A few months ago I came across this CTR report from SlingshotSEO that I found incredibly interesting.
Instead of the usual CTR report just telling us what percentage of clicks the first ranked website will get (which is the main reason every website owner is gunning for that number one spot), SlingshotSEO compared the results of their study with similar studies conducted over four years by other companies. That comparison is what I found most interesting about the study. It showed that over the past few years, the percentage of click-throughs for the top 10 spots have actually dropped dramatically.
For instance, a CTR study conducted by AOL in 2006 found that the first-ranked website garnered 42.1% of all clicks. By the time SlingshotSEO came out with their study in late 2011 that number had dropped to 18.2%! Across the board, every single one of the top 10 ranked positions has lost huge amounts of click-throughs over the years. So what does this tell me about searchers behavior and the future of SEO?
First and foremost, searchers are getting smarter every day. They know that just because a website is ranked first in the search engines that may not automatically mean it's the best website for them. While many searchers trust Google to deliver the best (and well scrubbed) search results, most searchers understand that some site owners are doing everything they can to trick Google into ranking their website first. That coveted number one spot in Google doesn't mean nearly as much to a searcher as it does to the website owner. Savvy searchers are more than willing to dig through a few pages of the SERP to find exactly what they are looking for and will easily jump from site to site to find it. Just because your site is ranked first doesn't mean you are going to get the click. And even if you do get someone to click over to your site, there is no guarantee they are going to stay put.
Secondly, the declining CTR tells me that SEO alone is not enough to earn consumer trust. Having a strong online brand presence does involve SEO, but brands also need to be heavily invested in social media marketing and content marketing as well.
Brands need to create as many touch points as possible with their online marketing because the more times you can connect with a consumer the more chances you have to earn their trust.
Too often website owners are looking for a direct line from one touch point to sale, making it easier to prove which tactic is the more useful. For instance, they want to be able to say that this Facebook post lead to two new sales leads. Unfortunately it isn't that black and white. Yes, that Facebook post may have been what touch point delivered that visitor to your site, but how did they come across that post? Chances are that isn't the first time they have interacted with your brand.
Especially in the B2B realm, consumers are less likely to make a snap buying decision. Purchasing $100,000 worth of equipment is a much bigger decision than deciding where to eat lunch. That B2B consumer is going to spend a lot of time in the research phase of the buying cycle, trying to learn everything they can about potential vendors and which one is right for them. Ranking first in the search engines isn't enough to convince that B2B consumer that you are the best solution to their needs, especially if they have never heard of you. The rest of your online marketing has to give your target audience a reason to connect, engage and work with your company.
Building consumer trust to the point where someone is ready to convert takes a lot more than ranking well in the search engines.
Your brand has to become a trusted source of information and interact with your target audience in every aspect of their online life in order to build that rapport that leads to conversion.
About the Author: Nick Stamoulis is the president and founder of Brick Marketing, a Boston social SEO and white hat link building firm. With more than 12 years of industry experience, Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting SEO tips in the Brick Marketing Blog and publishing the Brick Marketing SEO Newsletter, read by more than 150,000 opt-in subscribers.