High rankings in organic listings are great to get traffic to your website. The higher you rank, the more traffic you can expect, but how much more traffic can you get in one of the top positions?
To try to answer this question, we analysed visitor data from google.co.uk for 66 domains on nearly 6,500 search queries. We gathered search volume from googles keyword tool to obtain an estimate for the number of impressions the domain received for each of the search queries. We analysed the Click Through Rate (CTR), which we define as the number of visitors generated by a URL for a certain keyword, divided by the number of searches for that keyword.
We found that the CTR varies widely for given positions, and very much depends on the type of keyword. For example, CTR for searches that contain a company name (like asda, asda clothing or asda bread) are very high. The median (i.e. the centre point of a series of ordered numbers, where 50% is less or equal to the median and 50% is higher or equal to the median) CTR for such searches when in first position was 36.5%. For non-brand searches however, the CTR is much lower; the median CTR of URLs in 1st position was 17.5%.
Even within the non-brand searches there was a lot of variability in the CTR. The graph below gives an indication of what CTR can be expected for each position on the first page, as well as for a position on the 2nd page (P2) or a position on 3rd page or lower (P3+). Note that we are relying on Googles Keyword Tool providing the search volume and there may be some inaccuracy in those numbers.
In the CTR graph the black line indicates the median, the red lines are the 25th and 75th quantile which can be interpreted as follows - for 50% of URLs the CTR falls within the red lines. So for example, the median CTR for position 1 is 17.5%, but the CTR can vary, with 50% of URLs having a CTR between 15% and 25%.
When you are in 2nd position, you can expect a CTR “around” 8%, likely to be between 5% and 14%. So again, there is a lot of variability in the CTR as the CTR depends on the type of search.
It is clear, however, that you can expect traffic to increase substantially if there is an improvement in position from 2 to 1, possibly doubling traffic.
4th Position generates a CTR of around 4.5%, a quarter of what can be expected in position 1. The median CTR drops down to around 1% when you are at the bottom of the page (Positions 9/10).
A URL not showing on the first page will get less impressions, as many people will click on a link displayed on the first page. Only a minority will continue their search onto the 2nd page. We found that for URLs on the 2nd page the median CTR is 0.4%, and for lower positions (page 3 or further down) the median CTR was 0.1%.
On Yahoo UK’s main page (uk.yahoo.com), you can find links to the latest news stories, sport and entertainment. Many of these links go to the actual articles but not all of the links in “Today’s Hot Topics” do.
Some of the topics today (19th July) are no surprise, like Dark Knight Rises (the latest Batman movie opening on 20th July), linking to uk.movies.yahoo.com/dark-knight-rises.
Two news related topics in the top 10 are Bulgaria Bus Bomb and Syria Crisis, which link to pages on uk.news.yahoo.com, with the latest on these news stories.
However, there are a few entries in the top 10 that seem out of place. Although it has been very wet recently, is "rain coats" really a hot topic at the moment? And what about "push chairs", what is so hot about push chairs that it appears in “Today’s hot topics”?
I’m sure people would want to try to find out by clicking on the link, only to find a yahoo search results page with links to e-commerce websites trying to sell you a rain coat or push chair. Not any quirky stories on rain coats or push chairs to be found. Of course we also find paid ads on the search results, which could generate extra income to yahoo.
On 30th June and 1st July, one of the terms in the list was a popular keyword of one of our clients advertising on bing/yahoo. This keyword normally gets 50-60 searches a day on bing/yahoo combined. On 30th June/1st July this increased to around 1100 per day, with the majority originating from people clicking on the link on uk.yahoo.com going to a search result of the keyword. These impressions resulted in 200 clicks per day with an associated cost 20 times the usual level.
So clearly Yahoo benefits by putting some links to searches with paid ads on it, as it can generate a lot of extra revenue. For people advertising on those terms it wouldn’t be a problem if the extra traffic generates sales. Unfortunately this didn’t happen for our client. Conversions were higher than normal - on average 5 a day during 30 June/1 July, compared to 2 per day on “normal” days. However, 3 extra daily conversions didn’t make up for the substantial increase in cost.
So advertisers, be aware! If you see a spike in traffic in bing/yahoo on any particular day, one of your keywords may have been in yahoo’s “Today’s hot topics”!.It may not be as hot for you as it is for Yahoo.