Number of Clicks For Ranking First in Google vs All The Rest

by on January 17, 2010

SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a very important component of getting traffic to any website.  Ideally you would have a great site that magically spreads virally around the internet by word of mouth/email/Twitter/Facebook then holds on to that traffic long term.  Until then, there is great traffic available free from Google if you know how to get it.

Think about this.  When you want to chat with your friends and socialize you go to Facebook or Twitter or Foursquare. When you want information, you go to a search engine and type in some keywords.  Matt Curtis from Google has stated that approximately 25% of all search queries HAVE NEVER BEEN SEEN BEFORE.  That’s right, 25% of things people are searching for have never been searched for according to Google statistics.

And many of those new search terms would surprise you.  I just did a quick check on one of my sites for an example and found this search that led someone to it today: “were are you aloud to ride electric bikes?”  That’s right, poor spelling and all.  Now I’m not suggesting you go out and try to get these type of completely crappy long tail search terms.

For a good keyword, one that is searched thousands or tens of thousands of times a month, the difference between the 1st and 2nd position in the search results is huge.  The difference between the 1st and 5th is even larger.

A couple of years ago, AOL published some of their search data as part of a research project.  Whole other story, a number of people at AOL lost their jobs over it. But before AOL wised up and realized that there was still personal data in the actual search terms themselves, people downloaded copies of the full data set.  Some smart people then mined that for data on click through rates for various rankings in the AOL Search Engine, which gets its data from Google.

So what you are looking at here is an average number of times someone clicks on each search result position after performing a search.  Take a look at the data:

% of clicks
Click Rank1: 42.13%
Click Rank2: 11.90%
Click Rank3: 8.50%
Click Rank4:  6.06%
Click Rank5:  4.92%
Click Rank6:  4.05%
Click Rank7:  3.41%
Click Rank8:  3.01%
Click Rank9: 2.85%
Click Rank10: 2.99%

1st page:  89.82%
2nd page:  10.18%

Now it’s important to note that this is aggregate data, and that the percentages are going to differ wildly for various keywords.  I’d bet a specific search like “Walmart” would yield well over 80% hitting on the first result, where as something generic like “porn” would have a more balanced distribution between the top three or four items.  However, it certainly is telling.  For 10,000 searches on a generic term a day, on average, you’ll get anywhere from 10%-40% of those hits a day in the top spot, vs 2%-15% for the second spot, vs 1%-8% for the third spot and down from there.

Note that other junk shows up at the top of most Google search results these days that can wildly affect the number of clicks you’ll get for the #1 search spot.  Depending on how much people are paying, the top three Adword ads can appear at the top of the search results rather than the side.  Add that Google now displays things like top shopping results and images and top video results above the regular old search results, turning your old #1 text search result into a #6.  Or if you’re smart, turning your old #6 ranking into a #1 by using video and images.

But the biggest lesson here is if you aren’t on the first page, you’ll get a fraction of the traffic.  If you aren’t even on the second page, you might as well not exist.

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