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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.


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.


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.