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WordStream: 12 Ways to Increase Your Google Ads Click-Through Rate

What’s the average click-through rate for a Google Ads ad? When people ask this question, it’s usually because they want to benchmark their own CTRs.

But listen up: Way too many advertisers are content to reach an average click-through rate and leave it at that. If that’s you, you can just look at our search ad benchmarks chart below and exit the post.

average click-through rate benchmarks

If, however, you want to achieve optimal performance with your Google Ads and get the most out of your (or your client’s) budget, then you’ll read on.

In this post, we’re going to show you when and why you should strive for an above-average click-through rate in Google Ads, and show you exactly how to do that.

Table of contents

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What is click-through rate in Google Ads?

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Click-through rate, in general, is a ratio of clicks to impressions. So in Google Ads, an impression occurs when your ad appears on the SERP, and a click occurs when the person viewing your ad clicks on it. Ergo, CTR is the percentage of people who see your ad who then click through to your ad’s destination (whether that’s to a landing page, app store, or lead form).

definition of click-through rate

Why does CTR matter in Google Ads?

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Click-through rate is a tricky PPC metric because while high click-through improves your Quality Score, you’re also paying for every click. Let’s dive into this a bit.

When high click-through rate is good

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A high click-through rate in Google Ads is good because it’s an indicator that your ad copy is appealing to your audience.

But with the way Google Ads works, there is a deeper benefit. The Google Ads algorithm rewards higher quality ads with higher positions and lower costs per click. Why? Because Google doesn’t make money if no one clicks on its ads, so it gives preference to the ads most likely to succeed.

And how does Google measure the quality of ads? Its Quality Score formula is elusive, but we know its three core components:

  • Relevance of the ad and landing page to the keyword.
  • The landing page user experience.
  • 👉 Your expected CTR. 👈

And there it is. Expected CTR is how Google estimates the ad to perform, regardless of position and other factors, taking into account your past performance with that keyword. According to Google, you can score an average, above average, or below average expected CTR for each keyword.

Soooo…..the higher your CTR, the higher your expected CTR, and the higher your Quality Score. Higher Quality Score leads to higher Ad Rank. Ads that rank higher get clicked more at lower costs. The lower your cost per click, the lower your cost per action.

cycle showing how higher click-through rate in googlge ads leads to higher ad rank and lower costs

So how do you get an above-average click-through rate? We’ll get to that shortly. But first, a word of caution on high click-through rates.

When high click-through rate is…not good

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Remember, this is pay-per-click advertising, so you are paying for every click on your ad, and not every click on your ad is going to convert. So a high click-through rate is a bad thing if you have a low conversion rate because you’re paying for clicks that aren’t going to result in a return on your investment.

diagram showing high click through rate with low conversion rate means higher costs

So your goal is not to get the highest click-through rate, but the highest qualified click-through rate possible.

But wait, one more thing.

Another piece in this equation is the keywords you’re bidding on. Some keywords come at a high price, such that even if those clicks are converting, you’re not yielding a return on investment with your ad spend. So ideally, you want a high click-through rate on keywords that are not just relevant, but also affordable.

What is a good CTR in Google Ads?

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So, provided they’re relevant and affordable keywords, what is a good CTR in Google Ads? What does it take to land an “above average” score on your expected click-through rate? Let’s take a look back on the chart from the intro, which contains industry averages:

average click-through rate benchmarks

Catch our latest Google Ads benchmarks here.

For many industries, an average click-through rate is between 4-6%. So a good or above-average click-through rate in Google Ads would be something like 7-9%. If you’re in the travel, automotive sales, or real estate industries, however, where average CTR is 7-9%, you’d want to strive for 10-12%. But if you’re in the arts and entertainment industry where the average CTR is almost 11%, you’d be looking at 13% or higher.

How to improve click-through rate in Google Ads

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Now that we know what click-through rate is, how it impacts your Google Ads performance and what it means to have a good click-through rate, we can talk about how to achieve one. And there are a few approaches. The first is with your targeting.

1. Target the right keywords

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For starters, make sure you’re targeting the right keywords. Here are three types of keyword to focus on for higher click-through rates:

  • Commercial intent keywords: Commercial intent keywords are those people type in when they have intent to purchase (like “best CRM” or “stainless steel dishwasher”). Avoid informational keywords like “what is a CRM” since this will result in lower CTR and/or wasted spend.
  • Branded keywords: These are another great opportunity, and not just your own brand. Target partner brands, competitor brands, or other brands your target market may searching when they’re in buying mode.
  • Local keywords: Local keywords (like “san diego personal trainer”) tend to get high CTRs since local searchers often have a high commercial intent.

the four types of keyword intent

2. Use negative keywords

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This is a must for keeping your click-through rates in check. Negative keywords are the ones you don’t want Google to show your ad for. So if you sell new cell phones, for example, you would set “refurbished” or “used” as negative keywords. This way, your ad won’t show for people unlikely to click on your ad.

3. Narrow your audience targeting

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If you’re not running search or keyword-targeted ads (or if you are but are layering audiences on top of that), you may also want to revisit your audience targeting. By narrowing your audience down to more specific criteria, you can more specifically cater your ad copy and improve your click-through rate, even if you aren’t getting as many clicks overall.

How to improve Google Ads CTR with ad copy

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Low click-through rates could be because you’re bidding on the wrong keywords. But in most cases, you can significantly increase CTR (and conversion volume…and ROI) by simply writing stronger ad copy. Here’s how.

4. Keep it simple and skimmable

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Unless it’s a billboard at a long traffic light, you can rest assured that virtually no ads are read in full—especially online ads. Keep your ads simple so they can communicate an effective message at a glance. Here’s how:

  • Include the keyword in the headline and description, but don’t repeat it.
  • Don’t use the full character count if you don’t need it.
  • Don’t complicate your ad with abbreviations that aren’t intuitive.
  • Use plain language that reads easily.

how to increase google ads click-through rate - readable ad copy examplePlenty more Google Ads examples here.

5. Actually have a CTA

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Telling a user that you have what they’re looking for, that what you have is better than what your competitors have, is not a call to action. You need to actually invite your ad viewers to act. And to act now. Buy now. Download today. Though it’s just one or two words, it’s a micro-push that can make all the difference.

Even better, reinforce a feature or benefit in the CTA, like “Starting saving now” or “Talk to a specialist today.”

how to increase google ads click-through rate - calls to action in ad copy

6. Put a special offer in your headline

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Everyone loves special offers and promotions like discounts and free shipping. But instead of just including them in the description, put them right in your PPC headlines. Mainly because the headline is the first (and sometimes only) thing searchers read. But also because numbers in headlines always tend to perform well and words like “free” light up the human brain (like the elevator buttons when Buddy the Elf pushes them all at once).

how to increase click-through rate google ads - ad headline with special offer

7. Put your main keyword in your display path

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Google Ads display paths appear after the slash of your destination URL. Though they’re optional, you should absolutely use them. Treat them as a part of your ad copy and use them to include your keyword. In the examples below, one of these is not like the others. Those display paths can be used to indicate value or reassure the viewer that you have what they’re looking for.

how to increase CTR - display paths in google ads URL

8. Create emotional ads

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Emotional ad copy is a must for increasing your click-through rate. But the secret to emotional ad copy is to keep it subtle. No need for all caps, hyperbolic words, or exclamation points. Take a look at the two ads below for public speaking coaches, both with solid ad copy.

The first one uses terms like “best public speaking coach,” “level up your public speaking skills,” and “tailored.” That’s all well and good, but the second ad has more emotional words and phrases, like “Speak more confidently,” “Boost your career,” “live your best life,” and “unlock your potential.”

how to improve google ads ctr - example of an emotional ad

Not only is this more benefit-focused copy, but it’s also more emotional. Nothing extravagant, it just has feeling to it.

More ways to improve Google Ads click-through rate

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These last methods originate from a study we performed using data from our Google Ads Performance Grader. We identified accounts that make up the top 15%, 5%, and 1% of performers in terms of click-through rate. Here’s what we found.

9. Use dynamic keyword insertion, but don’t overuse it

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With dynamic keyword insertion (DKI), Google will automatically insert the keyword that triggered your ad into your ad copy or headline. This is beneficial, but only to a point, as illustrated from one of our studies below:

dynamic keyword insertion vs ctr in google ads

You can see that ads with DKI have a higher relative frequency than those without, but only for the top 15% of accounts. As you move to the top 5% and 1%, notice the red curve actually dips below the blue.

This tells us that DKI should definitely be part of your toolbox as it tends to produce slightly higher early returns, but it shouldn’t be overly relied on.

10. Use, but don’t rely on ad extensions

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Google Ads extensions can help your ad take up more space on the SERP and give it more clickable appeal. In the same study, we found that accounts using sitelink extensions did slightly better than those that did not, which is not a surprise.

how to improve google ads CTR - sitelink extensions vs ctr vs quality score

It’s a modest increase, but it won’t double or triple your click-through rates and it certainly won’t make up for boring ad copy. So just like DKI, use extensions but don’t rely on them.

11. Test more ads

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In our study, we did some number crunching to see the relative abundance of ads with a higher than average click-through rate, and here’s what we found:

  • Top 15%: These are ads with a 2x higher click-through rate, and they occur in one of every six or seven ads.
  • Top 5%: These ads have a 3x higher CTR and occur once in every 20 ads.
  • Top 1%: These have a 6x higher CTR and occur once in every 100 ads.

That’s right, 100 ads. No, you do not need to test 100 ads, but you do need to test lots of them. And yes, responsive search ads will do some ad copy testing for you by mixing and matching headlines and descriptions, but no—that doesn’t leave you off the hook for testing.

In her post on Google Ads mistakes, PPC influencer Michelle Morgan recommends always having 2-4 active ad variants in each ad group. To achieve higher-than-average click-through rates, you may want to bump that number up a bit. But don’t worry. We found that the top 5% of ads in an advertiser’s account makes up 85% of their impressions. So just choose your top two or three ad groups and focus on doing lots of testing there.

12. Pause the bottom third of your account

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So…quick recap.

  • High click-through rate = awesome.
  • Low click-through rate = not awesome.

Why not delete the bottom third of your account and re-deploy that spend to remarketing? These are your low CTR, low impression share, junk performers. Dead weight dragging you down. Cost per click is much lower on the Display Network, and if you’re using display for remarketing, you can achieve similar, and in some cases, even higher conversion rates than Search ads.

If you can get rid of the bottom third of your more expensive search ads and shift that spend to even average performing display and remarketing ads, that would be a brilliant way to begin to more effectively scale your Google Ads efforts.

Improve your Google Ads click-through rate

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And there you have it. Average CTR is…well, average. Above-average CTR is the way to go (for relevant and affordable keywords, that is). Go this route and you’ll see higher impression shares, better ad positions, lower costs per click, and lower costs per conversion. Here is a recap of how to improve your click-through rate in Google Ads:

  1. Target the right keywords
  2. Use negative keywords
  3. Narrow your audience targeting
  4. Keep it simple and skimmable
  5. Actually have a CTA
  6. Put a special offer in your headline
  7. Put your main keyword in your display path
  8. Create emotional ads
  9. Use dynamic keyword insertion, but don’t overuse it
  10. Use, but don’t rely on ad extensions
  11. Test more ads
  12. Pause the bottom third of your account

Of course, you can get started with your own instant, free account audit using our Google Ads Performance Grader. This is a critical first step in determining the health of your Google Ads account and identifying optimization opportunities. And if you’d like help with your search ads, see how our full range of digital marketing solutions can help.


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