You check your Google Search Console first thing in the morning, your favourite brightonSEO mug in hand and filled to the brim with hot java, and you see organic impressions are up.

A wry smile crosses your lips – that’s great news, right?

More impressions must mean more visibility and potential traffic. That’s your SEO report sorted for another month.

Not so fast.

It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee.

What are organic impressions and clicks?

Impressions just mean your listing appears in Google search results.

Clicks are when someone actually clicks on one of those links and goes through to your website.

So you’d think the more times you appear (or impressions), the more clicks you’d get?

But it’s not quite so simple.

Think of it like a high street shop. More people walking by (impressions) doesn’t guarantee more customers coming through the door (clicks). If your shop is on the wrong street or selling niche products, plenty of people might see the storefront without having an interest in what you offer. The visibility is there, but not the relevance and intent behind those impressions.

Google says: “Impressions are important because someone needs to see a link to your property in order to click to visit it. However, you should aim not simply for more impressions, but meaningful impressions.”

Which means more isn’t always better if those impressions and clicks aren’t relevant.

It’s about relevance

Having thousands of organic impressions from totally irrelevant searches is like having your artisanal French cheese shop on a street full of fast-food restaurants. Sure, you’ll get seen, but good luck getting clicks and sales from hungry people craving a quick burger.

The same goes for organic clicks – they’re only valuable if they’re coming from your target audience. Getting 50,000 irrelevant impressions that lead to 1,000 unqualified clicks helps no one. Those visitors will likely just bounce right back to Google, unfulfilled.

That’s why keyword optimisation is so critical for SEO success. If you use the right words and phrases, you’re more likely to get impressions and clicks from people who are actually interested in your business. It’s better to get 500 impressions and 100 clicks from people who might buy than 50,000 impressions and 1,000 clicks from people who will never buy.

Why you shouldn’t panic if impressions dip

On the flip side, you shouldn’t automatically panic if your impressions go down, while clicks hold steady or even increase.

If your site is being shown to fewer irrelevant people that wouldn’t convert anyway, that’s removing wasted impressions from the equation. While, maintaining or growing your click numbers means you’re still attracting potential buyers.

In other words, it means your visibility is becoming more targeted and meaningful where it counts.

The nuances

Of course, there are many nuances that can impact the clicks vs impressions relationship beyond just keyword relevance, including:

  • Your search rankings and positioning on the search engine results page (SERP): Where your listing appears on the SERP can significantly influence click-through rates. Listings in the top three positions tend to receive exponentially more clicks than those ranking lower on the first page, let alone the second page or beyond. So, while you may get impressions further down, those results likely won’t drive as many clicks.
  • How compelling and descriptive your titles and meta descriptions are: The actual copy in your search listing plays a big role in motivating clicks from those impressions. If your title and meta description aren’t well-optimised with persuasive, keyword-rich messaging that sets clear expectations, users are less likely to click through even if the listing is relevant to their search.
  • Emerging SERP features like featured snippets that reduce click incentive: As Google’s search results evolve with more rich features like featured snippets, knowledge panels, and “People Also Ask” boxes, there are more opportunities for Google to directly answer queries without users needing to click through to a website. This can limit click-through rates from those impressions if a SERP feature adequately satisfies the search intent.
  • What results someone is expecting to see from their search: The nature of the user’s search query makes a difference. Informational searches may get plenty of impressions but fewer clicks if the listing looks like a conventional webpage instead of a quick answer. Whereas searches with transactional (i.e., lead gen) intent will generate higher click-through rates on listings that offer products, services, pricing info, etc.
  • The power of your brand: A website’s brand credibility and perceived reputation can influence click-through rates. People might be more inclined to choose a listing from a brand they know and trust – perhaps one that has done lots of good digital PR – over an unfamiliar one. And that can be more powerful than where the company name appears in the search results.

The takeaway

As Google says, “Being seen, or clicked, by people who don’t find your content useful and will quickly leave is not a healthy way to build website traffic and loyalty.”

While increasing overall visibility is important, the quality and relevance of that visibility matters most when analysing organic metrics like clicks and impressions. Impressions have value, but only if they’re reaching your target audience.

Tracking impressions and clicks together while optimising for your most valuable terms is key to SEO success. That paints a full picture of whether your visibility is truly meaningful or just empty metrics.

Need help ensuring your SEO strategy translates into meaningful success through relevant clicks and impressions?

Chat with our B2B SEO team to learn how we can build an organic strategy that attracts your highest-value audiences.

Get in touch.

Matthew Robinson 2

Written by Matthew Robinson, Senior PR and Digital Strategist at Definition