Search Behavior & Why Ranking Above the Fold Matters

Search BehaviorSearch behavior ranges for each individual and the level of commitment and resolve a person exhibits when they embark on a search using a search engine is unique.

Why Ranking Above the Fold Matters, By SEO Design Solutions

Although the way we search is unique, based on the keywords and phrases we use, certain elements remain intact, such as the innate desire to click the search results above the fold.

Search Behavior, Relevance, Impulse & Convenience

When you have to take time and scroll (below the fold), that alone can detract the focus, which is why so many individuals simply click what they can see on the page (so much for being #7,8,9 or 10).

Others who simply will not settle for less than the perfect, most relevant result, may sift though countless pages obsessively until they find the right combination of relevance in the title and snippet. This is a dying breed in contrast to the impulse based, attention challenged “quick click” consumer(s) who want to get right down to business.

When too many choices are presented this typically leads to information overload, so for most searchers, they opt for emotional triggers in conjunction with relevant results when deciding which result to click.

Despite all of these search behaviors, one thing is certain, that ranking above the fold (the top 5 positions) can make or break a business as far as conversion and click through rates.

How Relative Search Positioning can Impact Visibility and Conversion

I recently performed an analysis for one of our clients (who ranks for extremely competitive one and two word combinations in their industry) and at this stage they are in the top 5 but not the number one position (yet).

After meticulously analyzing at the company that did occupy the number one position, their keywords are virtually the same (with our client), both have been hit by recesses in traffic due to the sales cycle of the industry (once again by almost virtually the same percentage) by one site receives 21,000 visitors and our clients site only received 7,500 in contrast.

Perplexed by this after spending hours researching both sites, it came down to the variable of search engine positioning. The point is, the top 10 is nice, but there is nothing like being number#1 (for a series of competitive terms) and ranking above the fold with a crisp informative title that screams click me at first glance.

As our conquest continues to “raise the bar” as well as build some links and authority for our client to raise their rankings higher, it just goes to show how click behavior can mean the difference between thousands of customers (and thousand of dollars) who are visiting the number one and two positions vs. your site that may be below the fold, less traffic equals less business equals less profit.

Things you can do to Increase Click Through Rates

Try using functional or emotional click triggers, keep titles focused by having one goal and reinforce it with benefits.

Examples like Using Too Many Keywords in Titles Reduces Reader Retention or How you Can Increase your Click Through Rate is an example of a functional title, just make sure that the page delivers the goods when they get there.

Now had it said, how you can increase click through, relevance and conversion it would create a more relevant search for someone studying this topic but the downside, is it also introduced two more potential keywords, which could make the page less appealing to a larger audience by confusing the reader regarding what the page is about.

Instead of making assumptions about where your clicks originate, check your server logs or stats and see which pages had the most hits as well as how long the average person stayed on the page. This alone can tell you all you need to know about your readers, what they like and just how long they are ready to commit to your content.

Other SEO Tips Include:

1) Reducing the Noise and Clutter on the Page Remove stop words, make your points more succinct on the page, then tweak and republish. This should give your pages new life in search engines.

Just make sure you have a backup just in case the spiders give it a thumbs down, so you can always upload the old page worst case.

2) Don’t starve your pages for Links – Lack of links to the root folder or the page with targeted anchor text (link starvation). It’s time of the page to hit the gym and bulk up a bit on inbound links, so don’t let your site suffer from anorexia, loneliness or depression.

Make sure to introduce your pages to new social media sites regularly, if you have made your rounds at Digg, try Mixx, or BloggingZoom, Reddit, etc.

Each of these will at least provide an immediate authority link to augment a slumping ranking and can be just what the page needed to get some traffic, which can also give it a boost in the search engines as a result of a traffic deluge (traffic matters).

3) Narrow or Broaden your Range of Keywords – not every person is concerned with how many search results are returned, they just want the one that has the closest resemblance to what they are looking for so make sure that your titles, snippets and tags send the right message.

To raise your relevance try linking pages with related themes or titles, then search engines will provide a double listing if they are similar. One less competitor on the page is always nice. Or on the contrary, branch out, target the long tail of search (less competitive phrases that have higher conversion) by building more links with diverse anchor text.

4) Write More Effective Titles with Click Triggers - Titles that are written with the keyword and benefit in mind have a higher percentage of conversion, so put those 65 characters to good use (No more than 8 words) words in the title, so they don’t get truncated with dots..or cut off in mid-word.

Conclusion:

Not to be one sided, it’s not always where you are on the page (above or below the fold) since there are different types of consumers who exhibit different search behaviors, but using a great benefit oriented call to action can also increase click through rates dramatically.

Try setting a mood through great content, an on-topic title and use a compelling meta description to outrank the competition, as far as on-page revisions you can make before you publish your work.

If authority is the goal (which it should be), try adding a few links to the mix as it can only hasten the authority process which is the real number one reason why pages rank in the top 3 positions, aside from page rank, links or other on or off page factors.

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3 Comments

  1. SEO Scotland Dot Net
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 7:55 am | Permalink

    I saw a stat recently that pointed out the top three results get over 65 per cent of the clicks.

  2. Brett Pringle
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    Nicely put. You’d probably be very interested in what Gord Hotchkiss from Enquiro in the USA had to say at the SMX London expo last year. Was an eye opener to the Search user intent, and the small things we know yet forget when trying to look at the bigger picture.

    Interesting point was that users that click on a PPC result between position 1 -3 usually bench the Ad against the top organic result. So for companies appearing both in the top PPC and Organic results recieve on average an estimated 8% increase in traffic.

    Narrow or broaden keywords… receiving traffic is one thing compared to converting that traffic into sales. Long tail is definitely your friend :)

  3. Jeffrey Smith
    Posted January 31, 2008 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    @SEO Scotland:

    I have heard something along those lines such as 70% to the number one position and the remaining 30% to the other 9 positions. In either case, the fold as we know it, is the cut off point for most who lack patience or are impulsive by default.

    @Brett:

    Very informative indeed, it would essentially reinforce ones brand as a result of concurrent listings. I personally employ the double listing tactic for organic which has a similar affect (not to mention, you push a competitor off the page as well).

    Thanks for the info…

19 Trackbacks

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    Search Behavior & Ranking Above the Fold

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