SEO experts have always said that ranking #1 in Google Organic Search results for your target keywords is the ultimate goal.
It's their mantra, and it usually goes something like this:
"If you rank #1 in the Google Organic Search Results, you'll get more traffic than any other website on that page."
Up until recently, I believed the same thing.
The #1 spot in the Google organic results used to receive 50% or more of all traffic, but that was because it was the first listing people saw.
It's Time To Challenge That Statement.
Does Being #1 In Organic Results Mean Anything in 2019?
The whole thought behind trying to rank #1 in organic search results is based on one thing: Being at the top of the list. Naturally, the top search results do get more clicks than ones further down the page or on subsequent pages, but if you've been a digital marketer as long as I have, you'll have noticed by now that it doesn't seem like the number one spot performs as well anymore.
Many SEO Specialists tell their clients that the performance drops are due to Google's complex search algorithms that are always changing or that it's due to a buggy Google A.I..
While that may be true to some extent, it definitely isn't the whole story.
Google Search Result Page Layout in 2019
The other half of the story is pretty simple.
It's the way that Google now displays search results.
You might not have even noticed the changes over the years, but for many search queries, the first Organic result isn't at the top anymore.
In fact, it's so far down, that you have to scroll past the "fold" to see it (The fold is the bottom of the visible part of the page).
As you can see, Google has essentially buried the first organic listing.
Obviously, if being #1 in the search results was all based on being at the top of the page, then it's fair to say that trying to rank #1 doesn't mean much anymore.
When it comes to small business listing searches, people generally aren't interested in the organic listings anymore either. They are searching for meaningful information such as hours of operation, telephone number and perhaps the address. If you're running a restaurant, people will probably want to view your menu as well.
Even if the user does a search for your business name directly, they're probably more interested in the Google business card on the right than clicking on your organic listing.
This goes back to my post a few days ago about the importance of making sure your Google My Business listing is as up to date as possible.
As you can see from the image above, Seva, a very popular restaurant in Ann Arbor, Michigan is at the top of Google for their name, which is expected. On the right, there's the Google My Business card that offers links to the site, directions, reservations and other information.
The user either has eaten here and just needs business information or they are looking to try the restaurant out.
In the first case, the user has eaten at Seva before and wants information about hours or to view the menu (they don't have a menu link in the Google card - Tsk, Tsk).
In the second case, the person has never eaten here, but has heard about the restaurant and thinks they might like to try it. This type of person is forced to visit the website because there's no menu link in the Google My Business card. It's possible that they might not even do that if they're on a phone. The chances are better they'd click the Website link in the Google card than the link in the organic search results.
In either case, the organic listing isn't as relevant to a person interested in a local business as the Google card on the right (or above the organic listings on a mobile phone).
So, for small business, does ranking number one in Google searches really help your business?
The answer is deceptively simple: Yes, but not from the traditional "get more traffic" standpoint. Having that top listing in the organic results gives your potential customers confidence that you have a real business and that it's doing well. On a subliminal level, people are programmed to think that any business in the #1 spot on Google is the best business. It helps to sell the visit, but it may not lead to increases in traffic to your website.
Then Should Local Small Businesses Still Try and Rank #1 In Google in 2019?
I believe that yes, it's still worthwhile to try and rank for relevant keywords. This helps build trust and authority, but again, you may not see large increases in traffic unless you're an online retail B2C business or similar. You're doing the SEO to help build value, credibility and sell the visit.
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