Tomasz Banas

The Difference Between Positions in Search Engine Result Pages

As marketers, we tend to be a little obsessive about ranking on Search Engine Results Pages (SERP). What is the real difference between a number one position and number two, three, four and so on?

difference between serp

Visibility matters. Multiple marketers have analyzed the organic click through rate (CTR) for Google based on SERP position using keyword tools and looking at the data from Google webmaster tools. The results are motivating and not that surprising. Higher ranking sites consistently have a higher click through rate and lower ranking sites receive fewer clicks in organic search.

It continues to be meaningful to pay attention to where your site presents in search engine result pages, and to focus SEO strategies towards position. A 2011 study by Slingshot SEO reveals that 52% of users click on an organic search result on the first page. The combined top three ranking results on SERP received 68% of the clicks according to study by Group M UK and Nielson. They broke the numbers down:

Result 1: 48 percent Result 2: 12 percent Result 3: 8 percent Remainder: 32 percent

The 40% difference between the top-ranking result and the third position is significant. After number 3, the results drop quickly. Neil Walker, using a slightly different methodology found similar results. In Walker’s analysis, the first position scored a CTR of 52%.

The position ranking CTR results are not all equal. Depending on the type of search, CTR can vary significantly. Not surprisingly, users who enter longer search terms, tend to click on the top result with greater consistency than those who enter shorter terms. As search terms become more precise, it follows that the results will be more accurate and better reflect the intention of the user. This long tail pattern is essential to remember when prioritizing work on SEO projects.

The longer the query, the more likely the user will click through to the highest result on the SERPS. According to recent research by Bluerank specialists, the top result in a three word query has a CTR of 51%. In a four word query, that jumps to 57% and by the time the user has typed five words into a search the CTR for the number one slot in the SERPS is a whopping 65%. Websites should be crafted with this in mind in order to meet the needs of focused customers and offer meaningful landing pages for long tail searches.

The research also reveals that search terms that focus on product queries tend to have a higher click through rate than general search terms do. We attribute this to highly-focused users who are looking for specific brands and items. Understanding how search specifics influences CTR should also inform SEO workflow as you ensure that pages that feature branded products serve as landing pages for your brand.

What about paid search? Do the paid ads take away from the CTR of the first page results? In general, users know what they are looking for. Analysis indicates that only 6% of users click on paid results. Of those, the demographics skew towards female (53%) and users who are older than 35 (65%).

Focusing SEO on specific terms (especially long tail) and meaningful landing pages makes sense from a marketing perspective. The quest for a higher SERP position ranking is a worthy one and should pay off with greater CTRs and increased opportunities to reach customers.

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An entrepreneur with an eye for good design and advocate of simplicity. He brings a fresh strategy and approach to every project and plays an integral role in clients’ accomplishments through collaboration and close integration. Through his hands-on experience in technology and marketing, he ensures user experiences and technology are on the leading edge.