Winning Search is in the Eye of the Beholder

Winning Search is in the Eye of the Beholder

Your web or search engine optimization consultant just told you your company needs to practice the art of “winning search.” True enough. But what does it mean to win?

“Organic search” (people searching for terms in Google, Yahoo, etc.) success depends on placement: where does a site appear on the search results page?

Think of a web browser like a newspaper: where does the most prominent story appear? In the headline, above the fold. There are sidebars and other stories below, but the lead story appears front and center, right at the top of the front page.

How Does Search Compare?

We read search results in the same way. How many pages of results do you click through to find what you want before you give up and try searching for different keywords? You should make the assumption that the closer to the first position on a search results page your website lands, the more likely people are to look at it and to click on it. Everybody wants to be number one, so who doesn’t want to be “number one on Google”?

Real data supports this assumption. In February 2009 Google posted the article “Eye-Tracking Studies: More Than Meets the Eye” on their official blog that dealt with eye-tracking studies they conducted on their universal search results pages. As might be expected, the first two results draw the most attention, with each subsequent link down the results page receiving less.

“Winning Search” is Winning.

You can read Google’s post if you’d like to dive deeper into their methodologies and view more eye-tracking images related to this study.

At a very basic level, “winning” search can be partially defined as fine-tuning your website such that it appears in these top four or five results on search engines—commonly known as increasing your “page rank.”

So while it might not always be possible to be “number one on Google,” data shows that being the first result may not be necessary. However, appearing as close as possible to the top of the page certainly is.

Next we’ll look at another aspect of winning search: click-through rate (CTR).