Optimizing your website to rank high in “organic” search results is a necessity if you expect to see any long-term traffic. SEO (search engine optimization) is a powerhouse in driving traffic, but you may be overlooking one important reason that causes your SEO to fail.
The search engine results page (SERPs) landscape has changed. Yet many keep doing SEO the same way expecting a different result. Because the SERPs layout changes, traffic is diminished – especially from your most popular top ranked keywords.
We know from studies that when people search, most of the clicks go to the top ranked sites. In fact, on a standard results page with 10 organic listings – over half the clicks go to the top five. Position one gets a whopping average click-through rate of 28.5% and it drops from there.
In the Beginning…
When we start an SEO campaign, the first step is always keyword research. Like always, we are looking for the keyword phrases that will drive tons of free traffic. Popularity, relevance, and competitiveness have always been the main components to good keyword research. But this is where it starts to go all wrong.
The most important consideration should be the SERPs landscape. You are not just competing with ten other listings. Today’s SERPs pages contain local service ads, shopping ads, paid ads, knowledge panels, featured snippets, local 3-pack and the list goes on. Most of these features appear above the organic results. Not surprisingly, this has a huge impact on your expected click-through rate.
What Causes your SEO to Fail?
When the search engine shows features above your highly coveted number one ranking – it’s a game-changer. If the SERPs contain a combination of features above organic results – the effect is compounded.
- SERPs with featured snippets have a click-through rate that is 5.3% percentage points below average
- When the SERPs are full of Google Ads – it pushes all CTRs down below average
- A knowledge panel in the SERPs pushes your number 1 position CTR from 28.5% to 16%
In the case pictured, we searched for “plumber near me”. The keyword phrase is definitely semi-broad but it has high intent. The top organic position is so far down the page – most of the clicks are being cannibalized by the local service ads, paid ads, and other features.
Consider Where the Click Happens
Look closely at your most desirable (highly popular) keywords. If you consider where the clicks happen, this is where you want to be positioned – whether it is the organic, 3-pack, paid ads, or other feature. I’m not saying to re-think all 100 of your keywords – just the top tier.
Group your top tier phrases according to the method needed to get the most traffic. Don’t ignore SEO. Definitely not. But traffic is your ROI goal – not organic positioning. Don’t be afraid to use paid search for any phrases that you deem critically important. Focus on local SEO for any keyword phrases that contain a 3-pack on the SERPs.
A Better SEO Campaign
You may have heard that keyword research is the foundation of any SEO campaign. But what does this really mean? It means that beyond popularity, relevance, and competition – you should know how the SERPs landscape shapes up for each phrase you consider important.
Long-tail keywords are going to perform better in terms of organic click-through rate because less features show up on the SERPs. Broad, popular keyword phrases generally have MORE features. If you want success in your SEO campaign, you have to change the methodology.
Focus your efforts on getting traffic, not positioning. Whether you are doing SEO yourself or you are outsourcing – keyword research is more important than ever. It should include a clear picture of the SERPs layout for any broad keyword that is expected to drive traffic.
After all, if it doesn’t drive traffic – is it worth it?