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
- The #1 result in Google gets 34% of the organic traffic.
- Improving from #2 to #1 will double your organic traffic.
- The #1 position is worth #2, #3, #4 and #5 combined.
- Just #1 by itself is more than #5-#20 put together.
- 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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- If you have exhausted all SEO methods, use some new techniques available like website optimization services 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 improving the user experience with our tool can give you the best bang for the buck.
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Hi Daniel, nice to meet you. What a fantastic article. This also supports what we’ve seen on our company website. We never broke down the percentages but we’ve noticed similar patterns with our landing pages. Thanks for the post.
This is great data. Thank you for sharing it. It would be even more interesting to see how that traffic converts. So, do conversions from the traffic segments follow the same or similar trends as the traffic itself? That is, are conversion rates from traffic from the #1 result (magnitudes) higher than conversion rates from traffic from the #2 result, etc?
Any information for when more “universal” type data is returned. For example a local 7 pack, news results at the top, videos or images on the page? Most of these numbers look pretty similar to the AOL data leak a few years ago.
Blog SEO - Vince
Whatever some SEO say about positioning, it is definitely not dead !!
Whilst this study does yield results that we’d expect, there seem to be a number of issues with the methodology (which should be published in greater details when making claims like this).
For example – is the study seasonally normalised? There’s a snapshot in time, but there’s no clue as to whether certain sites naturally perform better / worse in May. This could skew the results.
Are the results normalised for keyword search volume? Again, keyword search terms with higher / lower search rates could well skew results.
Is there an accounting for the presence of wikipedia / similar sites in the results? Intention of search is definitely something to consider when considering clickthrough rates.
Are the search terms quoted as ‘exact match’ or not?
I think, while interesting, the results as is don’t really give us much in the way of insight beyond ‘higher is better’.
#2 is the first loser. But in this case you get rewarded at least 17% of the time. I’d rather #1 anytime.
Its interesting to see that people do go to second page of Google to find what they are looking for. Quite surprise by the 2nd page results. I also thought there would be a huge difference between 1st and 2nd position.
Nice one Daniel.
I knew there was difference between 1 and 2 and of course between 10 and 11 considering it page 1 versus page 2 but honestly i did not know it was that much.
great post and info. thanks for sharing the info.
Andy @ FirstFound
That’s not the pattern I expected – I thought there’d be a far more substantial drop off between first and second.
Great article though, very helpful.
Interesting – Great motivator for seeking out niche search terms with longer tails
Interesting to see these numbers in comparison to the 2006 AOL dataset which showed the following (42% for 1st position, 12% for 2nd, 8.5% for third, etc).
One of the key take-away’s is that ~90% of traffic never makes it to the second page. Search behavior research continues to show that people refine their search (ie. do a search with more keywords, long tail) instead of scrolling to the second page. When you overlap this with the “highest converting keywords by length” studies, it shows that the keyphrases with 3-4 keywords tend to convert much higher than generalized shorter-tail keywords. Managing several ecommerce clients, I can tell you that the volume (along with competition) is in short tail, the conversion is in the long-tail!
Another thing to consider is the that first position in organic results is competing with other aspects of Google’s Universal search (live feeds, Base, Places, Video, news, images, etc). The” #1 spot in search” can often actually be the 10th, 15th option (3 Adwords ads, 7 Maps ads, images/news/videos….and THEN organic). So while the #1 spot gets ~35% of the clicks of organic traffic, that same organic traffic gets 65-75% of total search volume (with 25-35% going to PPC depending on which study you look at).
Great to see people utilising the data available to them, Daniel. Though I do have a few reservations over the accuracy of the conclusions being derived from this data.
Simon makes some good points. The most important point is a point I would like clarification on.
“Are the results normalised for keyword search volume? Again, keyword search terms with higher / lower search rates could well skew results.”
From the blog post it sounds like this is not the case. This means if I was to rank first for “pens” and second for “red ballpoint pens”, I could assume that first place rankings drive a huge amount more traffic than second place rankings.
Clarification on this point would be awesome, to give this study some credibility.
Good questions, and with regards to the results, it’s a sample of all Google search traffic – we did no normalization of keyword search terms. Given the scale of data we broke down, the pens vs. red ballpoint pens discrepancy should even out. Our goal was to get as accurate a picture as possible of the overall impact of Google result position.
I wish I had access to compare these numbers to Google’s paid results, but unfortunately I do not. It would be interesting if Google came out with a comparison of top paid vs. top organic result across their network.
The methodology was pretty straightforward – we looked at all Google traffic that came into our network and broke down what percent was from what results location.
And while it’s not seasonally normalized (it is certainly a snapshot in time, although it’s over a full week so should even out any weekend vs. weekday shifts), I’m not entirely sure that would be overly relevant. The data set is large enough that individual sites’ seasonal shifts should even out.
Daniel – good stuff here… I’ll second Mike Belasco’s question though – what impact on the #1 listing did you see when a 7 pack or other vertical search results were shown vs. not? Intuitively I’d have to assume it was lower than the 35% or whatever, but I’m very curious as to how much lower.
I’d be very interested to see if/how this pattern varies if the data is broken down by types of searches, such as name searches (typing “facebook” into Google to find the Facebook web site — don’t laugh, a *lot* of people do this) as opposed to subject keyword searches (typing “shoes” into Google to find general information about shoes), etc.
I’ve seen a lot of behavior to suggest that name-searches are much more likely to select the first result than are most other types of searches, and would be interested to see whether or not the data supports that. Filtering the data to just subject-keyword searches (and perhaps other classifications of searches) might provide more interesting insight to most SEOers…
As Thogek mentioned: branded search terms get even higher CTR’s for a nr 1 results because its a navigational search. Searchers are looking for only 1 result. Opposed to non-branded informations search keywords that can have lower CTR’s due to the fact that people search for information whatever website. So the clicks are more spread over the top results. Our studies show that the last get max about 20% if the site is listed nr 1.
So the summed ctr is over-estimated for non-branded and under-estimated for branded keywords.
@Danielruby: could you clarify about the mix of keywords used in the research? Both branded, non-branded? Biased?
Keesjan, it was a mix of branded and non-branded – we applied no filters to the keyword mix.
As Thogek and Keesjan mentioned, branded search terms get a lot higher CTR which must have skewed the result. On the other hand, when Wikipedia is the #1 result, it will never receive 34% of search traffic (in my opinion).
Great article. The fact that 60% still goes to spots 2-10 gives hope to the rest, plus demonstrates that Google’s results don’t always put the most relevant results at the top.
Where are you getting your impressions data from? You don’t have direct access to how many searches took place for each keyword, only google themselves have this. So I’m guessing you’re either using Adwords keyword tool estimates or Webmaster Tools impressions data, both of which are seriously dubious in terms of accuracy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m very glad you’ve done this study and we need more like this but I need some clarification on how you came to the CTR data before it can be taken seriously.
@jaamit, our impressions data is from search traffic coming into our ad network. Essentially, we can see tens of millions of searches each day, spread across a huge number of keywords and a wide variety of sites.
The research doesn’t make difference between Sponcored links and organic results. Is there any? I guess so…
ProClau, we didn’t look at sponsored links at all. All traffic in this study is purely organic.
thought #1 spot would get 50% click through.
but its less than 40%.
Many thanks for publishing the above data. Even with the caveats raised by other comments, it is very useful to have data made available like this.
Hmm…thanks for the stats! However, in my mind I think I remember that the #1 spot was up just above 40% in the last survey I read. Course, as I didn’t bookmark that survey, I just can’t remember where I saw that…dang it! But your numbers while lower, are more recent….so thanks!
Great works. Very helpful stats and i have a question, How can I find Google impressions values?
Austin Texas Notary Public
This data has to be slightly off, do the math. If you add all the top 20 listings percentages they equal 100.2%!! I think you guys made a boo boo somewhere.
Great article and thanks for sharing the data.
It’s a shame to see that #1 gets less than 40% of clicks. It just goes to show that it would definitely be better to have multiple pages of your website found on the search results.
I think its self fulfilling and demostrates the skewed linear usage patterns from teh page layout. If teh links were not stacked as they are now but circular (would work well in chinese) might see something different. I reckon different users would developn different habits and that in turn would affect the ranking.
thats my tyheory anyhow, and when the browsers start displaying the data differently just remember i said it first
@Austin Texas Notary Public, that should just be rounding issues. I rounded all the numbers to two spots past the decimal, so there was a bit of excess when you add them up.
Great research! I’ll translate it and publish on my site. Thanks for share this information.
This information, whether exact to the last impression or not is very helpful to those of us in SEO. You don’t know what your are missing until you find out what’s available to you. Obviously, the key here is to be sure that the keywords you are ranking for is the keywords that sell for you and not something like “oatmeal” which for some reason was a big hit on one of my clients business websites. 🙂 Thanks for doing the math.
Earn Money Internet
This information it’s very important, because is a proessional study. The difference between first and the second position.
If you appear in the first position you can win the double of the money instead the second.
I examples of sites who appear in 5th position instead 8 position, and the traffic value increase a lot. Maybe the double.
I agree with Jeff Scott (you can find something of mentioned study on AOL’s search query logs here: http://www.webuildpages.com/jim/click-rate-for-top-10-search-results/).
It was August 2006… so what has changed since then? NOTHING?!
I’m sure that everything has changed in communication (i.e. social networks), multimedia sharing (i.e. images, videos, songs): so we have more opportunities to reach the top.
Nothing, instead, has changed in Google’s or others’ s.e. core algorithm: you have to provide the best user experience, to collect quotes and reach TOP ranks.
Hi, beautiful article.
My question is:
for example for a special keyword, how can I see by the keyword external tool the number of unqiue visitors monthly?
Are they the one searched by extended or exact?
I search for “chocolate”
Global monthly Extended: 45,000,000
Global monthly Exact: 1,500,000
which is the correct value?
@Joe, global monthly exact should be people searching for “chocolate”; just the single keyword. Global monthly extended should be people with search queries containing the word “chocolate”. The 1.5 million number is the number of searches for just “chocolate” with no other words in the query (goes to show that chocolate lovers are fairly specific in their search, maybe for types, nutritional value, recipes, stores near them, etc.)
Thank you Daniel
You need to go to wwww.google.com/sktool/ then you enter your keywords you got from the google external keyword tool into the sktool to get the exact number of searches for keywords that people are actually searching for, that’s real people searching:
That’s the new tool!
Excellent analytics, wow and this is
across all industries I believe. Especially the 11 to 10 spot is nice – sweet Spot !
@Rodney: I don’t believe in Google giving exact numbers to all of us 😉 best thing is having your own sem tools running and keeping track of search volume of all keywords, that are important for you
This is really great research. However as per my personal experience with commercial keywords, I have concluded that first and second results are generally considered informative link and most people do not click over it and third position get the maximum clicks.
Thanks Daniel, Just a follow up on those statistics. I have heard that typically if all information is the same within the first three searches, the searcher will buy at the 3rd result. So, though #1 is best, #3 could be better. Anyway thanks for the statistics.
so if my understanding is correct I am supposed to use the percentage numbers above when doing keyword research in order to determine how many clicks I can expect to receive on my website.
Lets say for example that I am ranking on the first page of position number 5 for a keyword that gets searched for 8,000 times a day. That site could expect to receive 480 clicks or UVs a day being in that spot is that correct?
given the math 8,000 X .06 = 480 is that math correct?
anybody just reply to this with the correct answer
Why did they not include the click through rate? That would have bveen very simple and even more valuable because many click on sponsored results or don’t click at all. Instead they compared the allocation of index clicks.
I read somewhere if you artificially switch the first and second spot that the first slot would get fewer clicks than the average you are demonstrating here. My point here is that Google ranks these spots by keyword, content,links and other variables in their algorithym and they do a good job. Most often the one at the top should be there and people will notice it by the title and description and relationship to other quality sites that have relevant content.
Online SEO Guideline
Thanks for giving me such type of information regarding click in seo.It’s really approsiable and useful information for me because i don’t know more about this techniques.
So guys thanks once again for having such type of useful information in your post.
Good work keep it on……………………….
Does this apply to paid search results as well? And if so, how about a study of cost to ctr so we can determine if it actually makes any financial sense to pay for number one.
The basic evidence showm is also reflected in my wecbsite statistics with number 1, 2 positions driving a good percentage of traffic. A small percentage of my keywords at position 9 to a 15 still recieve clicks, although this depends on the search term. Depends what people are looking for is my theory.
Thanks to the team @ Chitika.com for publishing this, so many NEED THE DATA!!!!
I have been running Organic CTR data analysis for some time now (usually until 6am as it’s bloody addictive!) so I can also, like you have, publish the research confidently with client case studies so we can show the world, or even potential clients, the value of Click Through Rate on Google Organic SERPs for the top 10 positions mainly. I have various client SERPs data from a variety of niche Industries, which is obviously valuable and proves stat data through multiple sectors, NICE!
I am rebranding my existing website, as soon as this is completed (feeling comfortable when people land on it!) I will publish my data and send you guys the URL, I don’t know if you can suggest URLs? A quick Test:
Best of luck everyone!