By Owen Fay . Posted on May 6, 2022

A lot of SEO effort goes towards attaining the #1 position on Google. But whats is the value of the #1 position on Google to get organic traffic? Is it worth it to make a run for the top position?

That is the question we try to answer in this study. As businesses and websites spend a ton of effort in their SEO initiatives, what is the mathematical calculation to decide whether to move up in the rankings or not?

For example, if you currently command the #5 spot for a keyphrase, how much time, money and effort should you spend to get to the #1 spot, and what will that give you?

Thanks to data provided from this Chitika study, we were able to get some critical insights into the breakdown of Google traffic by position in the search results.

So without further ado, let’s see the results.

Summary of Key Findings

  1. The #1 result in Google gets 34% of the organic traffic.
  2. Improving from #2 to #1 will double your organic traffic.
  3. The #1 position is worth #2, #3, #4 and #5 combined.
  4. Just #1 by itself is more than #5-#20 put together.
  5. But the biggest jump (143%) is from #11 to #10.

Obviously, everyone knows that the #1 spot on Google is where you want to be. It’s just kind of shocking to look at the numbers and see just how important it is, and how much of a jump there is from 2 to 1 – Daniel Ruby, Chitika Research Director

Before we proceed, let us look at the methodology here:

Study Methodology

This study was done using data from the Chitika network in June 2013.

In June 2013, Chitika Insights published this study examining the value of each Google result position. Analysis of the study data revealed that the first position on an average Google search engine result page (SERP) garnered about 33% of Google search traffic.

To study how much traffic each position commands, Chitika Insights examined millions of online ad impressions. The user was referred to the page via a Google search in all these impressions. The user visited a Chitika-hosted site from a Google search page.

Chitika extracted the web page’s position from the referring Google URL within the last search results page. Do note that this was before the Panda release, after which Google started blocking the search query and position from the website.

Chitika Insights measured what percentage of Google traffic comes from each search results page position. The data set was drawn from a date range in June 2013 (raw numbers in the table below). Given that Chitika served tens of millions of search impressions at that time, this would undoubtedly represent a statistically significant sample.

Let’s dig in deeper now:

Raw Results

For the technically inclined, here are the raw results. The table below shows the breakdown of about 8M+ Google organic search clicks – broken down by their position.

Chitika traffic graph

Google Result Impressions Percentage
1 2,834,806 34.35%
2 1,399,502 16.96%
3 942,706 11.42%
4 638,106 7.73%
5 510,721 6.19%
6 416,887 5.05%
7 331,500 4.02%
8 286,118 3.47%
9 235,197 2.85%
10 223,320 2.71%
11 91,978 1.11%
12 69,778 0.85%
13 57,952 0.70%
14 46,822 0.57%
15 39,635 0.48%
16 32,168 0.39%
17 26,933 0.33%
18 23,131 0.28%
19 22,027 0.27%
20 23,953 0.29%

Numbers are based on a sample of 8,253,240 impressions across the Chitika advertising network in June 2013

Now let us dig deeper into the key findings:

The #1 result in Google gets 34% of the organic traffic

The initial goal of our study was to see the breakdown of Google traffic by position.

Since we ran one of the largest ad networks, the best data we had available was the pageviews of traffic coming in from Google. By extracting the “pos” value from the Google referring URL, we could determine the position of the page on the Google search results page.

What is clear from the data set is that the #1 position is by far the most valuable to the tune of 34% of overall traffic.

This key finding seems to make intuitive sense since most people click on the #1 link – since the #1 position also has a lot of spontaneous users. These are users who instinctively click on the #1 result without thinking.

Key Takeaway: If possible, making a run at the #1 position makes the most sense.

Jumping from #2 to #1 will double your organic traffic.

Now, if you notice carefully, the #2 spot commands about 17% of traffic. That means that if you can somehow (via smart SEO) improve from #2 to #1, it pretty much DOUBLES your traffic from your target keyphrase.

This finding is important.

Why?

Because sometimes, with small changes like adding a couple of backlinks or optimizing the headline, you can get a jump from #2 to #1.

What that means is: There are times when with very little effort, you can DOUBLE your traffic.

Key Takeaway: Sometimes, with very little effort, you can double your traffic by moving from #2 to #1

The #1 position is worth #2, #3, #4 and #5 combined.

Notice how the percentage drops off quickly from #2 to #3 to #4 to #5. This is because users seem to have a tendency to click on the 1st result blindly. Or maybe max the 2nd.

Most SEO optimizers think that there is linear value in going to say #5 to #4. But that is a mistake. The value of jumping up in the rankings is EXPONENTIAL – not linear.

For example: Jumping from #8 to #1 will increase your traffic by 10 TIMES.

Key Takeaway: When calculating the amount of time, money, and effort to spend on SEO, correctly estimate the increased value by jumping just a few spots.

But the biggest jump (143%) is from #11 to #10.

Now, this is an easy hack. If you are on the 2nd page (say the #11 position), doing some simple things and jumping to the 1st page gets you the maximum bang for the buck.

An almost 143% jump in traffic. (Side note: The reverse holds true too! Falling off the 1st page could be very bad for your traffic)

This makes intuitive sense, too – since most users don’t bother clicking on the 2nd page.

What this means for you: Take a look at the SEO opportunities on your #11 position page and see if there are some simple things you can do to improve your ranking and jump to the 1st page.

Maybe it’s about adding a couple of internal links. Or promoting your page into the site-wide links. Another idea: Gaining 2-3 dofollow backlinks.

Maybe it’s about optimizing your meta descriptions. Or optimizing the part of your content that Google chooses to show for the description.

Side note: If you are at #10 on the 1st page, you should be wary – any of the 2nd-page results could bump you off the 1st page and cause you a traffic drop for that keyphrase.

Key Takeaway: Some limited SEO on your #11 position can give you a huge bump if you make it to the 1st page.

Some Observations

  1. It is crucial to keep in mind that this data does not mean that you should blindly aim for the top spot. Sometimes, the top spot is virtually unachievable.
  2. Rather, use this data to make an intelligent cost-benefit decision. By expending X amount of time, money, and effort on your result, which is currently at a given position, does the added benefit make sense? That is the question to ask.
  3. If you have exhausted all SEO methods, use some new techniques available like user testing to optimize your SEO. For competitive keyphrases, it’s an ongoing game to beat out the competition.

Summary and Conclusion

Again, I’d like to thank the Data team at Chitika for making this study possible.

If you’re interested in learning more about how we collected and analyzed the data for this study, here is the methodology that Chitika used for all its studies.

And in case you are curious, our new company, Poll the People, will be doing lot more studies like this. Our new tool can be used for SEO by optimizing your titles, headlines, meta description, slugs, and other SEO factors. In fact, just usability A/B testing your page title with our tool can give you the best bang for the buck.

116 Comment

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