Note from Caleb: This is a guest post from Tom Ewer of Leaving Work Behind.
There are many mistakes you can make when conducting keyword research. You must be disciplined in your methods in order to avoid the potential hazards. Fortunately, there is a great deal of advice on the Internet regarding keyword research. If you read up on the subject and carry out your research in a considered and objective manner, you will have a good chance of avoiding disaster.
However, there is one important metric ignored by many keyword researchers that is just as important as traffic estimates when deciding upon the viability of any given keyword.
What is this metric? Google organic search click through rate.
First Of All – Conventional Wisdom
Many of you are likely familiar with Market Samurai. I use it and find it extremely valuable. There is however certain data produced by the software that I completely ignore. Search Engine Optimization Traffic (SEOT) is one such metric that I completely disregard when carrying out keyword research.
Market Samurai’s SEOT calculation is based upon the infamous AOL data leak of 2006. In short, they calculate SEOT by multiplying the estimated number of searches by 42%. The problem is that the data from the AOL leak is almost completely useless.
There are many reasons for this. For one, the data is 5 years old. Web users are a very different breed nowadays. It is also based upon usage of the AOL search engine – which is nothing like present-day Google. The data set is also aggregate-based – i.e. it assumes that each user only clicks on one result. I could go on.
The AOL data is seemingly the most widely-used when estimating search engine conversion rates, which is rather concerning. Please, disregard conventional wisdom.
So what study should you look to? Well, there is certainly plenty of data available. There is just one problem – none of the studies agree with each other. To give you an idea of the scale of the problem, take a look at the information below. It is taken from six data sets (including the AOL data), collected between 2004 and 2011.
The graph is a graphical representation of the percentage of visitors that click on each position in Google according to each study. The table reveals the percentages.
The table below that shows the percentage point swing from the lowest percentage data point to highest percentage data point, per ranking position, across all studies. So for instance, the Slingshot study predicts the lowest click through rate for the top spot in Google (18.20%), and the Cornell study predicts the highest click through rate (56.36%). The swing in percentage points between those two numbers is a huge 38.16%.
What does this mean for you? Well, let’s say that you are targeting #1 spot in Google for an exact match keyword that is searched for 15,000 times per month. If you used the Cornell study, you would expect nearly 8,454 visitors per month from that one keyword. If you used the Slingshot study, you would expect just 2,730 – 32% of the visitors that the Cornell study predicts.
Take that one step further – let’s say you do some calculations, and decide that each unique visitor to your site is worth, on average, $0.05. Depending upon which study you reference, your monthly income projection for the above hypothetical keyword will be anywhere from $136.50 to $422.70. That is a big difference!
Now let’s really throw a spanner in the works.
Take a look at these screenshots:
I’ll take your organic search results, and I’ll raise you social media, photos, You Tube, news feeds, local listings, maps, and of course paid placement. Then we’ll throw location-based results tailoring, and custom results based upon your own personal search history into the mix.
How on earth can you make an accurate judgment as to what your conversion rate will be with so many variables in play? The fact is, you can’t. There are some things that you can do though.
Consider The Taxonomy Of Web Searches
The following information is derived from the study, “A Taxonomy Of Web Search” by Andrei Broder, who is the vice president of search advertising at Yahoo. He produced this report whilst he was with AltaVista. The numbers presented in the report are rather interesting for our purposes.
According to Broder’s survey, 24.53% of searchers were looking for a particular brand. Your site may be completely overlooked by the majority of such searchers, if they are in fact looking for a brand name website that happens to contain certain keywords that you are ranking for.
Only 8.16% of searchers were in ‘buying mode’. Say if you are running an online tennis store and are targeting rather ambiguous keywords, such as ‘tennis’. Your click through rate may be extremely low for that keyword, even if you rank #1 in Google, as less than 10% of searchers typing in that keyword are likely to be in a buying mood. Of course, this percentage should increase with more commercial keywords, such as ‘tennis racquet reviews’.
If you find a keyword that seems to have great traffic, low competition and good commerciality, pause for thought – will the searchers be attracted to your site? Is it a good fit?
On Site SEO
I find this is something that is often overlooked or undervalued – your site’s meta title and description. I cannot understate the importance of these two key meta tags.
Put yourself in the shoes of someone who comes across a list of sites on Google. Now, the order of the sites is definitely a key factor in determining where they will click, but searchers are unlikely to click even on the #1 result, if the title and description does not match what they are looking for.
This is one area in which you can have a tangible impact on your search engine conversion rate. Make sure that your site’s title and description are tailored to your understanding of the searchers’ intent.
The more keywords you rank for with your sites, the more data you will collect, which in turn will begin to provide you with a fairly good idea of the kind of conversion rates you can expect. I am not saying that you should ignore the above reports or any other available data for that matter – you should digest it and use it as part of your estimates. But ultimately, stay conservative so that you do not get any nasty shocks down the line.
Although this article is filled with data and studies, the key point is very straightforward. First, always carefully consider what your search engine conversion rate may be, and always err on the side of conservatism when finalizing your estimates. And second, ensure that your site is optimized for the audience you are targeting, otherwise despite high rankings, you may never receive a great number of visitors.
What experiences have you had with organic search click through rates? Have you experienced particularly high or low click through rates based upon the projected traffic, and if so, what has the experience taught you about converting organic search engine traffic?