5 March, 2015

Research shows being #1 on Google not so important

A recent study by Meditative brings good news for local businesses. It’s no longer so critical to be #1 on the Google Search Results Page (SERP). You can relax and stop knocking yourself out trying to figure how to “outrank” the number one. Now can get as good a result by simply being one of the top contenders, rather than having to be the top of the pile.

It seems not only have searchers grown more savvy over the years, the way we have learned to “see” the listings has changed significantly as well. Google constantly tweaks and tunes the search results page layout to give more relevant results. Such as, In 2009 Google introduced Google Local Business Centre which has had a range of names and today is called Google My Business. There’s been the growth of sitelinks, the knowledge panel, Google shopping and a raft of other subtle little changes. The share of prime “real-estate” on the screen used by ads has grown over the years as well.

Revealing the Golden Triangle

2005 eye tracking serp

In 2005, an eye-tracking study showed what has been taken as gospel ever since – #1 was most important and if you weren’t in the top 3 you were at a huge disadvantage. The red zone is where most eye focus and clicks occurred, followed by yellow then green.

Following the accidental leak of search data by AOL the next year, the degree of disadvantage became clear – 42.13% clicks happened on the first spot, 11.9% on second and 8.5% on the third.

Death of the Triangle for Local Businesses

Today however shows a very different story. Searchers eyes and clicks behave very differently based on the kinds of searches being performed, in large part due to how Google serves responses for different types of queries. On the left you can see three different local searches – a hotel search, a services business search and the carousel. On the right is a search with no local intent.

2014 serp by type
2014 serp


Key Action Takeaways

2014 local biz serpFirstly, one size SEO does not fit all. If you’re a local business, you’ll need a very different approach to visibility from the standard form.  Get a local search specialist in your team of experts to call on.

Secondly, searchers behaviour is changing. Mobile devices force us to scroll up and down a lot more than a desktop, so searchers overall habits are reflecting that.  That means:

  • Searchers are scanning more listings than they used to (but doing it in less time). Make your listings count! Ensure your page title and meta description reflective of what your searchers want. Instead of “Home” for the page title, make it eye-catching and then let the description give searchers the reason/s they should click on your business.
  • If your business type gets reviews and ratings, then be sure to have them for your business. Those little stars help make your business stand out.
  • First position is still good (32.8%) of clicks, but positions 2-4 are now getting a lot more clicks than previously.  So if #3 is where your budget gets you, then work with it!

Test paid advertising.  From the image above you can see eyes focussing on the ad at the top of the page and some what for the right hand column.  I would always recommend regular Adwords over Adwords Express if you do.

Finally, optimise your Google local page – Even if there are organic listings above the local pack, people still look at that section of the screen for options.