I have been selected to participate in a paid SEO Peer Review of a recent study about Google click-through rates prepared by Catalyst; below is my review.
How User Intent Impacts Google CTRs: #CatalystCTRStudyI am going to assume that Catalyst made every attempt to be very thorough and it is obvious that they have put a great deal of effort into their study, so I am looking at this as an opportunity to provide constructive criticism rather than try to validate or invalidate their findings; I do not have access to the data used and my own data does not include very many Consumer Packaged Good (CPG) brand websites, so it seems that my own independent research would be like comparing apples to oranges.
1) The title of the study/infographic needs more explanation.
I would suggest that the title of the pdf "How User Intent Impacts Google Click-Through Rates" and the title of the infographic "Under The Hood of Google Click-Through Rates" be revised to include the fact that the research and findings are based on CPG brand websites only.
In my opinion, a study of CTR and user-intent may have very different results for non CPG brands. I was initially under the assumption that the study pertained to all websites, so I believe this could easily be misinterpreted and confuse someone who does not realize that the study is based solely on CPG brand websites. Many of the websites I manage, most of which are not CPG, seem to have CTR of over 40% for long tail keywords when ranked in the 1st or 2nd position, much higher than the results found in this study; again, this is like comparing apples to oranges. A little more explanation in the title would help clear confusion.
2) SERP is something that brands CAN control? This needs clarification.
On the infographic under "Factors Influencing CTR," SERP position is listed along with title tag, meta description, URL, Rich Snippet and Brand Awareness / Brand Trust as elements your brand CAN control while in the study the words "within a brand's control" are used.
Yes, brands can make efforts to improve their SERP with SEO, both on and off page, but the wording on the infographic needs to be changed as saying brands can control SERP does not lend credibility to the study.
3) More information needs to be provided about which variables were taken into account regarding the informational intent related to coupon focused searches.
The results show that CTR is higher for coupon focused searches than non-coupon focused searches and says that "users searching for coupons and discounts are very likely to click the first result when a well-known brand occupies that position."
The coupon/non-coupon and brand/non-brand in the various positions adds variables that aren't being shown in the results. For the results that are shown, did a well-known brand occupy the first position each time the results were recorded for a coupon-focused search? What about a non-coupon focused search? More information is needed and the same questions apply to the question-focused search.
4) How was trust measured?
Under the informational intent related to question focused searches, the study states "...assuming that they [the user] trust the source of the first result, feel that they need look no further [in other words, they click the first result]."
I do not believe that assumptions like this can be made and should be removed from the study.
5) The study's key takeaways are weak and need to be re-written into statements that brands can use to take action.
For example, "A brand's actual click through rate by position may differ significantly, due to several highly influential CTR factors, with only a handful that can be directly influenced by marketers."
I propose that a better key takeaway would be something along the lines of: "Because the top 4 positions on average receive 83% of organic clicks, focusing on improving the factors within your control to increase your SERP will likely improve your CTR as well."