on click through rates is far less significant on Google’s search partners. CTR for position 1 on the search network is only marginally higher than that for ads in positions 2-9, as the above graph demonstrates.”

Accuracast said the explanation for that could be the “relatively modest amount of information accompanying the exact same ad for the same keyword query on the Search Partner sites,” as seen in the following image:


In Google’s Display Network, text ads in the No. 3 position secured the highest CTR at 0.29 percent, whereas the No. 1 position saw a CTR of 0.17 percent.



“The data is surprising,” said Farhad Divecha, Accuracast managing director. “When we first noticed the unusual spikes in CTR at position 5 on search partner data and position 3 for the content network, our first reaction was to check the integrity of the data – could it be an outlier, a handful of clicks or a particularly successful campaign that was skewing the numbers? – however, we found that this wasn’t an outlier, it was seen over tens of thousands of clicks and across multiple campaigns and accounts in various industries.”

Divecha also said that sites like and AOL don’t make the difference between ads and organic results very clearly visible.

“Both of these sites also have anywhere from 3 to 7 ads appear above the organic search results, with 5 ad units being quite common,” Divecha said. “Keeping this in mind, it is easy to see why users might be tempted to click on the fourth and fifth ad links, as they’d normally expect those to be organic links and they’re just above the real organic links.”

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