Geoff Wilson / Marketing / June 30th, 2010

Why a Top 10 Google Ranking Just Isn't Enough

The goal of most search engine optimization campaigns is to get a website listed on the “first page of Google” or “ranked in the top 10” under desirable keyword terms.  Although the first page of Google is widely accepted as the gold standard in the SEO world, I’m here to tell you it’s simply not enough. Recently I was talking to one of our clients, Pete Zimek, about his popular website, (it’s a very nice Gainesville apartment search website that 352 Media Group created for him).

Pete’s site has some really excellent Google rankings — including a #5 ranking under gainesville fl apartments, which is a very popular keyword term according to our keyword research tools.  However, Pete recently told me that his website doesn’t get that much traffic from that term. does get a very substantial amount of traffic from search engine visitors, but most of it comes from more specific keyword terms.  Pete has done a very good job of loading with fresh, relevant content (I have always said content is king!) so he gets a lot of his traffic from specific searches that happen to match a term somewhere in his content.

I was very surprised that wasn’t getting more traffic from “gainesville fl apartments” though, because his website is listed right in the middle of the first page of Google for that popular term, so I would have expected that he’d get quite a bit of traffic from it. Then I read a new study from Chitika, an online advertising network.  They conducted research to see how many people clicked on each result in a typical Google search.  I always knew there was a substantial drop off between rankings, but I had no idea how substantial the drop off actually was until I saw this chart:

Google Result Click Percentage
1 34.35%
2 16.96%
3 11.42%
4 7.73%
5 6.19%
6 5.05%
7 4.02%
8 3.47%
9 2.85%
10 2.71%
11 1.11%
12 0.85%
13 0.70%
14 0.57%
15 0.48%
16 0.39%
17 0.33%
18 0.28%
19 0.27%
20 0.29%

What this chart is saying, loudly and clearly, is that if you aren’t in the Top 3 in Google, less than 10% of web searchers are clicking on your listing when they conduct a search.  And if you happen to be down in the #5 spot, as is, only about 6% of web searchers are clicking on your listing.

It gets much worse as you go lower.  A ranking #11 — the first listing on the second page of the Google results — only gets clicked on about 1% of the time.  Yikes!

Conversely, a #1 ranking is extremely valuable.  There is a massive clickthrough drop off between the #1 and #2 rankings, and again between #2 and #3.

The key takeaways here are twofold:

First, when selecting the keywords you want to target, focus on specific keywords that don’t have a high level of competition so you have a real chance of getting ranked #1 for them.  You are going to be much better off ranked #1 under a less popular keyword than being ranked #10 under a more popular keyword.

Second, if you are measuring your search engine optimization success by being on the “first page of Google” or “ranked in the top 10,” stop now.  You really need to be aiming for a #1 ranking, or at a minimum, a top 3 ranking.  Anything less than that is still nice to have, but it won’t exactly blow your webserver away with tons of traffic.

  • PeterV – CMO

    Wow, that is really shocking. A couple of things I wonder about though after reading this (and maybe the study speaks more to it?). First, these numbers total 100%. does that mean the sites ranked 21 and lower get less than 1% combined? I guess that wouldn’t be a shock. Second, I wonder how this accounts for people clicking on multiple listings. I know in my own searches, I’ll click the first link, and hit back if it doesn’t look like what I needed. Then I’ll click on number two and so on. I wonder if these treats each visit to the search engine results page as a new session. Otherwise I’d think the numbers would total over 100%. Regardless, sounds like we need to get to the top and stay there!

  • Zach

    Good comment Peter!

  • PeterV – CMO

    If only geoff ever replied to my comment 🙁

  • gainesville fl website design

    Very interesting article. It does seem that users rarely go beyond page one and most click the first, second or third option. If only my SEO clients would realize how valuable that is. 😉

  • brian

    Marketer are always [quote]saying I can get you on the top 10 on google.[/quote] Big woopie. SEO takes constant upkeep and multiple links are just one aspect of the game. Successful SEO campaigns are monitored constantly , measured analytically, and always a work in progress. Don’t miss opportunities to keep your clients current .

  • PeterV – CMO

    Agreed, Brian. And you’re doing a great job tonight for the new jersey pain clinic. However we have no follow code on the blog comments. Sorry.