Organic search is the baseline digital marketing tactic for most marketing campaigns. Considered an important, if arcane, art, it is characterized by a constant cat-and-mouse game between search practitioners and Google or Yahoo/Bing and a dynamic tension between SEO specialists and copywriters. Unfortunately, too often it’s taken for granted.
New research from Chitika, based on 300 million search impressions in the U.S. and Canada during the week of May 21–27, 2013, indicates that winning and losing at natural search is clear; you either win big or die quickly. If you don’t place among the top 3–5 positions on the search engine results page (SERPs) you get none of the benefits of your investment. It’s win big or go home. Get the complete report here.
If you earn the top listing on Google, you get 33 percent of the traffic. If you come in second, you get 18 percent, roughly half. And if you place third, you receive just 11%, or almost half again. The results mirror classic direct marketing response rates.
Seventy-five percent of all traffic is accounted for by the fifth position on the first results page. If you don’t make page one (92% of all traffic) the maximum access you can hope to achieve is a mere 8% of the total search-driven traffic.
Evidently people click on the first result then scan roughly to the fold. Compete found that 53% of all clicks go to the first link and just 15% to the second. These results were directionally validated by a 2011 Slingshot SEO study that found that 18% of clicks go to the top-ranked result and just 10% to number two.
Searchers are finicky and impatient. They jump to the next page or two if they aren’t satisfied. Given this typical search behavior, it’s better to be number one on page two or three than number 6 or 7 on the first page. The data supports a similar degradation in traffic from the first listing even on subsequent results pages!
For most marketers, rankings drive traffic; that’s the payoff. There’s not much value in bragging rights to a SERPs position that doesn’t pay off in site traffic. Although it sounds like a mother’s classic scold, “it doesn’t pay to be number two.”
SEO is an increasingly important part of digital marketing, especially as content plays a bigger and bigger role in brand awareness, lead generation, and loyalty campaigns. But SEO looks like a zero sum game. Marketers need to bring their “A” game to win and keep playing their “A” game to keep on top by routinely adjusting to Google’s changing algorithms.
Danny Flamberg, EVP Managing Director of Digital Strategy and CRM at Publicis based in New York, has been building brands and building businesses for more than 30 years.Prior to joining Publicis, he led a successful global consulting group called Booster Rocket, as Managing Partner. Before becoming a consultant, he was Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, SVP and Managing Director at Digitas in New York and Europe and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide.
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