How important is a page-one listing on Google and should a top SERP-position always be digital marketers main priority?
Recent data from the US-leading SEO consulting firm Ignite Visibility (2017) (Fig 1, below) report that a number one position on Google will result in a 20.5% click-through rate (CTR) which then falls steadily down to a 7.95% for SERP-one position ten, and according to this report the total CTR for first-page organic listing receive in total 99,88% of all clicks.
While CTR-studies often report widely different stats (Fig 2, below) and with a “universal” CTR applicable to every search query made in Google and other search engines simply is not achievable as the CTR always will depend on factors such as if the query is broad, exact or long-tail (Anderson, 2014); considering available data, though, one firmly can conclude that first-page organic search listing will generate the majority of clicks:
Whereas data like this at first glance might indicate that a top SERP-position always should be digital marketers main-priority; before jumping to any conclusion, let’s first look at some facts related to SERP-positioning and CTR-estimations:
The CTR for first-page SERP-listings is decreasing
A study by Moz reports that more than 34% of all searches will result in a “zero CTR” (2017) and in a similar study by Wordstream (2017) in which 17 queries and 24 related keywords searches were tracked for two years; a 39% decrease in first-page-CTR is reported when comparing 2015 to 2017. According to these and similar studies, the decline in first-page CTR can partly be attributed to the fact that search engines have begun answer search queries directly in the SERP through features including ‘Featured snippets’, ‘Local Pack’, ‘Reviews’, ‘Knowledge panel’, ‘Instant answers’ and ‘Related Questions’ (Fig.3,4,5,6,78, following pages).
As noted by Enge, Spencer and Stricchiola (2015), Kingsnorth (2016) and Clarke (2016); top SERP-positions depends on many factors including domain authority, content quality, backlinks and technical factors such as page-loading-speed. While arguably it is possible for an organization with unlimited resources to obtain a top organic positions for most keywords and phrases; many domains have fierce SEO-competition (Hackney, 2017; Sharma, 2017) in which top SERP-positions often are occupied by organisations whom have built their position through years of SEO-work, and consequently the cost, efforts, and resulting ROI of trying to compete for a first-page SERP in such segments might simply not be worth the efforts.
Broad keywords are getting less important
As pointed out by Google (ThinkWithGoogle, 2017); peoples search patterns, habits, and phrases have changed from broad phrases such as “shoes online,” too complex questions and phrases such as “buying brown leather boots similar to Angeline Julie on Oscars 2017.” Google has answered to this by adapting its latest search algorithms including the Hummingbird, Pigeon and Possum updates, to focusing on semantics and to build an understanding of the indirect meaning of explicit search queries; and also to comprise metrics such as the user location and type-of-device when delivering search results (SearchEngineLand, 2017). Optimizing for broad queries, consequently, has become less important and Google recommend that SEO-work should be focused on answering long-tail questions such as Want-to-know…, Want-to-go…, Want-to-do… and Want-to-buy… (Google, 2017).
A top position does not necessarily convert into profit
What always should matter in SEO-work is that the words- and phrases with a top position in the SERP are grounded in organizational revenue- and/or business goals and that SERP-results also have corresponding and directly related SEO-optimized marketing assets such as product pages, videos and/or map-directions.
Page-one listings receives a great majority of clicks. With modern search algorithms focusing on understanding the indirect meaning of explicit search queries; ranking for broad phrases, though, has become less important and as an example Google recommends that SEO-work should focus on answering explicit long-tail queries. Consequently; the key to building a strong SEO-strategy is to understand the customer journey, what problems your product or brand are solving and anticipate how people currently find answers to these questions. SEO efforts then should be grounded in organisational business goals (including economic factors) and on the production of SEO-optimized content with a page-one objective that answers these questions.
- Anderson, C. (2014). The long tail. New York: Hyperion.
- Clarke, A. (2016). Search Engine Optimization With Smart Internet Marketing Strategies.
- Enge, E., Spencer, S. and Stricchiola, J. (2015). The art of SEO. Beijing: O’Reilly.
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