I have written a number of articles about the importance of being found in Google, especially for B2B marketing.  Though Google AdWords is a great way for businesses to start getting immediate results for search engine marketing -- in the longer term, we think the optimal strategy is a balanced approach to PPC (pay-per-click) efforts like Google AdWords and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts.  Too often, businesses get very used to the "morphine drip" of Google AdWords and forget that there are other ways to draw traffic from search engines. 

It is widely believed by search marketing experts that more people click on the "unpaid" search results on the left in Google (vs. the AdWords on the right).  Question is, just how much more?  And, though everyone knows free is better, how much better?  Is it really worth all the time and effort to try and rank in the organic search results?

Lets take a look at one small example within our own company.  We are now ranking for the term "internet marketing software".  This is a good thing, because, as it turns out, that precisely describes what we do. HubSpot ranks #6 for this term in the unpaid/natural results.  This gave us 25 visitors last week  So, 25 people  searched on that phrase in Googlek, saw us in the results, and clicked through to our website.  This is not that much traffic, but even then, we would have had to pay Google $183 for this traffic because the average CPC (cost-per-click) is about $7.32 for that phrase.  So essentially, we're saving over $700/month on just this phrase alone and getting lots of great qualified traffic to our site.  This is what gets us excited about SEO.  But, let's look at some more data.

Most people know that in order to actually be found in Google, you need to be on the first page of results.  But where on the first page, exactly?  Well, recently I looked at a variety of data from Enquior and Marketing Sherpa to compile some aggregate results on Google searches, specifically to see "where the action is" or where people looked and clicked.

Here is an eye tracking image of the first page of Google showing what areas people looked at the most.  Red shows the areas where more people looked for longer periods of time, blue areas got less attention, and grey not much at all.  I discussed heat map images before in the article "3 Hot Marketing Tips from Heat Map Analysis"  But here I wanted to go a step further.  What I have done is overlayed some statistics on the heat map image to show where people click.

google heat map

google eye track heat map seo vs sem


Here are the key takeaways from the data and the images above:

1) Organic results get 75%+ of the attention.  People don't click on the ads nearly as much as the organic results.

2) The first organic result gets over 25% of all clicks.  Within the organic results, the first result gets the most clicks by far - more than double the second result.

3) Within the ads, the first ad also gets the most clicks.  But, since you pay per click for the ads, you should care less about volume and more about if the traffic will actually convert and what your cost per lead and cost per sale will be.

4) There are a good number of clicks on all top 10 organic results.  Even the last result gets about 3% of people to click on it - this is about the same rate as the second pay per click ad, and unlike the ad, its free!

Note: Google heat map images from Marketing Sherpa.

SEO kit

Originally published Jul 26, 2007 12:22:00 PM, updated March 21 2013

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