There have been several search studies that have indicated 70% of all clicks in search occur within organic listings. One of the more notable is a 2004 iProspect study. Fortunate to have a vast amount of various company data available to me, I wanted to dig into whether this was really true – since I spout this number out of my mouth all the time!
In my wanderings I came across a 2009 study from Penn State University performed by researchers Bernard Jansen and Amanda Spink: “Investigating click through behavior with integrated sponsored and nonsponsored results” The study of more than 7 million search logs concluded that only 15% of the clicks were paid listings. The study also indicated that 80% of the queries were informational in nature, 10% transactional and 10% navigational. Digging into the data I had available across various companies. I looked at brand terms that were ranking first organically and also first in the paid sponsorship listings. The table to the left shows a fair sampling of what occurred.
You see in the table when the brand term was ranked #1 in both sponsored and organic listings that roughly 75% of the clicks were organic . 75% falls between the general notion of 70% and the PSU study of 85%. I then looked at several non-brand terms that were in the top position both organically and sponsored. Here I saw that roughly 60% of the clicks were organic. Somewhat in line with rational thinking since the user of a brand knows specifically where they want to go, whereas a general search they are trying to determine who can meet their needs and the paid copy may be slightly more call to action oriented than the organic listing. I also looked at some generic terms that fell below the #1 ranking organically, but was #1 in the sponsored. Here roughly only 25% of the clicks came from organic. These positions were generally between 3-10. Hence it really highlighted another known maxim – that organically it is imperative that you rank in the top positions. My conclusions is that we should all be fairly safe indicating that in general organic search results are roughly 60-75% of all clicks.
The PSU study concluded that the difference between the top postitions and bottom positions (position 1 and position 10) organically is 20-30%. I would argue that the delta is in fact MUCHgreater than 20-30% from position 1 and 10. I base this on on my recent findings as well as when I worked at Yahoo, we generally saw a snowball effect where it dropped 10% in click-thru-rate for every position you dropped – it is quite a slippery slope. This Inhouse Adventures Study showed the top organic spot would get 57% of the clicks where as the 10th position would only garner 2%. Other interesting items I came across are that women are more likely than men to trust and click on sponsored listings (43% vs. 34% respectively Source: 2004 iProspect Study). Also that even if you don’t get a click, if you are in the top half of the page that your brand shows a lift in brand awareness of roughly 30%. Which is a good thing, because other studies show that 35% of all search queries don’t result in a click. Which also tells us one thing we all know – search result results have significant room for improvement.