May 8, 2012 by Brett Martinez
You might say we now live in a “Google Economy.” Business is driven by search engines – yet many businesses still don’t understand how to value their search marketing.
Ever wonder what an “organic” (unpaid) search engine click might really be worth to you? For that matter, ever wonder how many clicks you might gain by moving from the #5 spot to the #1 spot on a Google search engine result page (SERP)?
Where Our Numbers Come From
In 2006 AOL released more than 30 million search queries originating from more than 600,000 AOL search users. Because AOL didn’t scrub personally identifying information from this data, it has come to be known as a data leak – but it was always meant as a study of online user behavior.
The Value of Page One
AOL’s data (snapshot on right) showed that 89% of all clicks were directed towards the first page of results:
- 42.1% followed the first link
- 11.9% followed the second
- 8.5% followed the third
- and so on…
At the time most SERP pages only showed organic results. Modern search rankings have to compete with advertisements, promoted listings, map results, and related images – but the overall distribution seems to hold over the organic search elements.
What Can You Do With Distribution Data?
By using the search ranking data alongside keyword search volume data you can determine:
- How many clicks you stand to receive by achieving Top 10 SERP positioning for a particular keyword.
- How many clicks you can expect to gain or lose by moving up and down the SERP.
“Shopping” - An Example
Let’s consider the word “shopping” (already included in the graphic above). I recommend using the Google AdWords Keyword Tool. It is not the best Keyword Evaluation tool on the market, but it is free and easy to use – and you can export your data to Excel for easy manipulation.
In the month of April (2012), the word “shopping” had:
- 55,600,000 Global Searches
- 13,600,000 Local Searches
Local Searches is always customized to your country – in our case the United States. We don’t have much of a global footprint, so we’ll stick to Local Searches for the rest of this example.
As we said earlier, Pay-Per-Click ads, videos, and images will poach some of this traffic. Let’s just knock 25% off the top to account for this traffic loss. That leaves us with approximately:
- 10,000,000 Local Searches
Based on the distribution averages above, you might expect the following click-through results for each of the Top 10 search engine result positions:
- Position #1: 4,213,000 clicks
- Position #2: 1,190,000 clicks
- Position #3: 850,000 clicks
- Position #4: 606,000 clicks
- Position #5: 492,000 clicks
- Position #6: 405,000 clicks
- Position #7: 341,000 clicks
- Position #8: 301,000 clicks
- Position #9: 285,000 clicks
- Position #10: 299,000 clicks
What Is a Click Worth To You?
The value of a website click will depend greatly on your conversion rate and the size of an average sale. Setting Goals in Google Analytics can help you figure out the first and your sales statistics can provide the second.
For the sake of argument, let’s say that you have a 2% website conversion rate, an average sale of $250, and rank #5 for the search term “shopping.”
At the #5 ranking, you should be pulling in 492,000 local clicks – which at 2% conversion would equal 9,840 sales. Multiply that by $250 a sale and that search term alone would be pulling in $2,460,000 a month.
Move from #5 to #2 will increase your organic traffic by 698,000 local clicks. Assuming that your conversion rate holds, that’s a jump of 13,960 sales or $3,490,000 each month… on top of the $2,460,000 you would already pull in.
Now, most of us won’t be landing on the first page of the “shopping” results – but even something like “San Francisco chocolate” (with 8,100 local searches a month) can pull in a reasonable return all on its own.
Running Your Own Numbers
You can use the following formula to help you estimate how much in sales a particular search term will generate for your business:
Search Volume (from Google AdWords Keyword Tool)
* 0.75 (to account for traffic lost to PPC and other SERP clutter)
* Organic click-share (from AOL data)
* Conversion Rate (calculable from Google Analytics combined with internal sales figures)
* Average Sale
Search Term Value
Once you have these figures at your fingertips, you can figure out how much it is actually worth to your company to advance specific search terms.