Why You Must be the First, in Google’s Search Results at Least!

By Daniel Scocco

People always say that you need to be in the first page of results in Google if you want to receive clicks, right? Well, this will hurt, but the reality is that merely being in the first page is not enough. In fact, if you are around the lowest positions, you could end up getting a meager 1% of the overall clicks on searches for those keywords.

This is a very hot topic, but strangely there it not a large amount of research around it. The most reliable study so far comes from the Cornell University. They used an eye tracking technology to discover what percentage of users would click on each of the 10 results appearing on the first page of Google for certain topics. The results, at least my opinion, are pretty shocking, as the image below illustrates (image via SEO Researcher):

click distribution google first results

Let’s use some numbers to understand it better. Even if you manage to rank in the first page of Google for a keyword that receives 2,000 searches per day, you could end up receiving only 28 clicks daily if you appear on the ninth position. Even the web page appearing in the second position will only receive 268. Not a bad number, but it pales in comparison to the 1126 clicks that the first result would reap.

It is a pity that we don’t have more data to confirm those numbers (if you do please share with us). Google would be in a very good position to find out these patterns, but I guess they have no interest to reveal them.

Regardless, the takeaway message is: there are increasing returns as you move up into the first page of results. if you are aiming to get organic traffic, therefore, you need to appear in the first position for your target keywords!



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43 Responses to “Why You Must be the First, in Google’s Search Results at Least!”

  • Jaan Kanellis

    Guess you dont ever want to be 7th, jeeez, .36%

  • MrCooking

    Always thought I would be like 60%-20%-10% and the rest is is devided by the other 7. It turns out I was quite close to the numbers from this research.

    I think there was also a study or research that showed that pages with indents tend to get more clicks, you know, the ones where you get 2 results from 1 domain.

    And sorry I can’t help you out with more accurate numbers.

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Jaan, yeah no kidding.

    @MrCooking, your numbers were pretty close indeed. Two results from one domain will help cause you would add two percentages, but I am sure if their combined value would be bigger than the individual sums.

  • team ray

    you are correct usually when i search i find what i am looking for in first three links

    btw daniel can you somehow make your pics more viewable

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Team ray, what you mean by more viewable? Usually they are as big as the screen fits, so the only thing I could do is to link them to an image in full size. Would that help?

  • team ray

    yes if you can but if its gonna mess up your style i can deal with it
    i am still learning the whole blogging thingy so i tend to like to see
    tia

  • Tamar Weinberg

    Sweet find, Daniel 🙂

  • Martin Jamieson

    Before you get too carried away with specific numbers – a quick scan of those %’s add up to 100%, so it doesn’t appear to take into account that a significant proportion of searches (I have no idea how many) will click on more than one result in the serps before they find what they’re looking for…

    Those %’s would just be for the ‘first click’.

  • Tea Party Girl

    I’m in the top ten results for tea party, but what if the number one result is the name of a rock band? And how does one compete with wikipedia, etc?

  • MrCooking

    @Martin Jamieson, you got a point there Martin. And don’t forget there are people looking on second pages as well, or have different setting so that the get 20, 30 or even 100 results.

    Still, it gives a nice image of what you can expect.

  • Muscle Post

    This is a great study! Now I just need some info on how one actually achieves this incredible feat. Getting to the #1 spot seems like an insurmountable goal sometimes…but we have to just keep plugging away!

  • Kurt

    I found a very simple way to get my website listed among the top 3 withing just 24 hours. Check my blog on google. The tricks lies in the name you use in your domain name! Try to use words that are searched for and also i catched the attention of google crawlers with a verys simple and cheap way.

    I paid a PTC company $5 to attract 500 visitors in 24 hours to my website for the first day just to get the attention. You just do it one time only. No need to keep wasting your money on PTC all year long.

    Check my blog to see how i got listed easily on google top 3. Well now getting listed top 3 depends on what the user is searching for. You cannot get top listed for every keywords of course.

    For example if I type “Money Tricks Online” I get listed on first page but last listed.

    When I type “Online Money Tricks” I get listed in first place. My other articles are somedays listed between 2nd to 6th listing… that depends.

    My blog is at http://www.onlinemoneytricks.com and I also have a blogger copy at http://onlinemoneyagents.blogspot.com

    By the way Daniel your a genius. I like all your articles.

  • vhiel

    getting to the first spot … you really need a good meta tag on that as well as seo…

  • bhc3

    I’m going to include a link to a blog post that covered this very question about how a change in page rank affected hits to my blog:

    http://tinyurl.com/6cn6cl

    I was surprised by the increase in hits when a blog post moved to the #2 position up from the #10 position just this week.

  • Eli

    It’s interesting to see position 5 will get you more visits than the 4th position, although they apparently don’t stay as long.

    When I search for something in Google, I normally know what I’m looking for, or I need to find something, and I check the top 5 results, or however many it takes me to get to what I need.

    I’m in the top 5 positions for my main keyword, and it brings 1000+ visits a day, so it’s looking pretty good for me. Although so far I’ve noticed that with my phrase, people normally check all of the top 5 results for a good couple of websites (and find mine).

  • Abhinav

    This is an interesting read but I think it depends on the content as well. Content local to a region won’t follow the above pattern. It is more for a general, global content.

    Overall, I think the first 3 results are the best place to be. We can safely assume they have equal chances of getting clicks. People tend to generally check the first three before deciding which one to click on. Plus with tabbed browsing they don’t mind clicking on all of them! It would be a bonus to get 2 results from your site as well! Probably internal linking would help there…

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Tamar, thanks.

    @Martin, you are right on this point. That is a second part of the equation though, I don’t think it removes the value of understanding the distribution of the first clicks.

    @Tea Party Girl, even a rock band or Wikipedia should be beatable, if you devote enough time and energy to promoting your website (and to optimizing it).

    @Muscle Post, start by reading the basics about SEO.

    @Kurt, thanks for the final compliment 🙂 . Yes playing with keyword-rich domains is a good tactic. Depending on the popularity of the keyword you aiming for it is not enough, but it certainly helps.

    @vhiel, meta tags are not as important as they used to be.

    @bhc3, I will check it out.

    @Eli, I am pretty sure if you moved to number 1 spot this number would jump a lot. Should be a long term goal for you.

    @Abhinav, sure the 3 first positions are also what I consider the good spots, but I don’t think we can go as far as assuming that they all have the same chance of getting clicked. This research clearly states otherwise.

  • Dennis Edell

    Martin got to it before me and made a very good point indeed.

    I suppose anyone with the knowledge can SEO a garbage site to the top spots, but what good is that if I’m going to back out 3 seconds later?

    Which btw, happens a lot more often then not.

  • Genuine

    What IS irritating is being on the first page of Google for a certain keyword, and then being dropped to the second page. It can be frustrating that despite having a post that has tons of backlinks and activity, the posts that first show up are on blogs that are older, or perhaps have more established traffic.

    I can write a brilliant blog post that gets a lot of attention, but if Joe Shmoe with an older/bigger blog writes two sentences about the subject, gets NO backlinks and stuff, he still shows up first.

    Ah, well, I suppose that I must be sanguine about the fact, especially since the blog is (barely) a month and a half old.

  • Madhur Kapoor

    I think it will also depend on the information contained in the first result and so. If i search for something, and the first result doesn’t provide me good information, i will look at the other results and they might provide me with better info. But the first result will always get clicked by users.

  • Dennis Edell

    I’m not sure I would even say “always”. I for one, always scan the first page before clicking anything.

  • Dr. Bardou

    “It is a pity that we don’t have more data to confirm those numbers (if you do please share with us). Google would be in a very good position to find out these patterns, but I guess they have no interest to reveal them.”

    We can’t comfirm those numbers, because it’s not Google’s patterns, it’s a visitor’s loyalty and interest. There is no algorithm and calculation of traffic distribution or clicks.

  • fred

    Jonathan Leger recently reminded me of some old AOL data that showed similar results. He lists the numbers on his blog at
    http://www.jonathanleger.com/is-ranking-in-the-top-10-good-enough/

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Dr Bardou.

    Have you even seen Google Analytics? Well, I am pretty sure they must have Internal software even more power than that, and they can track all incoming search queries and all outgoing clicks.

    If that is not enough to know the percentages of each position on the first page than I don’t know 🙂 .

  • Riccardo

    This was a question I was asked recently, well more like a statement – they just plain said “I want higher rankings in Google!” I said, “That is great, so what will higher rankings in Google, actually do for you?”

    And they were stumped, you see they just thought that to get a higher ranking in Google would be all they needed to do. After continuing to ask few questions, what they really wanted was

    “A higher ranking in Google, so that they would get more visitors and that would mean more sales.”

    So we looked at their website, by the way, in case you might not be aware, these guys had visited
    http://www.turbocharge-website.com
    and they wanted obviously to have more online sales.

    And what was even more interesting was that no matter how high we would have got their website on the Google rankings, they still would not have sold a thing, because the content sucked!

    Now, while this is work in progress and after being so rude, I can’t tell you who wanted a higher ranking in Google, let’s suffice to say, once they had

    Clear and compelling content,
    that related to what their visitors wanted
    and they had a clear call to action,
    they were sorted. Guess what – online sales went up!

    You can also find some intersting tips about increasing your leads and sales on http://www.3r.ie/blogs
    Do pop by my blog and feel free to comment too!

  • Adrian Salceanu

    This only confirms what has always been known in sales/marketing and demonstrates once again that IT, no matter how new, obeys the immutable laws of the free market. As Seth Godin so well explains in “The Dip”, it is of immense value to be the first, as the first, almost always precedes the 2nd one by a huge difference. He made his point talking about chocolate and movies, but as you showed, it stands for web traffic too 🙂
    It is a very good article – and also very valuable. Thanks

  • Sketchee

    It looks like what you really want for the best SEO is to think in terms of what someone might be looking for and really ask yourself if it’s your content. The other commenters mention that when they google something, they find exactly what they wanted. That seems to be the secret, but it is very difficult to predict and write that way

  • Daniel Scocco

    @Fred, thanks for sharing that link.

    @Ricardo, yeah sometimes you can optimize other things and obtain the same results. If you already have a pretty optimized website, however, traffic will be the main factor affecting your bottom line.

    @Adrian, I still got read that book 🙂 .

    @Sketchee, that is called keyword research. And yes it is very important for any marketing or online venture.

  • VENKATAKRISHNA NALAMOTHU

    60-70% of People generally scan the top 2-3 results and click on 1-2 of them. Others will go deeply. I generally see top 10 results and click on 2-3 sites due to tabbed browsing.

  • SEO Genius

    That is a great article and explains a lot to me about my current page ranking situation. However is it not useful to also state that depending on which Google datacentre you look through you will receive different page rankings. I have heard this before from many fellow webmasters who have been confused as to why there search engine position changes.

  • f1f7

    60-70% of People generally scan the top 2-3 results and click on 1-2 of them. Others will go deeply. I generally see top 10 results and click on 2-3 sites due to tabbed browsing.

  • Free arabic movies

    Thanks alot … put please try to help us .. with how to do that …
    how to be the first postion ??!!
    I know it’s by back links Right ????
    So … I need any help in how to get more quality backlinks!!!

    Thanks

  • Emily

    Finally got listed on the second page of google search result.
    I hope its good.

  • Shaun

    I just checked a keyword that was on page 1 and wasn’t getting as many clicks as I thought. No wonder, Position #7 owch.. put me down or put me up but get me out of there.

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