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ROI on Incremental Position Gains

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, August 21, 2006 at 11:17 pm

In the last 12 months as an in-house SEO, my Holy Grail of Web analytics has been quantifying what each gain in position (i.e., ranking on results page) is worth. It’s a hard thing to just test since there are so many variables beyond your control. Clearly the first position is more valuable than the third, which is more valuable than the seventh. But how much more valuable?

Each rise in rankings gets exponentially harder the closer you to the top. So, would my goals be better served if I prioritized moving a listing from the #11 spot to the #10 spot, or should I try to get a current #5 listing to move up position #4? Or what if I tried to get a bunch of Page 3 listings onto Page 2 — would half a dozen pages on the second page be worth more than a one position increase on the first page? If my optimizing a page a certain way moves it from the #5 spot to the #3 spot but causes a 1% drop in conversion, is it worth it? What about from #4 to #3 — would it still make sense to sacrifice one point in conversions to go after traffic?

Thanks to the AOL snafu, SEOs now have a little more visibility into search user behavior.

It should come as no big surprise that 50% of searches result in clicks on the top 2 results. That still doesn’t answer any of the questions I posed above.

But by analyzing AOL’s treasure trove of user data, and based on some data shared in EarnersForum.com the folks over at SEO Black Hat have come up with a tool that attempts to quanitify the value of each position change (in terms of traffic, not $).

From the forum:
Based on 9,038,794 and 4,926,623 total clicks:

  • Ranking Number 1 receives 42.1 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 2 receives 11.9 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 3 receives 8.5 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 4 receives 6.1 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 5 receives 4.9 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 6 receives 4.1 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 7 receives 3.4 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 8 receives 3.0 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 9 receives 2.8 percent of click throughs.
  • Ranking Number 10 receives 3.0 percent of click throughs.
  • The rest of the Long Tail (ranks 11-1000) = 11.3 percent of click throughs.

To put it another way:

  • Search Engine Ranking #1: 2,075,765 clicks
  • Search Engine Ranking #2: 586,100 clicks = 3.5x less
  • Search Engine Ranking #3: 418,643 clicks = 4.9x less
  • Search Engine Ranking #4: 298,532 clicks = 6.9x less
  • Search Engine Ranking #5: 242,169 clicks = 8.5x less
  • Search Engine Ranking #6: 199,541 clicks = 10.4x less
  • Search Engine Ranking #7: 168,080 clicks = 12.3x less
  • Search Engine Ranking #8: 148,489 clicks = 14.0x less
  • Search Engine Ranking #9: 140,356 clicks = 14.8x less
  • Search Engine Ranking #10 147,551 clicks = 14.1x less
  • Search Engine Ranking 11+: 501,397 clicks

If you then factor in market share owned by each engine, you can approximate how many clicks your various positions are getting — or at least that’s what SEO Black Hat’s tool tries to do. (Hint: you need to enter the frequency number Overture gives you for your particular keywords, no commas in the number.)

However (a big HOWEVER) AOL’s organic results don’t even show up above the fold on my screen, AND AOL users tend to be less tech savvy in general. Since the top of AOL’s results pages are more heavily PPC laden than Google’s, and because it’s been proved that AOL users’ search behavior differs from that of searchers using other engines*, I wouldn’t extrapolate too much. The data provide insight, not indisputable truths.

* Needs citation.

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Category: Data

17 Million out of 20 Million Searches Are for "Free"

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, August 17, 2006 at 11:28 am

The Wall Street Journal quantified the leaked AOL data to reveal that over 17 million separate searches (out of 20 million) involved the search for something “free.” Free was followed by “new,” “lyrics,” “county,” “school,” “city,” “home,” “state,” “pictures,” “music,” “sale,” “high,” “map,” “center,” and a three letter word that starts in “s” and ends with “x.”

On the other hand, the Washington Post says that out of more then 36 million search queries, the term most often queried… drum roll… “Google.”

Huh? Are we talking single-query searches or each keyword separately even if part of a phrase? Need to think a bit harder about how exactly that works out because the “truthiness” of it is suspect (unless a lot of people were searching for “free Google” and/or the two papers are looking at different sets of users).

As for the phenomenon of people using one search engine to search for another… well, that’s been covered before.

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Category: Data

Gonna Try Blogger Beta

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, August 15, 2006 at 5:16 pm

Google is testing a new version of Blogger. I’m going to switch over to the new platform. If everything goes to pot and things stop working… well, that’d be why.

More later…

Added: Okay, it’s later. That duplicate posting issue wasn’t a Blogger Beta bug; that was just me being impatient and hitting “Publish” twice because Blogger was being sooooo slow. Turns out I wasn’t allowed to switch to Blogger Beta yet. Another case of Google announcing something widely but limiting who can sign up. (Speaking of which, Google Analytics is now open to anyone sans invite).

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Category: Navel-Gazing

Windows Live Stalling, Microsoft Lacks Commitment

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, August 11, 2006 at 7:11 am

Niall Kennedy, formerly of Technorati, quit his job at Microsoft after only 4 months, saying the company lacks commitment to the online services platform he was tasked with creating, and that it failed to provide him support and resources. His project was to include unified systems for integrating address books, RSS feeds, photos and other user content across the Windows Live platform. According to Kennedy, Microsoft expected him to accomplish the task alone, which was impossible.

Read Niall Kennedy’s blog posting about his departure from Microsoft.

Many months after Microsoft announced Windows Live to some fanfare, very little has been heard about its progress. Now it appears that’s because they’ve had a single person working on it. Ha! I’m surprised they allowed Kennedy to publicly announce his reasons for leaving, especially since his reason makes it clear that the company’s trash talking about its search competitors isn’t backed up by anything.

Even I have three people working for me, and I’m not tasked with trying to overthrow Google!

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Category: Uncategorized

How to Make Money With AdSense

Posted by Melanie Phung on Monday, August 7, 2006 at 4:52 pm

Step One: Build a Crap Site

To make a site work good with AdSense or Overture the first step is in building a site that is totally useless or close to it. This is an important first step because you don’t want your visitor hanging around your site, you want them clicking an ad and finding another site. Otherwise you don’t make money.

So starts a wonderfully honest post on the topic of How to Make Money with AdSense Sites — the beginning of a thread by janeth on the WebProWorld discussion forum.

This isn’t one of those Pollyanna posts about how useless sites are evil and don’t really work — janeth claims she was doing about $10k a month with these made-for-AdSense web properties (although spending about $6k on keeping them running). In the end she’s getting out because the business model was too unstable for her.

Steps Two Through Ten: The Crappier the Better

If you really are interested on what it takes to earn a living on these ad-only sites, read the rest of her (somewhat snarky, but actually quite informative) post about what it’ll take to earn money as an AdSense publisher. (Then check out the leaked AOL query list to figure out which keywords you should be targeting.)

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Category: Blogging,Monetizing