Study Proves Power of Top 5 Google Positions

Ok, so I know this study is a few years old now, but for some reason, I’m seeing it for the first time this week and the graphic is a powerful one that I wanted to share.

A few years back, Cornell University ran an eye tracking study using undergraduate students to determine how people interact with Google SERPs. They instructed the students to perform searches in Google for 400 different queries, covering a diverse range of topics including movies, travel, music, politics, local and trivia.

Here’s the meat:

The study concluded that eye fixation on the first two listings took up half of the user’s attention span. After the second listing, the eye fixation dropped sharply. Search results 6 to 10 received roughly equal attention.

In terms of click through, nearly 80% of web searchers clicked on the top 3 search results, with  the top 5 spots receiving 88% of traffic. Most fascinating was that the difference in the number of clicks between position #1 and position #2 was over four times!

While the advent of Google personalized search, real time search and social search since the study has likely impacted these results somewhat, it still proves the power of holding a Top 5 position on Google, particularly a #1 if you can swing it.

Having recently attained a #1 position for a highly competitive search term where I’ve sat at position #2 for many months, I can personally vouch for the turbo boost impact of the top slot.

What about you? Have you noticed any trends that would verify the results of this study even today? Please share your observations in the comments.

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Q and A: Is Google PageRank Dead?

QuestionHi Kalena

Just wondering what your view was on PR being dead – it’s what a lot of SEO professionals are saying.

I guess I’m curious also because it seems it’s the only way to be able to track any kind of progress with our linking campaigns. What are your thoughts? Is PR dead?

Sarah
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Hi Sarah

Regarding the death of PageRank, I wouldn’t go that far. It might be true that webmasters don’t need to obsess about the little green bar that is the Google Toolbar PageRank score, but the influence of links in Google’s PageRank algorithm is alive and well.

Just take a look at the results of the 2009 Ranking Factor survey that SEOmoz gives to 75 top SEO professionals worldwide (me included) every two years.

You’ll see that 4 of the Top 5 Ranking Factors (as agreed by the world’s busiest SEO practitioners) are link related.

So while Toolbar PageRank scores may not be as indicative as they used to be, link building is still absolutely vital as a way to boost search ranking for a page. Measurement now though is via observation, individual search query rank, number of pages indexed and number of backlinks achieved.

Of particular importance is the flow of linkjuice between inner pages on your own site and the achievement of external links pointing to those inner pages rather than all pointing to your home page.

Kalena

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Q and A: Does a longer domain registration period affect ranking?

QuestionHi Kalena

I was just wondering, does a longer URL registration period have a positive effect on a site’s search engine ranking?

Thanks,

Louisa

Hi Louisa

Google has confirmed in the past that both domain age and ownership history may impact the way a site is handled by the algorithm, albeit slightly. But what you’re asking is whether registering a domain for a longer period of time makes a difference to the site’s ranking?

I haven’t researched this for other search engines, but I recall that a couple of people have asked this question in the Google Webmaster forum in the past.

Google staff member John Mu responded that the length of a domain’s registration period does NOT impact how Google ranks the site. As he states, many registrars don’t publish expiration details and so if Google can’t adequately determine when a site expires, they can’t compare it to other sites so they don’t include that as a ranking factor. Besides which, a registration period for a domain doesn’t reveal much about a site.

The content on the domain is much more important from a search engine perspective than how many years it has been registered for.

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Q and A: Why does my website not rank high on search engines?

QuestionDear Kalena…

Does the Google sandbox exist?

Hi, my name is Cameron and I run I Want a Credit Card, an Australian credit card review site. I think I’m doing everything I should be to get good Google traffic. I have loads of unique content and lots of incoming links (some from PR7 and PR8 sites).

I get about 20-30 Google visitors per day, mostly from very specific keywords. I don’t show up anywhere in the first 300 results for credit card’ or ‘credit cards’ on Google Australia, which is frustrating because I think my site is a good resource (certainly more relevant than some of the sites in the first few pages of results).

I’ve read countless articles on optimizing my site for search engine traffic and I’ve tried to follow all the appropriate principles (SEO-friendly URLs etc). My site doesn’t contain any content which may cause it to be penalized (gambling, porn etc) and I have no outbound links to bad or PR0 sites. Google Webmaster tools reports no problems. What am I doing wrong?

Cameron

Dear Cameron

The existence of Google Sandbox, the (ageing) filter put in place by Google spam team to fight web spam, is debatable. While it did exist in the past, many SEO professionals now believe that it no longer exists but Rand Fishkin wrote a post which proves otherwise. I believe that you are trying to hint at the fact that the website’s inability to rank for the keyword ‘credit card’ or ‘credit cards’ is because of Google Sandbox effect. However, a brief analysis of the website did not show any potential signs of the ageing filter playing a role in the website not being able to rank for these keywords.

Since you have been reading around the subject, I am sure that you would have come across various resources detailing search engine ranking factors. The important thing to remember here is that these factors change with time; new factors get added, some lose their sheen while others gain prominence. With this background knowledge, I would like to give you some potential reasons for low ranking and suggest a better approach.

While analyzing your website, I could spot a couple of flaws which will hurt its potential to rank high on search engines. Many of the web pages seem to be using the same (duplicate) ‘title’ which is not healthy. Page title is one of the most important on-page ranking factors and it is imperative that each webpage has a unique title, which is in sync with the keywords being targeted for that particular page. In addition to this, the website’s back link profile looks very unnatural. While building links, it is essential that you rotate anchor texts and use semantic variations of the targeted keywords. It has to be a proper mix and I am afraid to say that it is not at the moment because more than 95% of the links have ‘credit card(s)’ as the anchor text. Also, majority of the links come from a handful of websites. The existing back link profile is bound to raise red flags and many links will be potentially devalued or already are by search engines.

Ranking for competitive terms such as ‘credit card’ or credit cards’ will require concerted efforts for a prolonged period of time. It is pertinent to add that domain authority, trustworthiness and age play a crucial role in ranking for competitive terms; something that cannot be built overnight and will come with time. I would therefore recommend that you adopt a slightly different approach.

You can begin with targeting less competitive keywords like ‘credit card comparison’, ‘compare credit cards’, ‘low interest credit cards’, ‘student credit cards’, ‘low rate credit card’, etc. Keywords which are 3-5 words long are not only easier to rank for as compared to generic term like ‘credit cards’, but also are more likely to convert better. The best part of this whole approach is the fact that as you work towards ranking for less competitive but better converting keywords, you gain significant link equity and domain trust. This in turn will help you rank for more competitive and generic keyword like credit card. By adopting this approach you would accomplish your end goal and in the process achieve high rankings for a wider keyword portfolio.

I hope this helps.

Saurav.

Further reading: Why it Makes Sense to Target Longtail Keywords First

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Q and A : How come we see PR for password protected Gmail inner pages?

QuestionDear Kalena…

We all know that PR comprises of backlinks to a particular page or PR passes on from High Page. We also know that Google or any other Search Engine suggests to block a page by using the username and password.

If that is the case then how come we see PR for Gmail inner pages or PR for Orkut pages when logged in?

In reality the PR should never pass to the email account pages when you have logged in.

Thanks

Arnab

Dear Arnab

The PageRank shown in the Google Toolbar is not an accurate measure of a page’s true PR. The Toolbar PR is usually updated 4 – 6 times a year (sometimes more, sometimes less depending on algorithm changes and other search updates).

As a result of this, there are a lot of pages that will show no rank for months, which really do have a ranking hidden to the general user. Or the complete opposite where pages within a well trusted domain like Google (even non-indexed, password protected pages) will show PR that doesn’t exist.

In these cases it’s nothing more than a glitch in the Toolbar as it’s attempting to guesstimate what the PR would be based on the value normally passed down from the root domain.

You can still use the Toolbar PR as a rough guide, but for the reasons above, it’s best not to focus primarily on the Toolbar PR and use other metrics to measure the true value of a page.

Hope this helps.

Peter Newsome
SiteMost

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