There’s a lot of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) surrounding click statistics and metrics for search results pages. Reliable data is hard to come by when trying to answer questions like these:
- What percent of searchers click on a result on page 1 of a search result? Page 2?
- Is there any value to having organic search rankings on page 2 or page 3?
This is big. It means that unless you rank on the first page for non-branded (not your company name) queries, you are fighting for scraps while your competition enjoys access to 95% of your prospective customers.
Trends and Previous Findings
Naturally, the search engines don’t (normally) release this data and there are few search marketing agencies large enough to perform a statistically significant study on their clients’ data. However, there are two previous reports that we can refer to for benchmarking:
- AOL’s 2006 data release, while widely criticized for violating personal privacy, indicated that 90% of organic, non-branded clicks were on page 1.
- iProspect’s 2008 study found that 68% of searches resulted in a click on page 1 of the results (up from 62% in 2006, 60% in 2004, and 48% in 2002). However, no differentiation is made for branded vs. non-branded terms in this study.
Even with different study methodologies and data sets it becomes clear that there are two forces at work:
- Search engines are getting better at providing relevant results, minimizing the need to click past the first page of results.
- Searchers are getting better at defining what they want and using more targeted queries to find it. This is reinforced by other studies that show the average length of a search query continues to grow over time.
I don’t intend to sell you on the benefits of SEO. Instead, we’ll talk about supply and demand. It is becoming increasingly clear that demand is far exceeding the supply of available links on a search results page. Therefore, the value of high organic search rankings for non-branded keywords will continue to skyrocket as more companies line up to compete for limited space.
Take some time to identify the gaps in your keyword strategy. Use some free or cheap rank checking software to get a glimpse of your current rankings (but don’t get hung up on them because rankings change constantly). Now, check your web analytics package to identify the best-converting keywords that you know you are missing out on.
Now, if you notice your site ranking on page 2 or page 3 for some of your high value keywords, you’re most of the way there. Give those keywords some extra attention on your site, build a few links, and watch your rankings jump up to the first page.
Rinse and repeat for different sets of keywords.