Cancel your paid search buy. No…wait…fire your SEO team. Turn off your blog and put all the time and money you’ve invested in search marketing into something tangible, like social media.
Bad advice? Sure. But here’s the thing about search marketing: There are no right answers. When it comes to getting your name in the right places on a search engine, the recipe is a confusing mix of consumer behavior, obscure search engine rules (hello, Google) and budget limitations. Put the three together and it’s like playing a game with a 4-year-old: you never know when everything is going to change, but when it does – and it will — you’re pretty sure it’s not going to be a good thing for you.
Indeed, a study by Compete on search engine results pages (SERPs) underlines the fact that this fluid, dynamic part of digital marketing is also its most confusing and bizarre. According to the report, it’s not enough to rank on the first page. The only result that really matters is the first result: Based on “10s of millions” of SERPs analyzed, Compete found that 53 percent of clicks belonged to the first ranked listing. The second dropped all the way to 15 percent, with the fifth spot a true caboose at just 4 percent.
–85 percent of clicks are organic
–53 percent of click from No. 1 listing
–85 percent of ad clicks from top page location
That’s critical because Compete also confirmed what we’ve always thought: most people don’t click on paid search ads. In fact, of pages studied, 85 percent of clicks were on organic links.
Hmm. Better re-hire that SEO team. And start publishing the blog again.
The trouble is that Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is also important from at least a branding and conquest perspective: Compete found that 55 percent of all pages studied had at least one ad placement. The study implies that while SEO is king, SEM is an especially important Court Jester because, well, most companies just can’t win at the organic game – it’s just too competitive a space to bank your search engine traffic on. Same goes for SEM: of the 15 percent that clicks on an ad, the vast majority click on either the top ad or the third unit on the right side of the page, while the rest of the locations get table scraps. In the report, Compete’s experts recommend that companies employ “good on-page SEO, so search engines can find you, an updated blog, site links and microsites and use paid to complement organic to ensure coverage and improve opportunities for clicks.”
Given this, maybe the best thing to do is cancel that newspaper buy and put more money into search. But then again, whether paid or organic, more reliance on search also means increased dependency on Google – or Bing. Is that a good thing?