eMarketer: The Value of Organic Search Rankings

Search engine results pages evolve. Do clicks?

August 2, 2011 – Search has changed over the years, from results page redesigns to algorithm tweaks. But for digital marketers search remains their most important focus, at least measured by spending, and is a critical tool to drive traffic to marketer websites. Research from SEO services firm Slingshot SEO gives marketers new benchmarks for the click value of high-ranking keywords.

Slingshot SEO found that clickthrough rates dropped from 18.2% in first position to 10.05% in second position to 7.22% in third position, and continued to diminish thereafter. Overall, just over half of search users click on an organic result on the first page, and more than half of those choose the first or second link.

Average Organic Clickthrough Rate for Google Results for US-Based Searches, by Position in Search Engine Results Page, June 2011

But this curve was shallower than in some previously reported studies on search click rates, the report noted. In December 2010, marketing services firm Optify found a 36.4% clickthrough rate for the first result on the page, with a steeper drop to 12.5% for the second result. A 2007 study by Enquiro Search Solutions (now Mediative) fell in the middle.

While the age of those studies could mean that user behavior on the search results page has changed, methodological differences make that difficult to determine.

The Slingshot SEO study also found that high-ranked keywords could help drive traffic to long-tail keywords that include the high-ranking word or phrase. For example, a marketer whose website ranks high for �shoes� would also get a boost in traffic from searches on �high-heeled shoes� or �red shoes.� There was not a clear correspondence between exact rank of the original keyword and clicks on the long-tail keyword, however.

Average Organic vs. Long-Tail Clickthrough Rate for Google Results for US-Based Searches, by Position in Search Engine Results Page, June 2011

The value of having a high-ranking search result on the first page of Google results should be clear to marketers: The lion�s share of search traffic will to go just a few terms on the front page, whether the curve is somewhat steeper or somewhat shallower. And there is an additional value from maintaining these high-ranking keywords�and the valuable, attractive content they represent�in driving traffic from less-searched, longer terms.

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