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Is Being Number 1 In Google All It's Cracked Up To Be?

Nov 21, 2007
Anyone who has ever even heard the phrase 'search engine optimisation' will have experienced, largely through countless spam emails, adverts promising you the number 1 spot on 10 major search engines (we're not even convinced there are 10 major search engines) within a month or two. It's nonsense, and the scam here is that you're often top for search terms that no one will ever search for, but I digress: The adverts indicate that the desirable number 1 spot in Google is all important for your online marketing, but is that really true?

Now before you scoff and disregard this article I must stress that ranking well for strategically chosen and targeted keywords is all important. It's just that 'well' doesn't always translate as being 'number 1'. Statistically speaking, minimal numbers ever click past the third screen of results (although they don't always go from Page 1 to 2 to 3 - many people look at, for example Page1 then 4, then 9) before retreating to refine their keywords if they don't find what they're looking for on their first go. In fact, most people don't even click the second page, so a top 10 ranking is definitely desirable.

That said there are definitely things that you should consider before you spend valuable time and resources hunting that number 1 slot:

A site lower down the results page can outperform a site higher up.

It's something of a myth that says a site's traffic numbers from search engines is purely a result of its position. The assumption is that the higher you are, the more traffic you get - this isn't always true. If your titles and descriptions seem to match the searcher's requirements, and you're still visible you will often get the click ahead of number 1 (assuming you're in the top 10!)

To take an example, for the search 'Holidays to Istanbul' if, in the results page, your title and description says "Low Cost Holidays to Istanbul" but you are in the position 4, then you are probably still likely to get more clicks into your site than a competitor's listing that says "Low Cost Holidays to Turkey", even if your competitor is higher up in the search engine results page.

Page 1 on a Search Engine is not always good Value for Money

Imagine you rent a shop on the High Street. Yes, you will get more traffic but your rent will also be very high, which means that your profit per sale will be reduced. There are lots of shops 2 or 3 streets behind the High Street and even further away, who also do good business. They get lower traffic numbers but, as their rent is much lower, their profit per sale is much higher. Especially for niche shops, being on the High Street is usually not good value for money.

This same analogy works for search engines. It costs more money to optimise or PPC your site for the first page of a search engine results page but sometimes being on a lower page will actually prove to be a better business proposition as the costs involved will be much lower.

Search engines aren't the only source of traffic!

Search engines aren't the only place online where people look for your services or products. Sure, they're important and can lead to more sales and brand awareness, but people can find your site from other sources too: email newsletters, word of mouth, traffic from other websites and increasingly through social media. None of these replace the humble search engine in terms of importance (yet!), but they do combine to provide a valuable source of visitors, and often these may be cheaper and less time consuming for a better quality of customer.

Site conversion and sales are more important than traffic for traffic's sake

Let's go back a step here. Why do people care about their Google ranking? To get more visitors. Okay, go back one step further, why do they want more visitors? To get more sales.

Sure, top spot will, with the right title and description, almost always get more visitors, but that's completely counter intuitive if the users are rushing into the site, not finding what they want and clicking out just as readily! In most cases, it's a far better idea to spend more time and resources worrying about site conversion strategies (look to book strategies) than pushing for that spot higher in Google.

So perhaps it's best to stop obsessing over number 1 slot, and be satisfied with offering the best experience you can offer. Being number 1 is a massive ego boost, and will increase your visibility, but there are more important issues to be concerned with when marketing your website. Good sites will rise naturally over time, and in the greater scheme of things a good site conversion rate and customer experience is preferable to vast quantities of unfocussed traffic anyway.
About the Author
Frank Orman is the managing director of LeadGenerators - specialists in UK travel marketing online. Focussing on site conversion, pay per click and SEO issues, the company has achieved some excellent results in its 4 years in business.
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