You can have the most attractive website of all your competitors. You can hire usability experts, professional photographers, and the greatest PHP developers money can buy. If you aren’t on the first page of Google, you might as well be from Mars. Sorry.
Why? It’s not that we don’t value what you have to offer. It’s that we, the search engine using public, are too hard-pressed for time and/or lazy to bother to look for you. According to a study done by iProspect, 49% of us change our search terms and/or search engine after not finding our desired result on the first page. This compares with 40% in 2007, 42% in 2005 and just 28% in 2004. Only 8% of us actually bother going past the third page.
As useful as vertical search was, we really didn’t use that either until May of 2007. That’s when Google integrated the formerly hard-to-find vertical search results into their primary search engine results…on the first page. Since search engines began blending their news, images, and videos into standard search, we now click on more news results (36% vs. 17% before), more images (31% vs. 26% before), and more videos (17% vs. 10% before). So now that we actually care about this stuff, perhaps you should start caring too.
Why do we click on the news more frequently on the first page of Google than we would if we actually bothered to go to the “news” section? Apparently, being on the first page somehow indicates to us that you are big and important. In 2008, 39% of search engine users believe that the companies whose websites are returned among the top search engine results are the leaders in the field. This figure has grown from 36% in 2006, and 33% in 2002. Another 42% feel neutral on this question, with only 19% believing that the top search engine rankings do not automatically indicate an industry leader. We don’t understand backlinks or clean code–we understand “first”.
Does this sound unfair to you? Put up a page explaining how search engine results may not necessarily equate with a website’s relevance. Just don’t make it too hard to find, please.
To see more of iProspect’s findings on why being first in vertical and standard search results is so important, please see their recent case study on Blended Search.
About Michelle Greer