What CTR Should I Aim For?

CTR is a generally accepted marker for how well a campaign is doing. The higher the CTR, the better the adverts are being responded to. What are the CTR benchmarks for different types of digital marketing though?

This can depend on a myriad of factors.

Where and when your ads are served, what they say, how they look etc can all massively change performance.


Should I be focusing on CTR?

You should keep in mind that while CTR implies people are interested in your ads, a high CTR should only be your goal if:

  1. Your ad campaign only wants to drive views of a page or post.
  2. You are entirely unable to track conversions.

If you are capable of tracking what you really what from an ad (such as sales) then you should do that instead. All ads should have a clear purpose. Making your ad work towards that purpose will massively increase the value you get from your advertising.


CTR Formula

The CTR equation is:

The CTR Formula or Click Through Rate Equation, which is Clicks divided by Impressions (as a percentage)Click to enlarge

CTR = (Clicks ÷ Impressions) x 100


CTR Benchmarks

We conduct our own research at The Online Advertising Guide to gather benchmarks, and you can use our many benchmarking tools to check your own performance against other marketers.

For your convenience here is a summary of the results that we’ve seen.


CTR Benchmarks from The Online Advertising Guide. Display: 0.3%, Email: 2.94%, Organic Search: 1.5%, Organic Social 1.34%, Paid Search 2.62%, Paid Social 0.86%

Display Ads CTR Benchmark

The current average for display advertising campaigns is 0.3% CTR. This means that there are 3 clicks for every time one thousand times an ad is loaded on someone’s computer.

It should be noted that display advertising has a huge reach, with ads appearing across the whole of the internet. This means that while this CTR is low compared to other channels, Display Ad campaigns can still drive more clicks overall as they are seen by so many people.

It is often claimed that the overall average is just 0.1%, but that figure predates the massive improvements made to algorithms in recent years.

Many ad agencies demand at least 0.2% from their display ad campaigns so you should always aim for more than this.

[Use this Display Ads CTR Benchmark tool to give your context to your performance each month]

Just to look at the other side of the coin quickly, you would probably expect a CTR of 0.5-3% for AdSense. This is because you probably have multiple ads on your site, as well as many other things to click on, so CTRs from your site will likely be quite low.



Email Marketing CTR Benchmark

The current average CTR of individual links within an Email is 2.94%. Keep in mind that CTR is not the same as CTOR which measures the percentage of people that clicked on anything in an email (as opposed to clicks on a specific thing).

Email marketing CTORs average at around 20-30% – which is around 10% higher than the average CTR. This would imply that most emails have 10+ links in them.


Organic Search CTR Benchmark

The current average CTR of organic links on search engines is 1.5%. It’s important to note how this is measured though.

A click is a click, but as everyone knows the vast majority of clicks go to just the first few links on a search engine results page. This means that pages that rank lower down the page will be shown a lot but have very little chance of being clicked.

Similarly, a page coming up for a barely related search (for example a blog about cheese coming up on a search for “cheesy music”) will get very few clicks.

This means that the variation in CTR on organic search is huge. Top-ranking pages on relevant search results will easily get a 60%-80% CTR. They are few and far between, which is why the overall average of all pages for all queries is around 1.5%.


Paid Search CTR Benchmark

The current average CTR of paid links on search engines is 2.62%. As with organic search results, there is a huge variation of results, however, with top campaigns easily getting 50%-60% CTRs.

On Paid Search there is the inherent issue of competition. While other advertising formats will avoid showing competitors directly next to each other, Paid Search does it every time. It’s usually a direct choice for users between several equally valid options (and organic search results).

This creates an intense situation of winners and losers. This means the average of all the ads that could have been clicked on is naturally dragged down.

This is why for paid search benchmarks you should try to beat them by quite a margin.

[Use this Paid Search CTR Benchmark tool each month to check your performance]


Organic Social CTR Benchmark

The current average CTR of organic links on social media is 1.34%. Keeping in mind that reach on organic social has plummeted in recent years, this number is really just a function of how few people see posts with links in them.

By this I mean that if you post something with a link on it on social media, it won’t be seen by many, nor clicked on by many people. However, out of the people who see it, a comparatively reasonable percentage of them will click on it.

Beating this benchmark implies that your link (and the presentation of it) is more interesting than most things posted on social media.


Paid Social CTR Benchmark

The current average CTR of paid links on social media is 0.86%. The fact that this is lower than the benchmark for organic posts is driven by three reasons:

  • The reach of paid social ads is much higher than organic social post – a smaller percentage of a much large pool of people is clicking on these ads.
  • Social networks don’t want you to leave them to go to other sites. This means that they will only show ads to people likely to click on them if it is more profitable to them than keeping you on their site.
  • The majority of ad campaigns are not buying clicks (but instead aiming for conversions). If a campaign is not aiming for clicks, then ad platform algorithms try to generate as few clicks as possible.
    • A theoretically perfect campaign aiming at sales would get one sale for every click.

So for Paid Social, CTR is mostly a way of seeing if a social network algorithm thinks your proposition is viable. It wouldn’t waste its time ‘giving’ you clicks if it didn’t think those clicks would lead somewhere (eg to a conversion).

The more viable your ad is, the more you can scale your ad (as in pay more to have it shown more while still being profitable). Staying above the CTR benchmark is a good way to keep track of this.

[Use this Paid Social CTR Benchmark tool monthly to keep track of your performance]




What should I do about my CTR?

Whatever results you get, you can always improve on them. The first step is to find out your own average CTR.

This is the simplest part of the optimising process. Simply set up your ad campaign and let it run for a few days. 3 days or 1,000 impressions is the minimum you need to judge the performance of anything. Once you have passed this, you have benchmarks of your own performance.

Focus on optimising anything that falls below your own benchmarks. The next section in this guide gives you advice on how to optimise your CTR.

When you make changes that are intended to affect CTR record the CTR for the week before and the week after the change to see if it worked.

Check on changes to channel benchmarks periodically to see if changes to your own performance are due to your own work or things outside of your control.




CTR Definition (Click Through Rate)


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