It's critical for websites to appear on Page 1 of Google, especially in one of the top three organic positions, as these spots receive 58.4 percent of all clicks from users, according to a new study from Optify.
Websites ranked number one received an average click-through rate (CTR) of 36.4 percent; number two had a CTR of 12.5 percent; and number three had a CTR of 9.5 percent. Being number one in Google, according to Optify, is the equivalent of all the traffic going to the sites appearing in the second through fifth positions.
Here's Optify's look at CTRs on the top 20 sites:
Basically, Optify concludes that moving up to the top spot in Google from second or third could triple visits to your website.
Optify's study of U.S. Google search engine results pages, conducted in December 2010, analyzed organic keyword visits for B2B and B2C websites. Optify analyzed data from 250 randomly chosen sites and an initial set of 10,000 keywords.
Here are some of Optify's other findings.
Importance of Page 1
The average CTR on Page 1 of Google was 8.9 percent, but the average CTR on Page 2 was 1.5 percent. Ranking first on Page 2 had a slight benefit over ranking in the last spot on Page 1 (2.6 percent vs. 2.2 percent CTR).
Optify concludes that, because predicting which position your site will appear in Google is basically impossible, your SEO efforts should first focus on getting on Page 1, and then on investing in working your way up to one of the top three spots. Also, ranking beyond Page 2, while good for tracking trends, has almost no business value, Optify noted.
Head Terms vs. Long Tail
Optify's study defined head terms as keywords with more than 1,000 monthly Google searches and long tail terms as keywords with less than 100 monthly searches.
Head terms had a higher CTR (32 percent) in the number one position than long tail terms (25 percent). However, long tail terms had a higher overall CTR on Page 1 of Google than head terms (9 percent vs. 4.6 percent).
Optify concluded that you won't see "huge benefits until you get to the top few positions" with head terms. However, long tail terms can see decent CTR almost anywhere on the first page, though there is less benefit of moving up to higher positions.
Bottom line: let your business goals shape your SEO strategy.
How Much a Top Spot in Google is Worth
Optify looked at organic CTR in the hopes of updating one of the SEO industry's long-time ROI calculators based on AOL's leaked search records from August 2006, which Optify calls "old and dated," due to the evolution of universal search and integration of social search in recent years.
AOL's data showed websites ranked first received 42.3 percent of traffic; second place got 11.92 percent; and third place had 8.44 percent:
AOL's data was based on 19,434,540 click-throughs, whereas Optify's was based on 1,224,383. Optify isn't the first using AOL's data as a benchmark. Last May, two studies aimed to calculate Google's organic CTR.
Neil Walker's study, using Google Webmaster Tools data from 100 clients and 2,710 keywords, found position one gets 46.37 percent of organic click-throughs; position two gets 29.43 percent; and position three gets 19.81 percent:
Chitika's study, which Jonathan Allen covered in "How Much is a Google Top Spot Worth?" reported that a top spot gets 34.35 percent of impressions; second position gets 16.96 percent; and third gets 11.42 percent. Chitika's numbers were based on a sample of 8,253,240 impressions across its advertising network.
While the exact figures and data sets vary from study to study, they all confirm that ranking at the top of Page 1 on Google continues to be incredibly valuable. One of Optify's final pieces of advice is to stay on top of SEO best practices and strategies. That's something you can do by regularly reading Search Engine Watch's Search Engine Optimization section.