YouTube Click Through Rate – ULTIMATE GUIDE

YouTube Click Through Rate – ULTIMATE GUIDE
Written by: Dexxter Clark, 26-05-2020
Click Through Rates (commonly abbreviated as CTR) tell a story about the performance of a YouTube title and thumbnail.
CTR is one of the key metrics that YouTube looks at to determine if it should promote your video or not.
It ultimately comes down to: making more money with ads or your products.


In this article I dive into the sense and nonsense of CTRs.
Why are they important? Why do they matter? How are they used by YouTube? How to improve CTR and why a high CTR isn’t good.

The information in this article is based on my own experiences as a YouTube creator over the years.
I also used the official YouTube read regarding the topic https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/7628154?hl=en to backup my claims in this article.

What is Click Through Rate (CTR)?

Click Through Rate or CTR is the percentage of viewers that see your title and thumbnail and click on it.
The CTR is expressed in a percentage.

Click Through Rates are a measurements of how well content is performing.
Click Through Rate is a broad marketing term and not exclusively used in the context of YouTube.
Also for online advertisements and links in marketing emails are Click Through Rates measured.

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YouTube uses Click Through Rates combined with Average View Duration and Watch Time to promote a video in the algorithms like suggested, home and search.
A video with a high CTR and low Average View Duration and low Watch Time is considered clickbait.
With clickbait you do not deliver on the promise you made in the title and thumbnail.

What is a good Click Through Rate on YouTube?

A CTR between 2% and 10% is considered normal according to YouTube:
  • 10% is high, meaning a lot of people click on it
  • 2% is low, meaning less people click on it
I’ve seen people have CTRs of 18%, but that is not always a good thing, as I will explain later in this article.

General topic videos (i.e. humor or vlogs) probably have lower Click Through Rates than targeted audiences (i.e. people who like dancing, race car fans or people who like to paint).

I have listed the traffic sources in order of higher CTRs:
  • channel page – most interested in you
  • YouTube search – interested in the topic
  • YouTube homepage – maybe not interested in the video topic
You can find your CTR by traffic source in your YouTube Analytics (I tell you later where you can find this).

CTRs from your channel page are probably higher than CTRs from YouTube’s homepage and search.
This is because the target audience is focussed.
Someone that looks at your channel page is probably more interested in you (and thus more likely to click on one of your videos) than someone that is seeing one of your videos on the YouTube homepage.

How do you increase Click Through Rate on YouTube?

Increasing CTR is a very wise strategy to grow views.
Some tips to help you:

1. Don’t forget that title + thumbnail are important

Both title and thumbnail are important for CTR, not only the thumbnail.
An amazing thumbnail might perform well, but if YouTube can’t make head nor tails from your title it will hurt your promotion.
And nobody clicks great title with a bad thumbnail.


Try my free YouTube tools:


2. Make it stick out.

You are up against 20-50 or 1000 videos on the same topic.
If everyone uses blue in their thumbnail, use red.
Use a photo editor to paste your thumbnail design into a screenshot of the YouTube homepage or YouTube search results to see if it sticks out.

3. Run thumbnail through Google Cloud Vision.

YouTube uses a version of this algorithm to determine contents of the t want to reduce the spammyness to increase likelihood of success.
You can find Cloud Vision here: https://cloud.google.com/vision/docs/drag-and-drop.

4. Improve audience retention

A good Audience Retention together with Click Through Rate is vital to video promotion on YouTube.
Read my article on How to improve Audience Retention for more details.

Also a good story helps to keep viewers hooked (also in informational content).
I will talk about storytelling in this article.

5. Ask feedback

Post multiple variations of your thumbnail on your community tab and ask for feedback. You can do this also for other social media and your email list.

6. Look at titles and thumbnails of other videos

Look at other videos that perform well in terms of views (CTR doesn’t always tell a good story, as I will explain later in this article).
Are there commonalities in well performing videos in terms of color, facial expressions, topic??

Also consistent thumbnail elements like style, font, logo, face and colors can help viewers to recognize your thumbnails.
This will improve your video in the recommended videos algorithm (“if the same people click on your videos over and over again, it must be a good video”).

7. Know your target audience

Who do you make the video for? Age, gender, location, family situation, dreams, struggles, financial situation etc.
You can make more educated decisions for title and thumbnail, but also video topic.
If you make the video for Jane, 23 years old, interested in fashion and has a boyfriend, you will make a title and thumbnail that resonates with her (in color choice, word choice, topic choice).

Where can you find Click Through Rate on YouTube?

There are two ways two types of Click Through Rates:
  • Average CTRs for all your videos combined
  • CTRs of individual videos

Average CTRs of all videos combined
  • Log in to YouTube
  • Go to YouTube Studio
  • Go to menu item on the left: Analytics
  • Go to tab: Reach
Here you see CTR, Impressions and a beautiful funnel on how the two relate.
You can click on CTR or Impressions on top of the graph to see the development over time.

CTR of 1 video
  • Log in to YouTube
  • Go to YouTube Studio
  • Go to menu item: Videos
  • Hover over a video with your mouse cursor and click on the Analytics icon
  • (you can also click on the Pencil icon and click on Analytics in the menu on the left)
  • Go to tab: Reach
Here you see CTR, Impressions and a beautiful funnel on how the two relate.
You can click on CTR or Impressions on top of the graph to see the development over time.

CTR per traffic source for a video
  • Log in to YouTube
  • Go to YouTube Studio
  • Go to menu item: Videos
  • Hover over a video with your mouse cursor and click on the Analytics icon
  • (you can also click on the Pencil icon and click on Analytics in the menu on the left)
  • Go to tab: Reach
  • In the card “Traffic Source Types”, click on “see more”
In the table shown are the CTR per traffic source.

How is Click Through Rate calculated?

The formula for calculating Click Through Rate:
CTR % = (clicks / impressions) * 100

CTR = Click Through Rate measured in percentages.
Clicks = how many people click on the title+thumbnail
Impressions = how many people have seen the thumbnail.

YouTube calls “Impressions”: “Impressions click through rate”. I use only the word “Impressions” for this article to avoid confusion

If 100 people see your thumbnail and 6 click on it, you have a Click Through Rate of 6%.
If 18,134 people see your title+thumbnail and 578 click on it, you have a Click Through Rate of 3.2% (=578 / 18134 * 100).

What counts as an impression?
YouTube can never 100% accurately measure an Impression.
They measure if a thumbnail is shown on a page where the viewer would have been able to see the thumbnail.
More specifically:
  • The thumbnail has to be shown for more than 1 second and at least 50% has to be visible to viewers
  • An impression is counted right away if a viewer clicks on the thumbnail. Clicking on a link does not count as an impression.
  • Impressions from external websites, notifications and end screens are not included
Sources: https://creatoracademy.youtube.com/page/lesson/analytics-impressions and https://support.google.com/youtube/answer/7628154?hl=en

Impressions can fluctuate
Impressions can change due to a change of audience or season.
YouTube is constantly testing videos and see how viewers react.
If they can serve the video to a bigger (less interested) audience they will, only if it were for the sake of testing if they like the video or not.

Also seasons or events can trigger impression fluctuations.
Around christmas there is a renewed interest is christmas trees, where’s in June not at all.
The same goes for topics like Superbowl or the Olympic games.

Is a high Click Through Rate on YouTube good?

2% is bad, 10% is good.
You would think that a higher number is always better.
The funny thing is CTR says “nothing” about how bad/good your video performs.

It only tells you how bad/good it performs with the audience that the YouTube algorithm suggests your video to.
Over that last part (“the audience that the YouTube algorithm suggest your video to”) you have absolutely no control.
CTR is a relative number, relative to the audience YouTube picks for you.

CTRs are also unreliable from:
  • small channels
  • videos with low views
  • new videos
Videos that have a lot of views, have generally a lower Click Through Rate.
(Read that sentence again!).

This has everything to do with your audience.
If your video performs well (in terms of Average View Duration, Watch Time and CTR), YouTube will suggest your video to a broader (less focussed) audience.
A less focussed audience is less likely to click on your video, meaning that your CTR will drop.

The process repeats: if that audience is happy, video is suggested to abroader audience, if that audience is happy, broader audience, happy?, broader audience!, etc.
Since the YouTube algorithm will keep suggesting your video to a broader and broader audience until it hits the sweet spot, your CTR will always get a hit when it hits a new target audience.
You can see these “steps” and spikes clearly when you look at the CTR graph your YouTube Analytics.
If that happens, you know that your video is growing.
If that doesn’t happen, your video views will stay consistent or go down.

Successful YouTubers have a lower Click Through Rate than smaller YouTubers because their videos are being suggested to a broader audience.

In other words: a low CTR says nothing about the performance of your video.
If you have a low CTR your video gets a lot of views or very little.
In other words, your chosen topic, title and thumbnail are either very good or very bad (but nothing in the middle)
If you have a high CTR, your videos are only being suggested to a focussed/very interested group of viewers that click on your videos.

How to read CTR

How do Impressions, Click Through Rate, Average View Duration (AVD) and views relate?
Impressions CTR AVD Views Meaning
Low Low Low Low Bad thumbnail and/or title
People don’t like your content
Normal High Low High Clickbait (views and impr. won’t last long)
High Low High High Broad audience (i.e. vlogs, comedy etc)
Low High High Low Specific audience (i.e. music producers)
High High High High Viral video
Let’s break some of these down:

High CTR + bad AVD
If you have a high CTR and bad Average View Duration:
People that click on your video don’t like the content they see when clicking.

That is because your title and thumbnail did not communicate clear enough what the video is about.
Or your hook in the video intro does not grab peoples attention.
In other words: your video is not what the viewer expects when they clicked the thumbnail and dropped off.

If you did this intentionally, it is called clickbait.
Be very careful with High CTR and bad AVD, because YouTube stops promoting your video entirely, because the algorithm thinks you try to trick people in watching your video.

My article on improving YouTube Audience Retention will help you out if that is the case.

High CTR + good AVD
If you have a high CTR and good Average View Duration, you could try to change your video title or thumbnail to see if you can make the transition to a broader audience and get more views.
Keep an eye out for that video, if the views drop you should obviously reverse the change.
So, always store your old titles and thumbnails in case you need to go back in time.

One big tip:
NEVER EVER change title+thumbnail from a well performing video.
There is a big change that it will hurt you more than you gain.

Low CTR + good AVD + low views
A low CTR, good Average View Duration and low view count can mean 2 things:
  • Your topic is not appealing to viewers (too niched down for example)
  • Your topic is appealing but your videos aren’t getting clicks.
In the last scenario you should definitely change your title and thumbnail.
No harm, no foul, you have nothing to lose.
I’ve had success with this strategy in the past.

If you are serious about YouTube and want to take it to the next level, take a look at my YouTube e-book.
The book takes you step-by-step through the process of starting a YouTube channel.
How to get more views, subscribers, make money with YouTube, go viral ... and much more.
Click here for more information about my YouTube e-book: "What Big Tubers Don't tell you"

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Dexxter Clark
Content creator / YouTuber
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