When Being #1 Isn’t Good Enough
#1. It’s a designation we all like to see but what happens when being number one isn’t good enough? It’s a question many small business owners are asking in light of Google’s latest attack on organic search listings. As a social media management firm, small business owners are flooding our lines with urgent requests for help without fully understanding why being #1 is no longer good enough! Find out how Penguin, Panda, over-optimization and search are taking a toll on SEO …and how social may be just the solution you have been searching for.
Why Be #1
Is your business #1 on Google search engine results? If so, kudos! It’s not always easy to claim that much coveted top spot. For years, acquiring top billing on organic search results was THE ultimate destination for nearly any website and in many instances it is still is. Now, don’t get us wrong, high ratings are still important; they generate a substantial premium above and beyond the mere number of clicks. In fact, many people never click on the link but instead, simply use it as a quick reference and either type in the domain or view the information elsewhere. On the other hand, being #1 isn’t quite as important as it once was.
2nd Page Woes
For those of you who haven’t reached that highly sought after (and highly competitive) #1 ranking…well, it may not be as much of a big deal as it once was…at least not for much longer. According to industry insiders, Google itself may be to blame for reducing the desirability (and results) associated with top organic position ratings leading many to wonder what to do next. It’s well known that first page results perform exponentially better than 2nd page search results. In fact, the top 3 spots claim roughly 3/4′s of all clicks with a dramatic decline by the 10th or last position of the first page. More than 80% of search users NEVER visit the second page of search results! Being banished to the second page hasn’t been easy to overcome but now…well now, even first page rankings are not getting the same results as in the past leaving many to wonder if it’s worth all the effort to rise through the ranks.
The Source of the Problem
Fortunately, social media may be the solution your small business has been searching for especially if lackluster organic ratings seem to be getting fewer and fewer results. The first thing to know is that it’s not your imagination. Google organic ratings have indeed been getting edged out by a source you may not have ever expected…by Google advertisements. In fact, the latest research shows that among search engine users that input specific keywords, advertisements are preferred nearly two to one over organic listings…for the exact same keywords! This is of such importance it is worth repeating: according to recently conducted research, “…clicks from paid advertisements outnumber those of organic listings by nearly 2:1 among high commercial intent keyword searches. ” Ouch!
Of course, once upon a time, organic search results were the gold standard among SEO; users preferred and trusted organic results are being more reliable and less prone to advertising or sales but has user confidence has dropped and relevance continued to decline, search users are now simply turning to direct sources such as Wiki for generalized information. Topic specific sites like WebMD (medical) are used as reference sources for specific topical areas where users have a direct relationship with the site or company. That leaves search in a quandary; how to gain the trust of users while still generating an income. Increasingly, search users view it as a quick way to find a specific destination or method of locating retail and commercial suppliers. What does this translate into in real terms? Short and simple…nearly 65% of users clicked on sponsored advertisements versus 35% for organic search results. These were for high intent to buy keywords making it of even greater concern for those that have invested significant sums into rising through the ranks of organic search results.
The Old Numbers
Once upon a time in the not so distant past, the ability to dominate the #1 rating in a search result nearly guaranteed success; roughly 30% of all clicks for a given search would immediately go to that first position. Results would continue to drop but remained strong throughout the first page with position #10 at the bottom of the page receiving roughly 9% of clicks….not bad for being number ten. Can you guess what those same percentages are today? We think you will be very surprised!
The New Numbers You Need to Know
As a social media management firm, we believe it is imperative for clients to stay informed in order to make the best buying decisions regarding their advertising dollars. On the other hand, we don’t want to be the bearer of bad news but some of these statistics are simply too important to be ignored. For example, organic results now account for roughly 15% of above the fold content while the top 3 spots (increasingly occupied by advertisements) represent over 41% of all clicks. Sponsored advertisements on competitive pages (ie, high intent keywords) now represent over 85% of above the fold content while top organic listings now receive less than 9% of the actual clicks. As you can see, today the #1 spot only generates roughly the same number of clicks as the #10 spot did a few years ago, in large part due to the placement of sponsored advertisements.
New Strategy Needed
In short, it’s a highly competitive field and actually getting tougher than ever to rise to the top! SEO and organic search listings remain an important component of any Internet marketing strategy but being #1 is no longer sufficient to drive high levels of needed traffic. Clients are increasingly likely to skip search altogether and form direct relationships with vendors and providers thanks to social media. Those that still use search tend to click on sponsored advertisements in increasing numbers and last but not least, it’s more important than ever to utilize a comprehensive strategy across search and social to maximize impact while minimizing cost.