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The goal of most search engine optimization campaigns is to get a website listed on the “first page of Google” or “ranked in the top 10” under desirable keyword terms.  Although the first page of Google is widely accepted as the gold standard in the SEO world, I’m here to tell you it’s simply not enough. Recently I was talking to one of our clients, Pete Zimek, about his popular website, SwampRentals.com (it’s a very nice Gainesville apartment search website that 352 Media Group created for him).

Pete’s site has some really excellent Google rankings — including a #5 ranking under gainesville fl apartments, which is a very popular keyword term according to our keyword research tools.  However, Pete recently told me that his website doesn’t get that much traffic from that term.  SwampRentals.com does get a very substantial amount of traffic from search engine visitors, but most of it comes from more specific keyword terms.  Pete has done a very good job of loading SwampRentals.com with fresh, relevant content (I have always said content is king!) so he gets a lot of his traffic from specific searches that happen to match a term somewhere in his content.

I was very surprised that SwampRentals.com wasn’t getting more traffic from “gainesville fl apartments” though, because his website is listed right in the middle of the first page of Google for that popular term, so I would have expected that he’d get quite a bit of traffic from it. Then I read a new study from Chitika, an online advertising network.  They conducted research to see how many people clicked on each result in a typical Google search.  I always knew there was a substantial drop off between rankings, but I had no idea how substantial the drop off actually was until I saw this chart:

Google Result Click Percentage
1 34.35%
2 16.96%
3 11.42%
4 7.73%
5 6.19%
6 5.05%
7 4.02%
8 3.47%
9 2.85%
10 2.71%
11 1.11%
12 0.85%
13 0.70%
14 0.57%
15 0.48%
16 0.39%
17 0.33%
18 0.28%
19 0.27%
20 0.29%

What this chart is saying, loudly and clearly, is that if you aren’t in the Top 3 in Google, less than 10% of web searchers are clicking on your listing when they conduct a search.  And if you happen to be down in the #5 spot, as SwampRentals.com is, only about 6% of web searchers are clicking on your listing.

It gets much worse as you go lower.  A ranking #11 — the first listing on the second page of the Google results — only gets clicked on about 1% of the time.  Yikes!

Conversely, a #1 ranking is extremely valuable.  There is a massive clickthrough drop off between the #1 and #2 rankings, and again between #2 and #3.

The key takeaways here are twofold:

First, when selecting the keywords you want to target, focus on specific keywords that don’t have a high level of competition so you have a real chance of getting ranked #1 for them.  You are going to be much better off ranked #1 under a less popular keyword than being ranked #10 under a more popular keyword.

Second, if you are measuring your search engine optimization success by being on the “first page of Google” or “ranked in the top 10,” stop now.  You really need to be aiming for a #1 ranking, or at a minimum, a top 3 ranking.  Anything less than that is still nice to have, but it won’t exactly blow your webserver away with tons of traffic.

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Geoff is a true entrepreneur. He’s passionate about helping companies find, build and grow their next big idea. He launched his first venture at age 16, when he started a computer store in a shopping mall in Sarasota, Florida. Since then, he’s built eight more companies.