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How important is it to rank #1 in the SERPs?

When carrying out SEO activity, every SEOer strives to get all their core keywords ranking at position #1 on the SERP (search engine results page). But how important is it?

Position #1 is the Holy Grail in natural search, however in the past just being on page 1 for a core search term was good enough. But ranking at position #1 is now tougher than ever before with challenges ranging from competitor’s SEO activity and budgets, to paid ads, as well as position #1 not always being the ultimate goal (Google is always offering new opportunities).

One of the main challenges are paid ads. A major change occurred in February, with Google introducing a 4th paid ad at the top of search results and removed all side ads. This meant natural search results were pushed further down meaning Google could control 80% of the results above the fold creating a major concern for natural CTR (click-through-rate) for the results below the fold. Below is an example of a SERP and how the paid ads dominate the space.

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Other challenges and opportunities include rich snippets and mobile search that push position #1 results further down and below the fold. With ads taking most of SERP real-estate above the fold (all when looking in mobile search), the importance of ranking #1 is as high as ever, especially when looking at the business point of view: The higher your website ranks -> increase chance of click through -> increase traffic -> increase conversions -> increase revenue.

But as mentioned earlier, position #1 might not be the ultimate goal, with Google offering other opportunities to rank above natural search results, such as rich snippets. Below is an example of a rich snippet result: Age UK’s result above the first natural search result.

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All Response Media Viewpoint

Despite the challenges, the opportunity for SEO to drive business performance is as high as ever, but to drive (long-term) performance, a full SEO strategy is required. There are over 200 ranking factors that contribute to where a website/page ranks. The points below are a summary of activities/tactics that can help your website rank position #1 or as high possible giving them the best chance of high CTRs:

  • Quality and relevant inbound linksLink acquisition activity to acquire those inbound links that will positively impact SEO performance
    • What to link to? – Great on-site content such as interactive content
  • Content, content, content.
    • On-page content to drive relevancy
    • Content promotion (paid platforms as well on social)
  • Focus on other relevant keywords
    • If core keywords are too competitive, focus on a range of other relevant keywords that are less competitive and with search volumes that match or exceed the original core keywords
  • Technical and UX
    • Technically optimised website lays the foundation for all SEO activity
    • UX is being an increasingly important ranking factor for Google

However, is this enough?
To truly dominate the search results, SEO should be part of a full SEM (search engine marketing) strategy. An SEM approach is more important than ever as it can allow websites two bites of the cherry. For example, if a keyword used for paid ads doesn’t convert, that keyword could rank position #1 in the natural search results thus increasing the chances of it being clicked there.

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