AOL Ranking vs. Click Data should be put in context

One of the hardest statistics to determine in Natural search engine optimization is how rankings on the SERPS affects click through rates and ROI. Ranking #1 leads to how many more clicks than #2? I thought I had myself an answer.

Recently AOL shared data with the world on anonymous search behavior that ended up being a PR nightmare. However some interesting information came from that mishap. Most notably was what percentage of click throughs occurred at each ranking position. On the surface the AOL data shows that 42% of users click on the first link, and 12% were on the second position.

However as I was reading the hitwise blog, or was it their newsletter--I can't find the report! I realized that in the travel space most of the top 10 search terms were branded like:

    Southwest United Airlines South west US Airways etc

Well lets be honest google has made us lazy, for some clients their top 20 referrers are all branded, many people actually type "" in a search engine to go to the site. So you may be wondering where I'm going with all of this? Here's the punch:

It is feasible that the 42% of people that click on the first listing it makes sense because they know exactly what they are seeking. What I would be interested in seeing with that AOL data is how click throughs compare on branded versus non-branded terms, as I would think that someone that types in "southwest airlines" is more likely to click on the first link (and probably not the second) because they found exactly what they were seeking. However someone that types in "cheap airline tickets" may not be seeking a particular company (or they would probably have searched for that company, right?).

This leads me to think that a search for a more generic term will tend to attract more clicks on many positions other than just the #1 spot.

The other question I have is how prevalent are branded searches? Well according to a hitwise study 75 of the top 100 searches involve trademarked terms. Many of these searches the top position are clicked often simply because most of the big searches include branded or trademarked terms. All the more reason why you should read our blog post on how big brands screw up search.

Just a quick example on the way out...Nike ranks #1 for "Nike" type in "Nike running shoes" and they are on page 3 in position #30! Oh when will they learn?

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Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President