Today I learned that 62% of SEOs are less focused on #1 rankings than five years ago.
For years, search engine marketers and specifically SEO professionals have focused on getting their keywords to that ever-elusive and super competitive #1 spot in the search engines. Specifically, we have been hyper-focused on ranking #1 because we’ve believed that they get more traffic and therefore better leads/conversions. The search results are constantly in flux, though, as shown via Dr Pete’s Mozcast Metrics and Algorithm Change History. And recently Google removed the sidebar ads on desktop and implemented 4 top ads (just for hypercompetitive queries, they claim).
The good folks over at ConversionXL recently conducted a study about how searchers look at Google’s search results. Entitled F-Patterns No More: How People View Google & Bing Search Results, they tracked searcher eye movement across different search results. Back in the day, they made an “F pattern” in how they viewed the results:
ConversionXL’s new study shows that in 2016 searchers no longer view the search results page (SERP) in this way as the SERPs have become more complex with different ad types, rich snippets, and more:
This study made me wonder if how SEOs think about ranking #1 has changed over the past few years. The algorithms have become more complex, user habits have changed, and mobile pushes the search results further down on the page, with some people even showing that ranking #2 or #3 on mobile may get more clicks than #1:
Do SEOs Care As Much About Ranking #1 As 5 Years Ago
Five years ago was 2011. Almost exactly five years ago the Panda algorithm rolled out and turned the SEO world upside down. A little over a year later came Penguin, which turned the SEO world upside down again. Content marketing burst onto the stage as link building interest declined:
So I asked in a Twitter poll:
SEO friends – Do you spend more or less time focused on #1 rankings today than 5 years ago?
Here are the results:
SEO friends – Do you spend more or less time focused on #1 rankings today than 5 years ago? (for a post)
— John Doherty (@dohertyjf) March 3, 2016
I am amazed! 62% of SEOs focus less on #1 rankings, 12% focus more, and 26% focus about the same on #1 rankings. Here are some of the tweet replies I received, and I’d recommend you check out the follow-on tweets from the tweet as well because there were some interesting discussions.
@dohertyjf Yes. Rank status is now 4th on my list of KPIs tied to SEO as a marketing tactic.
— Stuart Blessman (@ST_U2) March 3, 2016
@dohertyjf Less, especially at the enterprise level.
— Sam McRoberts (@Sams_Antics) March 3, 2016
@dohertyjf Voted, More for head terms, overall focus is on total search traffic. With info from GWC rankings & volume flow into our work
— Dennis Goedegebuure (@TheNextCorner) March 3, 2016
@dohertyjf Less, but that’s because I got 99 problems and #1 rankings (slash SEO ego) isn’t one of them. Yes, you can quote that 🙂
— Ed Fry (@edfryed) March 3, 2016
@dohertyjf Kinda surprised. Y’all know there’s more clicks in the #1, right?
— Ian Howells (@ianhowells) March 3, 2016
— Eppie Vojt (@eppievojt) March 3, 2016
— David Cohen (@explorionary) March 3, 2016
— victorpan (@victorpan) March 3, 2016
@dohertyjf ps sorry I missed your poll, out on the road, clients typically ask for page 1 ranking plus help with conversions & content ideas
— Darren Moloney (@Darren_Moloney) March 3, 2016
So what about you? Do you care as much about #1 rankings in 2016 as you did in 2011?