Is Page One Overrated? The Truth About Organic Search Results

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For many marketers, ranking on page one of Google is the ultimate sign that your piece of content has made it

Every SEO strategy ever devised aims to get you there. If you're lucky enough to land a high ranking, you'll enjoy a pretty big advantage over competitors when it comes to finding new customers. At least that's the prevailing belief among modern marketers and SEO specialists.

But — just how valuable is a page-one ranking?

Teknicks surveyed more than 1,000 internet users using a representative sampling method to uncover their Google search behavior and find out how far they'd go to find what they're looking for online.

Answers were predictably varied, but they allowed us to draw some pretty clear SERP statistics and conclusions.

For starters, marketers who say the first page is the only page that matters aren't exactly wrong.

However, simply making page one might not be good enough — more than 43% of survey respondents said they wouldn't be very likely to scroll down the page to see additional results. If you're going to aim high, you might as well aim for the very top.

And if you think page two is good enough, you might want to reconsider this search engine traffic statistic: roughly 56% said they would rather try a different search query or engine than click on the second page of search results. That's a lot of traffic to miss out on.

And as for clicks? Pages two and three get just 5.59% combined. The percentage of Google traffic by results page decreases drastically with every new page you click on.

So what do these SERP statistics mean for you?

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What Marketers Can Learn About Keywords, Rankings, and Users

When you know how far people are willing to search, you have a better idea of what your goals should be. Getting to page one on Google is far from easy. In fact, it requires a huge investment of time, and potentially money (depending on the keyword you want to rank for). 

For instance, let's say a marketer knows that only the top three results for a particular term attract users. If they're nowhere near that ranking, then they should put some budget toward paid search or social (if applicable).

Of course, such a big investment of time and money doesn't make sense for certain keywords, since the value of Google result positioning varies. An easy way to calculate a keyword's traffic value is to multiply its earnings per click by the number of searches that incorporate it and then multiply that by the click-through rate. Just don't expect that value to remain constant.

It's also worth noting that keywords shouldn't be the main focus of your content strategy. Google's algorithm is constantly evolving thanks to machine learning. As it does, keywords are becoming less integral to a high ranking.

This makes sense — keywords were useful during the early days of search, but computers have evolved to more effectively interpret human speech. So go ahead and write naturally, incorporating keywords only where it makes sense.

The BERT update, for instance, helps Google process words in relation to the rest of the sentence, rather than one at a time in order. For example, the search query "Can you get driver's license renewed for someone else?" forces BERT to acknowledge "for someone" changes the meaning of the query. 

This is especially important considering how often people use voice-controlled devices like Amazon's Alexa or Apple's Siri. In fact, over 25% of our respondents have conducted a voice search, and we expect that percentage to increase in the coming years. To make page one, you should focus on answering these questions and securing featured or Google rich snippets.

And if you're wondering why we're only talking about Google search results statistics, it's because the search engine has cornered roughly 92% of the total search market.

Does that mean Google search stats are the only ones that matter? No, but we think it's safe to assume that Google search behavior is representative of broader user behavior.

So let's talk about how you can capitalize on said behavior by getting to page one.

1. Start With a Question

On the basis of the Google search statistics our data provided (and corroborating stats from around the web), we'd recommend starting your SEO journey with a question: Should I even aim for page one?

To answer this, you'll need to have a general idea of where you're starting. If you already have a fairly robust content marketing program, you may not be that far away. But maybe you haven't heavily invested in content yet. That doesn't mean you can't start — just don't plan on reaching search results stardom overnight.

You should also evaluate the competitiveness of the keyword you want to rank for and be realistic about your chances for success. Depending on how competitive the term is, you might want to focus on other discovery avenues such as voice discovery (and no, we can't emphasize this enough). 

You might also conduct an eye-tracking study for your term to find out where a user's gaze typically goes when results appear. It might land on one of the top three results, but it might also drift down the page.

That said, if you're going to attempt a page-one ranking, you should still aim for the top even if users scroll down (more on that in a moment).

2. Try Pivoting to a PPC Strategy  

If you don't see yourself on the first page anytime soon — or ever, you can pursue plenty of other avenues. Put some budget toward paid search, which can be even more effective than organic search results. 

Roughly 35% of our respondents weren't sure whether they could distinguish between an ad and an organic search result, and people who click on ads deliberately intend to make a purchase. And the top three advertising spots get 46% of the clicks on the page

However, you may have a shot at achieving success on the first page organically. How? Let's dive into that, next. 

3. Play the Long Game

To land a high ranking for a fairly competitive term across all channels that your customers are using, you're going to need to put in the time. Here's what to focus on:

Get your FAQ page optimized. An SEO friendly FAQ page can be a great way to increase your rankings and CTR. Just don't overdo it: The primary purpose of this page is customer support, so be sure it adds value. You can then mark up that content using FAQ schema and be eligible to have a rich result. Focus on link building. Search engine algorithms are driven by links, which is why link building is critical to SEO. Build highly resourceful content, develop relationships with other site owners, and work on getting links on their pages to your best content. Pro tip: Focus on quality over quantity. Be relevant. You should be creating content consistently, and that content should be fresh. Regularly update old blog posts and pay attention to current events. The news can be a great source of inspiration, and building content around trending topics enhances its visibility.

Search engines want to give their users the best experience possible because they want those users to keep searching. Google search query statistics show that the tech giant's algorithm is constantly improving, leading users to more relevant results and more useful content. 

People want to find what they're looking for fast. If you want them to find you, make sure your strategy is constantly evolving, as well. The moment you stop trying is the moment you slide onto page two.

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Originally published Aug 19, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated August 19 2020

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