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Marin-Share-of-Clicks-by-Search-Ad-Position-and-Device-Sept2014It’s well known that search ranking positions affect click-through rates (CTRs), but new data from Marin Software goes a step further in quantifying click-through rates by ad position on mobile devices and desktops, finding some interesting discrepancies between them. The data demonstrates that the top position is most important on smartphones, and that the distribution of tablet clicks tends to be more closely aligned with smartphones than with desktops.

Looking at the share of click-throughs by ad position, the study finds that the top position garners 39% share of clicks on smartphones, compared to 36% on tablets and 30% on desktops. Positions 2 through 4 tend to receive an equal share of clicks in the aggregate across each device, with results below those getting a proportionately higher share of click-throughs on desktops than on mobile devices.

The analysts note that it makes sense for top positions to matter more on smartphones, as they often only show one ad on top of the search engine results page (SERP). What’s more interesting is that an examination of click-through rates by ad position shows that tablets more closely mirror smartphones than desktops, despite tablets and desktops using the same search engine results page format.

As for those CTRs by position? The results, based on “a large sample set of all Marin US clients,” show that:

  • The top position on smartphones garners a CTR of 4.9%, versus 4.3% on tablets and 3.2% on desktops;
  • The second position has a CTR of 2.2% on smartphones, compared to 2% on tablet and 1.9% on desktops; and
  • The third position has a CTR of 1.9% on smartphones, versus 1.6% on tablets and 1.5% on desktops.

Of note, smartphone and tablet CTRs drop off more rapidly (at an average of 30% and 28% per position, respectively) than do desktop CTRs (at 22% per position). In other words, as reflected by the click share data above, ad positions further down the list tend to see relatively better click-through rates on desktops than on mobile devices.

Something to keep in mind as mobile keeps accounting for a greater share of paid search clicks

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