New findings from online ad network Chitika confirm it's anything but lonely at the top. According to the study, the top listing in Google's organic search results receives 33 percent of the traffic, compared to 18 percent for the second position, and the traffic only degrades from there:
For the top 10 results, Chitika found:
A similar study by the Chitika team back in 2010 showed comparable results, and Chitika suggests the findings validate the importance of SEO for online businesses.
"While being the number one result on a Google search results page is obviously important, these numbers show just how big of an advantage websites of this type have over any competitors listed below them. The importance of SEO for online business is seemingly quantified by these latest statistics, which, judging by their similarity to those observed as part of the 2010 study, are not likely to change significantly in the near future."
For many, it'll come as no surprise that the findings also showed a significant drop in traffic from Page 1 to Page 2 results. Page 1 results garnered 92 percent of all traffic from the average search, with traffic dropping off by 95 percent for Page 2.
And whether you're on Page 1 or Page 4, Chitika reports the top position consistently sees more traffic than others on the page. On Pages 2, 3 and 4, traffic dropped by 27 percent, 11.3 percent and 5.4 percent respectively from the first position to second position.
For this study, Chitika examined tens of millions of online ad impressions where the user was referred to the page via a Google search. Chitika says that from the referring Google URL, the study was able to extract the position the page was on within the prior search results page.
For more information on Chitika's methodology for this study, you can download the full report here.
Interpreting Rankings and Traffic Data
Rankings as the sole indicator of SEO success are only as important as the traffic they drive. And even though rankings for a particular query may waver in the search results from one user to the next, data shows time and time again that the top positions are winning.
Compete.com last year released a study that showed 53 percent of organic search clicks go to the first link.
And a 2011 study by Slingshot SEO showed the No. 1 organic position in Google received 18.2 percent of clicks, with the second position at 10.05 percent and the third at 7.22 percent.
Understanding what any one ranking means to your SEO campaign in terms of traffic and conversions is the key to unlocking that ranking's value. So while studies like these can be important in educating stakeholders for buy-in, use the data wisely.
Work to understand the methodology of these types of studies, and use your own expert insight to extract how this data can reinforce the work you're doing as a marketer.