This short report seeks to establish whether looking to achieve “page 1” search engine rankings (organic listings), for products or services is a fundamentally flawed strategy for most companies to aim for. The key question, would such a strategy ultimately waste resources, reduce competitiveness, and worth the overall investment?
Why seeking page 1 search engine rankings matter for companies?
Whether it is a small or a large company, search engines offer the possibility of low barriers to entry into markets. It is now quite possible for newly launched start-ups or ma and pa businesses to compete with already established major companies in online markets through search organic listings.
However, establishing any new brand or improving a company’s weaker position through organic listings will require more time and additional resources, than participating for example in a Pay Per Click (PPC) program. Although, both have their own costs, with organic search it is the manpower and employee’s salaries predominantly, while with PPC, it is manpower, employee(s) salaries, and a separate PPC budget for the different platforms. Although through PPC, establishing the first-page presence can be achieved within a few hours/days, depending on the niche targeted. While with organic search, it can take anywhere from a few days or even years before good rankings are seen and still may not guarantee a first-page organic listing.
This is not to say, that, investing in a long-term organic Search Engine Optimization (SEO) strategy to establish page 1 rankings wastes resources, reduces competitiveness, and generally not worth the overall investment. On the contrary, every day there are millions of search queries being made across the different search engines. An example is Google, the largest search engine with a market share of 87.5%, processes more than 38,000 searches every second, or more than 3.3 billion searches every single day1Statista. (2020). "Worldwide desktop market share of leading search engines from January 2010 to January 2020” [Online]. Available: https://www.statista.com/statistics/216573/worldwide-market-share-of-search-engines/ [Accessed 28 May 2020]. ,2Internet Live Stats. (2020). "Google Search Statistics” [Online]. Available: http://www.internetlivestats.com/google-search-statistics/ [Accessed 28 May 2020]. .
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Source: Search Engine Watch - Available at https://searchenginewatch.com/2018/08/17/is-it-important-for-seo-to-rank-first-in-2018/ (Accessed: 28 May 2020).
It is therefore important to want to aim for that coveted first page ranking for keywords/phrases for businesses. Statistics also show, that over 40% of revenue is captured through organic traffic, and an estimated 51% of all website traffic comes from organic search, while only 10% from paid search3Brightedge. (2018). "Channel Performance Report” [Online]. Available: https://www.brightedge.com/resources/research-reports/content-optimization [Accessed 28 May 2020]. . Of course, it is important to mix up the strategy to attract traffic from both organic and PPC if the budget allows, especially as PPC will help rank quicker for keyword/phrases depending on the bidding prices within a niche.
Furthermore for example, on Google, the average traffic share by sites listed on the first search results page is 91.5%, by the second page the share of all traffic between sites is just 4.8%, while page 3, the percentage of traffic diminishes to just 1.1%4Goodwin, D. (2018). "60+ Mind-Blowing Search Engine Optimization Stats” [Online]. Available: https://www.searchenginejournal.com/seo-101/seo-statistics/ [Accessed 27 May 2020]. ,5Simmons, G. (2018). "How Valuable Is the First Page of Google?” [Online]. Available: https://yourwebedge.com/valuable-first-page-google/ [Accessed 28 May 2020]. .
Source: Your Web Edge - Available at https://yourwebedge.com/valuable-first-page-google/ (Accessed: 28 May 2020).
According to Advanced Web Ranking Google click-through rates (CTR) study, the average traffic share on the first Google organic search result receives 35.31% second-ranking 15.86%, third-ranking 9.43%, but by the second page, the top position (11) only receives 1.45% clicks and continues to decline beyond it6Advanced Web Ranking. (2020). "CTR study” [Online]. Available: https://www.advancedwebranking.com/ctrstudy/ [Accessed 27 May 2020]. .
Source: Advanced Web Ranking - CTR Study (August 2018) - Available at: https://www.advancedwebranking.com/ctrstudy/ (Accessed: 28 May 2020).
Created by Norbert Lukacsi - data source from Advanced Web Ranking CTR Study (August 2020) Available at https://www.advancedwebranking.com/ctrstudy/ (Accessed: 28 May 2020).
Further business benefits of ranking on the first page
There are further benefits to businesses investing time to try and rank on the first page, beyond just receiving more traffic and a higher rate of click-throughs on listings. These are mainly strategic in terms of reducing long-term advertising costs, increasing business industry expertise, increasing credibility, brand visibility, engagement, puts the business in front of potential new customers, and can enhance business authenticity by being higher up in the results pages.
For smaller to medium-sized businesses, perhaps the greatest benefit in the long-term is reducing the advertising costs in different mediums or even lowering the PPC spend by not having to bid for so many different keywords if the business is already ranking well for some key terms organically.
Ranking as high as possible, preferably on the first page, is an inevitable asset that initially seems to waste resources, because it may not get business results immediately. However, the long term-investment of not only resources but reducing costs in the long run, in turn, will far outweigh the benefits for an organization’s overall business strategy.