To run a successful business in a digital world, the general consensus is you have to be on top of Google’s search results page. The desire to rank number one is only natural considering the highly competitive market we’re in. As it is, the coveted top rank for brands remains, well, coveted.

There is nothing wrong with aiming high, but it could be time to re-sort your priorities. People are slowly shifting to the belief that top rankings are not the end-all-and-be-all of optimization success. The top-ranking page does not always generate the most search traffic.

Ahrefs conducted a research study where they analyzed more than 100,000 non-branded search queries with at least 1,000 monthly searches. Results showed that the top-ranked page gets traffic only 49 percent of the time while the other 51 percent is accumulated by any page that ranks between 2-10 spots.

This opens up an interesting discussion: Could it be really possible for lower-ranked pages to outpace the highest-ranking page in terms of search traffic?

The answer is yes. Many people who are obsessed with rankings fail to discover the importance of search engine optimization (SEO). Securing a top spot does not necessarily equate to SEO success. Instead, the goal is to generate traffic, regardless of position, and convert organic visitors into customers.

Here’s why ranking first place hardly affects your business:

Why Is Ranking Number One on Google Overrated?

SEO clients may ask, “Can you take my website to the top spot for any particular keywords? How long will it take to reach it? How much will it cost?” It is difficult to answer these questions, but there’s a way to keep clients informed.

You can discuss rank tracking by introducing certain factors. The factors include keeping in mind where organic listings appear on the search engine results page (SERPs). Google has been sliding more advertisements and features above the top-ranked web pages on SERPs. There are also other things Google has been featuring in recent years.

They are as follows:

  • Google Ads Google Ads often push organic results down the page. A Google Ads campaign takes you up the SERP. 
  • Paid listings Paid listings are not as effective as they used to be. They simply blend in, which helps ads generate a higher percentage of clicks.  
  • Localized listings The first listing featured in localized listings can also be paid.
  • Less organic listings If you subtract the localized listings, the homepage only features nine organic listings.
  • Organic listings are pushed down – The paid and local listings show first, which causes the listings below to get fewer clicks.  
  • Featured snippetsThe featured snippets quickly answer the user query and have a People Also Ask (PAA) section. These two features dominate the SERP, shoving down the organic listing and many pixels away from the top of the page. 

Also, the featured snippet takes a lot of space, which limits the monthly organic traffic to 7,959, according to Ahrefs. The first organic listing, on the other hand, is estimated to only get 1,521.

In a 2019 study done by Nielsen Norman Group, results showed the first link listed on SERPs only received 28 percent of clicks, compared to 51 percent in 2006. This drop suggests a change in people’s search behaviors and mindsets over the decade.

On top of this shift, organic listings are dragged down because of all the Google SERP features. This is because users are focused more on paid ads than organic listings, which do not rank high as they once did.

What Should You Do? 

Stop worrying about your customers not finding you at the top spot. And instead, redirect your efforts to what comes after – their interaction with your site. Your page’s position on Google still indicates SEO success. But here’s what you need to pay most attention to: user experience and traffic analysis. 

Create a Positive User Experience 

Google takes care of its users, and that means serving users content that they need. They also want to push the site that’s easy for users to navigate, explore and get information from. So, focus on creating this experience by asking these questions:

  1. Are the page and its contents accessible? 
  2. Are they useful?
  3. Are they desirable?
  4. Are they credible?

By focusing your design and content efforts around these factors, you’re able to meet your visitors’ fundamental needs as they interact with your site pages.

Double Down on Your SEO Strategies

There are various SEO strategies that boost your UX efforts and maximize your chances of converting leads into sales. These strategies, if applied right, should keep your visitors on the page.

Site Architecture

Pay close attention to how you set up your navigation, category pages and product pages. The site should also reveal the most helpful content and reduce the number of times they have to click on it. 

  • Make it simple and scalable
  • No page should take more than three clicks to hop to another page
  • Create highly relevant page URLs and subdirectories

On-page SEO Strategy  

On-page SEO is done to make sure that keywords are in the right places to increase your SERPs visibility. Use keywords in URLs, metadata, image text and H1, H2, H3 tags.

Focus on Other Metrics 

  • Web rankings – This includes featured snippets
  • Absolute rankings – It includes ads and all the other features of SERP
  • Feature rankings – This includes all SERP features
  • Offset – Pixel position of ranking measure from the top of the page
  • Page – The ranking page

All these will push you to look beyond Google’s top-spot ranking. And instead, concentrate on things like pixel position and all other SERP features that give you a bigger picture of your performance.

Analyze Search Traffic 

Analyze your web traffic wisely using the Google Analytics tool and get reports from the beginning of your site’s creation till the present. This will help you identify which areas of your site are working well and which areas need fixing. A sudden drop or rise could be a red flag.

You can also use the Penguin SEO tool to compare your analytics with algorithm updates. This will tell you if you have been penalized or not. Each line correlates with the Google update neatly. 

Key Takeaway

Search engine algorithms evolve constantly, and so should one’s perspective on ranking.

Nowadays, people seek out information that is relevant and valuable – and whatever result is at the top isn’t guaranteed to give them what they want. They know this now. While ranking on SERPs remains a sensible objective for marketers, having a broader view of other performance metrics should be the ultimate goal when it comes to lead generation and conversion. User experience, on-page content and on-page SEO – these all work together to boost your conversion efforts in a way that goes beyond SERP visibility.

As we know, conversions are solely capable of up-scaling your business. And it seems expanding the focus from top Google ranking to more holistic conversion rate optimization strategies is the only way to get a leg up in today’s highly informed and constantly evolving market.





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By Margaret Blank

At the moment I am an expert-analyst in the field of search engine optimization, leading several projects and consulting on website optimization and promotion, I am actively involved in various thematic seminars and conferences.

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