Number One is Money — How to Prove It

One question I frequently get from people is, “how much traffic can we expect if we are in the #1 one position vs positions 2, 3, and so on?”

Is the amount of traffic you will get in the #1 position really worth the effort and cost?

The answer to this question is yes, it is generally worth the effort and cost to get in the #1 position. The stipulation, however, is that the amount of traffic return you will receive depends on your industry. Some keywords are able to bring in traffic percentages close to that top position, according to this study done on traffic percentage differences when they reach positions 1, 2, and 3 in Google. Unfortunately, some are not even close.

To sum up, the study suggests:

  • Position one gets 34% of the projected traffic for the selected term.
  • Position two gets 17% of the projected traffic for the selected term.
  • Position three gets 11% of the projected traffic for the selected term.

How to Compare Your Industry to the Study

To know how your industry compares to the above projected percentages, do the following:

  1. Dive into your analytics and gather historical data that shows how much traffic you were averaging each month when you were in positions 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and so on.
  2. Go to the Google Adword Keyword tool (or some other reliable keyword traffic estimator) and get the estimated number of searches for that single term in exact match.
  3. Do a little Algebra.

For example:

This example is from an actual client. Let’s take one of their terms that is projected to bring in 33,100 visitors a month in exact match. If we are to assume that this keyword is in the same industry as the study above, they would get roughly 11,254 visitors a month from that one term alone (if they are number 1).

But, it is not in the same industry. It is actually a completely different industry. So, from their historical analytics data I gathered, when they were in position 6 they were getting 1,006 visits per month from that term (3% of the projected search volume for that term). The study suggests that position 6 should be getting 5.05%. When they were in position 3 they were getting 1,728 visits per month (5% of the projected search volume for that term). The study suggests that position 3 should be getting 11%.

Now the Algebra:

Position 3

They got 5%

Study says 11%

Position 2

x

Study says 17%

Position 1

x

Study says 34%

To solve for x in position 2, I simply took 5, multiplied it by 17 (the study’s percentage of traffic for position 2) and divided that number by 11 (the study’s percentage of traffic for position 3). This equaled 7.7%. To solve for position 1, I took 7.7, multiplied it by 34 (the study’s percentage of traffic for position one) and divided that number by 17 (the study’s percentage of traffic for position 2). This equaled 15.4%.

Here is the client’s projected percentage of traffic for positions 1, 2, and 3:

Position 3

They got 5%

Study says 11%

Position 2

They should get 7.7%

Study says 17%

Position 1

They should get 15.4%

Study says 34%

This is great! According to this calculation, although we are not getting the same percentages of traffic as in the study, the client’s traffic will still double from position 2 to position 1. However, because their traffic numbers from when they  were in position 6 differ from the study less than their position 3 numbers differed, I had to do this calculation again based on their position 6 numbers and then take the average of the two calculations.

Take a breath (if you’re still reading this)…

Position 6

They got 3%

Study says 5%

Position 5

They should get 3.7%

Study says 6.19%

Position 4

They should get 4.62%

Study says 7.73%

Position 3

They should get 6.57%

Study says 11%

Position 2

They should get 10.15%

Study says 17%

Position 1

They should get 20.3%

Study says 34%

Average the two for positions 1,2, and 3:

Position 3

They should get 5.7%

Study says 11%

Position 2

They should get 8.9%

Study says 17%

Position 1

They should get 17.85%

Study says 34%

Because this is an actual case, I already know the results and how they compare to these calculations. When this client started with us they were in position 6 for this term. As of yesterday they are in position 1 and I will be able to compare the accuracy of my number 1 position estimations after a month of occupying that top spot.

When they were in position 3, they got about 1,728 visits from that one term alone, about 5% of the visits. My calculations say it should have been 5.7%. Last month they were number 2 and they received about 2,200 visits from that one term alone, about 7% of the visits. My calculations say it should have been 8.9%. So I’m a little off, but it’s safe to assume that over this next month (since they are number 1), their traffic should almost double for that one term.

It’s hard to project exact numbers for ranking positions, there are so many factors at play. Just as I’ve done here, you can kind of get a feel for what to expect when you reach number 1. I have a rank-checking tool that is funny. After showing that you are ranked number 234 it says, “Keep trying, you can beat Google one day!”


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4 Comments

  1. Adrian says

    I was wondering…If I write an article but I submit it to more than one blog, can I be penalized for duplicate content because I’m linking to the same blog? This is different to duplicate content on different web pages.

  2. Mike says

    Just to give an update on this experiment. Since this client has been number one for this term now for almost a month, their traffic for that term alone has increased 59%, more than double what it was the previous month when they were number two.

  3. Adrian says

    What about the difference in traffic in ranking high on the map results vs web results. Does the top 3 map results get more traffic than web results?

  4. says

    While this information is interesting, I think a study comparing the different CTR for the top spot among different industries might be even more interesting and useful. Each time I think I have an accurate hypothesis for a niche, I come across a case that breaks the hypothesis.

    Additionally, understanding the different psychology of these different industries and why the CTR might be different for each of these industries would be fascinating… and useful for better anticipating how much time and effort to invest in advanced.

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