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22 April 2014 / Opinion

Reporting on CTR uplift due to organic star ratings

James Walker / SEO Strategy Consultant

Search engines are always trying to make their search results better. One of the ways they do this is through the addition of rich snippets to results, enabling brands to use structured markup to improve the click through rates of their listing.


Star Ratings are a relatively new ad extension, yet their application is already widespread in PPC adverts. It is less common however to see star ratings used in organic search result listings, despite widespread reports that their application can increase CTR of organic results by 20-25%.

This could be a significant traffic increase, depending on the search volume of the keyword and, further still, it has also been reported to improve both trust and conversion rates for organic listings.

There is a lot of information, like this article here from Google, available to help webmasters add rich snippet coding correctly and countless articles about how best to implement them. Here, instead of explaining how to add or best implement them, I’m going to look at how to report on the impact that star ratings have on the CTR of organic SERP listings.

Monitoring changes in CTR

Ideally, the coding should be set up towards the end of a month so the star ratings are appearing for a full month allowing a direct month on month comparison. Alternatively, you can compare a set amount of time e.g. 30/31 days with the star ratings appearing vs 30/31 days before this, when the star ratings weren’t appearing.

The main challenge in reporting changes in CTR is that a keyword comparison is no longer viable - due to the not provided issue. The best way to conduct this analysis is therefore to look at landing page traffic.

As well as this traffic data, it is vital to check whether star ratings are actually appearing for keywords that are driving traffic to a landing page. There are various reasons why star ratings wouldn’t be appearing, e.g. the mark-up might not have been added correctly for a page, there might not be any reviews for that page yet, etc.

Step 1 - Collect this data from Google Analytics

Step 2 – Carry out the analysis

There are other aspects that can affect these organic traffic figures, other than the star ratings, the main two of which are seasonality and keyword ranking changes. Sometimes, large brand activity surrounding certain products or landing pages can also have an impact.

If seasonality impacts a product throughout a month, it is likely that organic traffic will reflect that and follow the same pattern – providing that the rankings have stayed consistent. Similarly, if rankings change, this can dramatically affect CTR and therefore organic traffic.

A few examples of this can be found by analysing the data in the table above. Let’s start by looking at landing pages that did have star ratings appearing (landing pages 1-4) for the main keywords which drive traffic to those landing pages.

Each landing page should be analysed to confirm whether there is any significant seasonality increase or decrease and whether the rankings that drive traffic have changed significantly over this time period. There are many different tools that can track this, e.g. Advanced Web Ranking or Search Metrics.

If there was a much lower MoM uplift for a landing page that had star ratings appearing (similar to landing-page-2 in the example table), did the seasonality for this page drop off? Did any of the key rankings drop?

Just as important as checking anomalies that were lower, is to check the anomalies that are higher, for example landing-page-4 which shows a substantially higher uplift than the others. This process should then be repeated for the landing pages that didn’t have star ratings appearing.

By doing this, you will create a list of anomalies that should be discounted because their MoM changes are likely due to have been impacted by other factors than the organic star ratings.

Step 3 - Form a conclusion

It is important to understand that this won’t be a definitive answer, as there are too many factors that can affect organic traffic; this will however give an idea about the uplift seen due to these organic star ratings.

Once the anomalies have been removed, take two averages of MoM uplift - the first for landing pages with star ratings appearing and the second without.

For example, in the table landing pages 2, 4 & 7 were anomalies. The average MoM uplift for landing pages with star ratings is therefore 25.5%. For landing pages without star ratings the average was 4.8%. Again, these averages will become more accurate with the more data you have.

This indicates that the site as a whole would have increased by 4.8% even if star ratings weren’t appearing, this could be due to things such as an increase in brand awareness. However, pages that did have star ratings appearing saw a 25.5% uplift.

The conclusion for this example would therefore be that there was a 20.7% increase in uplift due to star ratings appearing in organic search results.