A recent study by Think Eyetracking shows that visitors are less likely to look down the SERPs than they were 3 years ago. They are significantly more concentrated on the top of the results than ever before.
Anyone in organic SEO knows how hard it it to get into the top 3 for an even remotely competitive term. In the past traffic could be gained from lower positions but the trend is now moving towards real success only coming from the top 3. That’s the bad news for SEO. In a later post we will be looking at how you can capitalize on other traffic from multiple channels and reduce your reliance on Google organic. Reliance on Google organic was never smart but the reality is that when you are in the top spot it can be very lucrative and sends many companies chasing the prize.
Is Google Becoming More Relevant?
While this question is subjective and beyond the scope of this post, the results from this study seem to indicate that people have become more used to finding the answers to their queries within the first few search results, which in a way means they’re more relevant to them. Searchers have become so confident in Google to answer their query that they no longer place the burden of proof on the search engine to come up with the right answer. If what they are looking for does not come up in the first few results of Google, searchers have assumed they are at fault and not searching correctly. Many will refine their query instead of digging deeper into the search results.
“… when asked afterwards what they would normally do when they couldn’t find their desired search result on the first page of Google, 87% respondents replied that they would modify the search terms or refine the search by category.”
Searchers Trust in Google Makes SEO More Difficult
Before Google dominated search, it was possible that high rankings in Yahoo and MSN would drive significant traffic. Over time there will be fewer organic listings that will generate search traffic as Google has carved out a dominant share of the search market and users look at a smaller share of the search results due to amount of confidence they place in Google to show them the best results at the top of the SERPs. The amount of traffic achieved from high rankings in MSN and Yahoo don’t seem to drive as much traffic as they once did, making those spots in the search results continually less valuable. As searchers continue to become more accustomed to finding what they need at the top of the SERPs and Google continues to gain an even larger share of the search market, there will be fewer and fewer spots in the SERPs that matter.
Naturally this makes those top spots significantly more competitive. The days when mechanical SEO could get you to the top of the search results are over. To compete going forward it will take creativity and building a site that people want to talk about. As usual those that adapt will thrive and those that continue to do what they’ve always done will be slowly pushed down the SERPS to anonymity.