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The Traffic Value Of A No.1 
Search Engine Ranking

Sometimes I'll see search engine optimization companies offering a guarantee of a top ten rank. Just being in the top ten these days isn't enough to really give you a decent traffic boost - you really need to be in the top 5.

Marketing software and services provider Optify studied organic keyword visits, that is, referral from Google's free listings, from a variety of sites during December 2010. Here's how the average clickthrough rate looks for each rank in the top 10:

Rank 1 : 36.4%
Rank 2 : 12.5%
Rank 3 : 9.5%
Rank 4 : 7.9%
Rank 5 : 6.1%
Rank 6 : 4.1%
Rank 7 : 3.8%
Rank 8 : 3.5%
Rank 9 : 3.0%
Rank 10 : 2.2%

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So, from a hundred sets of result, the lucky site in the no.1 slot gets around 36 visitors and after the fifth ranking, it's under five. If you're at number 10, there would need to be just under 50,000 queries a day on that particular keyword or phrase for you to get just 1,000 visitors from it.

If you're pinning your hopes of online success of just getting at the lower end the top ten on one or just a few keywords - unless they are extremely popular terms and you're selling a high price tag/profit margin product - it's time to reconsider. 

I make special mention of this as I've seen many flash looking proposals from SEO firms promising the page 1 ranking - so it's not all that great if they only get you between rank 5 and 10, particularly if you're locked in with the company for a year or more and spending thousands of dollars in the process.

These SEO guarantees usually have some type of loophole that either sees the client perhaps spending more than the value they are getting or giving the SEO company an easy out. 

For example, a page 1 ranking on a "long tail" (not often searched for term) is usually pretty easy. Ranking well for long tail queries is a good thing - if you have a bunch of terms you rank well on. Just having one or two isn't going to put you on easy street and certainly won't if it's not ranked no.1.

Be very wary of guarantees from SEO firms. Google is as Google does. Google giveth and Google taketh away. SEO is part science, part magic and part luck. 

Bear in mind that nobody really knows all the ins and outs of Google's ranking algorithm. If I knew it, I would charge ten thousand dollars an hour for my time and it would be money well spent to whoever could afford it. Actually, I wouldn't charge at all - I wouldn't even provide the service. I would just build a couple of sites on certain topics and retire very, very quickly.

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The Optify figures also drive home the point that if you're quite happy at no.3 for a term, there's probably a bunch of traffic you're missing out on. However, focusing all your efforts to climb to no.1 on a certain keyword may be fruitless or even worse, put your other rankings at risk. 

Shooting for no.1 is something you need to weigh up carefully because if you "over-optimize" or do something else to incite Google's automated algorithmic ire, your no.3 ranking might become a distant memory. 

Michael Bloch
Taming the Beast
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In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.

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