Millions of bloggers, businesses, and artists compete wildly for the chance of first-page results for keywords relevant to their website. It seems only natural to want to top the charts. In your personal experience, how often do you click on the second page? What about paid advertisements? Perhaps you’ve asked yourself “what exactly is my first-page search result actually worth?”.
Some feel that dedication to SEO is often done on some measure of faith. After all, how often have you reached the first page with your organic rank for a keyword, only to find it doesn’t deliver the traffic you anticipated? Well, to remove much of the speculation, this article will analyze studies on click-through rates of first page results, illustrate how to identify projected traffic, and ultimately how to determine the value of that ranking.
Lengthy studies have been done over the years to determine just how many clicks each spot on the first page of Google actually receives. Taking a close look at studies of the first page of SERP (Search Engine Results Page) click-through rate studies and applying a little math can give you a good idea of exactly what the fruits of all your SEO labors equal
The Importance of Organic Front Page Results
A big question asked by anyone investing in AdWords is: How effective is this, really? Are organic search results such a big deal when I can simply pay for a top spot? The answer is a resounding “hell yes, organic search is that important”. Organic results are based on stiff competition using the most informative, relevant content regarding the search. Searchers trust Google to deliver relevant results and thus, as the data will show, are actually clicking “Google’s organic top choices over all others”. As a result, 90% of clicks on the first page of Google’s search results are made on organic links, and the other 10% go to paid ads.
What is more, only 8.5% of web traffic makes it past the first page. When broken down, each page receives the following traffic (and it is fairly safe to assume that a percentage of page 2, 3, and 4 visits are SEO professionals doing research):
- Page 1 91.5%
- Page 2 4.8%
- Page 3 1.1%
- Page 4 0.4%
Each subsequent page receives 0.2% or less of total traffic. Even if your most important keywords land you on page 2, this does not mean you receive 4.8% of the clicks for that keyword. That traffic is split (and no equally across all results on that page). Unless you are in one of the top 3 spots you are likely getting a tiny fraction of that number.
Studies Done on SERP and Organic Click-Through Rates (CTR’s)
Page SERP 1 Heat Map
In 2006, AOL provided customers with data on more than 36 million search results and 19.4 million CTRs. Their study found that the first position received 42.3% of total clicks and 4 times more traffic than the next position. Since their study, numerous follow-up reports were published by other data collection companies including Enquiro (2007), Optify (2010), Slingshot (2011), Chitika (2013), Catalyst (2013), and by Advanced Web Ranking, and Protofuse in 2014.
The methodologies of each study were varied. Enquiro collected survey data and tracked web user’s eye movement patterns. Protofuse focused on organic vs other ads/results but the overall studies showed similar results even over time. Changes in search engine algorithms (Google’s SERPs) make some of these studies now “dated” but nonetheless each study illustrates similar drop-offs in click-through rate in comparison to organic search result page location.
With the multiple studies that have been conducted on click-through rates from 2006 until 2014, there are a lot of similarities between each but the common takeaway is the difference in one spot’s click-through rate vs the next spot down can be dramatic, so it is incumbent on anyone doing SEO to dot every “I” and cross every “T” to maximize results and ultimately return on investment (ROI) of time and money.
The Front Page is Competitive
So you made the front page, congratulations! But don’t pull out the streamers yet. Searches that make upfront page spots 6-10 are clicked on, combined, about 12% of the time. Compare that to the top three spots, which rake in 50+% of the clicks. The first spot on page 1 nets almost 30% of the average traffic share.
Average overall Click through Rate on Page 1 of Search Results
- Page 1 Average Result 1 29.6%
- Page 1 Average Result 2 13.1%
- Page 1 Average Result 3 9.2%
- Page 1 Average Result 4 6.5%
- Page 1 Average Result 5 4.9%
- Page 1 Average Result 6 3.6%
- Page 1 Average Result 7 3.0%
- Page 1 Average Result 8 2.6%
- Page 1 Average Result 9 2.2%
- Page 1 Average Result 10 2.1%
Determining Keyword Searches per Month
The next step in determining the value of your current organic search listing would be to establish how many searches per month there are for your keyword. There are many software’s for determining “keyword query numbers per month”, but the Google Adwords “Keyword Tool” is a reliable, accurate free one that I will use for the illustration here. Another free desktop version is “Good Keywords” but for more advanced users there are many more. Try running a search on google for “keyword software” and some of the best available surprisingly pop up right away in the organic listing 😉
For those with an Adwords account, simply log in, and at the top right side of the menu, you’ll see tools.
Click “Keyword Planner”.
Click “Plan your budget and get insights for keywords”.
Enter the keyword you would like to check (below it is qualifiers like region, google or google and partners, and finally negative keywords), to the right select the date range you would like to check then click submit. For the sake of this example, I did “SEO” for May 2015.
Calculating Potential Organic Traffic from Your Listing
Once you know the potential volume of searches, where you are figuring rank, cost per click, then look up the CTR for the first-page position you are trying to figure Return on Investment (ROI). For the case of the above example, it would be 673,000 monthly searches, at a $5.30 cost per click (CPC) and we’ll be factoring in the #1 page 1 result.
An example would be:
Assume you have a keyword that is searched 2,000 times per month and your company sits in the second position.:
- Rank 1 29.6%
- Rank 2 17.6%
The CTR is 17.6, though because it is a percentage, we divide 17.6 by 100. Putting this into the formula, we get:
(.176)(2,000) = 352
The formula is as follows:
Search Queries x percent click-through of location= Visitors
Visitors x Cost Per Click (CPC)= Gross Value
Gross Value – Expense to achieve ranking = ROI
The Numbers in action:
673,000 x .296= 199,208
199,208 x $5.30= $1,055,802.00
$1,055,802.00 – Expense to achieve ranking is likely not something the number 1 result (Moz.Com) cares to elaborate to much with to the public, but they are kind enough to post their financials online (below is a sneak peek) and let’s just say they have spent some money achieving the holy grail of search = ???
The really exciting part of this equation is that SEO is the gift that keeps giving. Once you achieve the first-page number 1 spot it becomes less and less expensive to maintain, but the Gross Value typically stays within the same range. That being said, any time you achieve number 1 ranking on a high profile keyword you will notice that results for other keywords on your site typically improve and longer tail (i.e. in this example we used “SEO” as a keyword, a long tail related keyword for us would be “Colorado Springs SEO Companies”, Colorado Springs Search Engine Optimization Companies, etc…)
Wrapping Things Up
This is far from an exact science and many factors such as “Brand Related Searches”, “Mobile Searches”, Google and Bing Places (the pins), ongoing algorithm and SERP layout changes and many other factors continue to change these numbers but one thing you can count on is, they are a baseline for determining Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s and Return on Investment (ROI).