It’s good to be at the top

How often have you clicked on the “top” #1 spot search result? indicates that the top search result gets about 30% of the clicks.  I personally think this is a bit of an optimistic assumption opposed to an actual statistical fact.  I’d estimate the top spot gets a bit less than 20% of the clicks.

You might have noticed recently google has made a dramatic change in removing 90% of its paid advertising when providing search results.  This is motivated by two factors; Browser wars are only just now about to begin, ad-free search content is in high demand and the browser with the least amount of propaganda will win this battle.  Saturation, whereas Google now makes so much revenue in 3rd party url AdWords and banner ads they no longer need to clutter their homepage as it a high likelihood the page you end up on will have google ads embedded within it.

Google reports that over 82% of all clicks are driven by organic search results.  I’ve seen estimates ranging from 70% to 90%.  The large variance in reported stats is most likely due to the type of search.  Some search content is so competitive that the top spot verses the 3rd, 4th, and 5th don’t much vary.  In some cases they are all the same one or two companies.

If we accept that 30% of web searches result in the top spot and 70% result in organic top 2 or 3 then the question is what is the cost related to the respective placement.

Top spots can cost you upwards of $2.00 to $10.00 per click.  At a 1 in 3 click rate your placement costs skyrocket fast.  Very difficult to put a cost to this due to the large variance in keyword volume by market but if I was forced to provide a quote I’d estimate a single keyword in a moderately competitive market is about $3000 a month.  A keyword campaign in high demand market about $7,500 to $10,000 per month. Can you define your product/service by just 1 keyword?  Most campaigns consist of 3 to 10 keywords.

At a glance you would think organic sounds much more appealing, after all it’s free isn’t it.  In most cases not only is it not free, it could actually cost you a little more.  Organic search results are generated by the relative nature to the content and the search criteria.  The more content you have published relative to the searched criteria the higher up the list you rate.

What determines relative content?

  1. Keywords, often associated to as tags, get top billing. An average post can be associated with 2 to 3 keywords to optimize relevance.
  2. Meta content. No need to know what meta tags are if you use a tool like wordpress or a hosted webpage service this is already optimized for you in most cases.  If you are still on your cousin’s basement server it’s time for an upgrade.
  3. Original content is where you get the largest return on your organic investment. Content ranges from blogs, product/service information, wiki data, and social media.
  4. Keep visitors on your site. Worried about the government listening to your phone conversations?  Then you might not be surprised to find out google knows how long someone is on your webpage.  The longer they are on your page the higher you rank in their book.
  5. Links get special consideration, just like wild cards in a poker game.
  6. Don’t delete content, aged content does matters. There of course is a curve, if your site has content from 1996, it might be time to do an update.  The sweet spot in aged content is about 2 to 6 years.
  7. Responsive design elements. To ignore the over 7 billion potential mobile devices used to access online web data is a tragic business mistake.  In late 2013 mobile device use for web information services surpassed desktop use.  Today it’s estimated over 54% of web traffic is through mobile devices compared to just under 41% desktop generated. KPCB 2015

Now that you have a basic roadmap of what you could be doing to generate organic search placement it comes down to the cost to both get up to speed and then maintain your position.  Though organic can be costly initially it’s a cost that pays out significantly longer than paid keyword or SEO placement.  The primary benefit of organic versus purchased position placement is organic is a long term foundation strategy that both gets you the search engine listing placement you’re striving for but just as important builds and enforces the strength of your brand with your customer base.

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