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Google Changes – Part One

Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Grant Whiteside

Ambergreen’s Technical Director, Grant Whiteside, outlines how Google has grown in recent months and what that means for brands, in the first of a series of blog posts on Google Changes. Check back next week for Part Two.

Over the past few years Google has been spending a lot of time and effort trying out various ways of creating more revenue from their search results pages (SERPS). Let’s get one thing straight – Google didn’t spend millions of dollars in developing itself as an advertising platform unless it could generate billions in return for its efforts.

So what’s changed? Click through rates from organic traffic are reducing in comparison to the number of searches being performed on the search engine.

Why? Let’s start with the user experience; less organic listings are shown on a standard browser screen above the fold before the user has to scroll down the page to see the rest of the results. As a result, those adverts (or sponsored listings) that have paid more money than their competitors are normally getting a higher click through rate than those that have bid less or those websites that are exclusively relying on organic visibility.

If we took a competitive search term like ‘car insurance’ and ran the search on a notebook computer you would see 8 sponsored listings and one full organic listing, plus the title of the 2nd placed organic listing above the fold. If we ran a similar search on a mobile phone, you would expect to see 2 sponsored results before having to scroll further down the page to see any other listings.

Research over the years has tried to measure click through rates of organic search results. In 2010 Optify claimed that a 36.4% CTR for the number one result in Google, followed by 12.5% and 9.5% for the second and third spots, resulting in page one results claiming 89% of the clicks for any non branded search query. In October, Slingshot published a similar study but claimed the number of clicks through for a top organic position may be as low as 16.9% if you allow for blended results – including news results, images, shopping feeds, local listings.

Here at Ambergreen, we have a firm belief that brand awareness in relation to the search query plays a very large part of exploiting organic visibility. If you’re generating more search engine shelf space using paid search, local listings, a news feed and the top organic result we have measured anything up to 89% of all the searches clicking on your organic result. Regardless of the discrepancies in numbers, overall click through rates are falling for traditional organic listings and our mantra of dominating your search space and generating quality digital visibility still stands, probably more than ever before.

Grant Whiteside
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