Searching For Answers

By Alex Blum | August 12, 2011


The number one spot on Google is an asset that no dollar can buy although many companies wish they could. Why? Because the top three search results usually drive the vast majority of traffic for a search term. 

Google sells ads that appear on search results pages (‘paid search') but organic search results remains priceless. Search Engine Watch writer Danny Goodwin discussed a recent study by Optify that found that the top search result receives 36.4% of clicks and the second and third results receive 12.5% and 9.5%, respectively. Previous studies by Chitlika and AOL had similar results.

The importance of rank could mean a company floats or sinks. For instance search the word ‘book’ - Barnes & Noble holds the number one spot and recently bankrupt Borders is the seventh result. The seventh result averages a paltry 3.8 % CTR, which is 32.6% less then its competitor.

According to Optify’s data, the top spot receives as much traffic as the following four results combined. Obviously many of the clicks for the top spots are direct searches  - for example, searching “Newsy” and then clicking on 

Although the top spot receives more clicks, the second search result is not far behind in terms of time of visual exposure, according to an eye tracking study done at Cornell.  The study found that people spend 28% of the time on the first result, but do check the second result, spending 25% on it. 

If your site doesn’t make it on the first page, not to mention the top couple spots, the CTR diminishes to a measly 1.5%. With the top spot being so valuable, there is no surprise that companies are investing resources in good old-fashioned “link building” has been steadily on the rise, at least according to its searches insights. 

Last winter however, J.C. Penney was not building links, but caught red handed buying links. They were the number one search result on terms from ‘Samsonite carry on luggage’ to ‘evening dress.’

Buying links and other so called ‘black hat’ practices are not permitted by Google – and now J.C. Penney is paying the price. They’ve moved from being the top search result to ranking where no one would ever find. However, there are always emerging SEO tricks for J.C. Penney to try to make up on some of the ground they lost.

A recent study by Searchmetrics showed that video and images on web pages will help rankings. This is important because at least one video is included in nearly 50 percent of all searches. As Google and Youtube continue to integrate, the value of video SEO will rise.