Are Search Engine Ranking Pages Becoming Irrelevant?

If you felt secure in the knowledge that your web site ranked on the front page of Google or Bing search results and would therefore result in click-throughs, think again.

A recent survey from Slingshot clearly demonstrates that users are now far less inclined to click through and these rates have tumbled.

Back in 2006 a number one ranking equated to 42% of clicks and a number two ranking was worth about 12%. By May of 2010 these figures had dropped to 34.35% and 16.96% respectively and in December of last year Optify found that there was a 36.4% CTR for the number one result in Google and 12.5% for the number 2 ranking.

The most recent Slingshot survey charts this decline. A Click-through Rate (CTR) is the percentage of users who click on a given domain after entering a search query. In this study, CTR is calculated as total visits divided by total searches for a given keyword over a stable period.

Key Findings from the Slingshot report:

  • By studying user behavior through click-through rates they  emphasised the importance of ranking in the top ten positions in search engines. A higher ranking results in a higher click through rate.
  • For Google Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), the observed Click Through Rate (CTR) was 18.20% for a No. 1 rank and 10.05% for a No. 2 rank.
  • For Bing SERPs, the observed CTR was 9.66% for a No. 1 rank and 5.51% for a No. 2 rank.
  • Relative CTRs across each position in the SERP reveal the importance of an increase in rank.  With an average CTR of 18.20% for position 1 and 1.04% for position 10, this staggering difference shows that a change in rank from 10 to 1 will generate approximately 1650% more traffic and associated sales.
  • Slingshot observed that there was a significantly higher CTR curve for Google than for Bing, which suggests that Google’s organic results are more reliable, as many users abandon searches.  They went on to say thought that this was simply an interesting implication from their CTR studies, as they do not have actual bounce rates for the search engines

The direct correlation between these findings and the growth of social media is also an interesting one. As I wrote in an earlier article, for many people online in 2011 Facebook is the internet and viceversa.  They are increasingly finding the content they need through social media rather than relying on more traditional web sites and this change extends to search habits.

So while search remains a vital part of any online strategy, total reliance on search engine page rankings, as this report proves,  is no guarantee of online exposure to business prospects.

Full report

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About thedigitalconsultant

Roger Smith is an international, digital consultant and former British Council Director of Online Operations within the East Asia region. http://thedigitalconsultant.blogspot.com
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