The infamous #1 position for a search result. This fabled creature has been the goal of countless business owners, digital marketers, brand marketers and the like. All of the data supports that the #1 result receives the largest percentage of organic clicks (outside of the paid ads), so of course this is the ultimate goal.

However, those on their unrelenting quest for this top spot need to keep a few things in mind as the #1 position doesn’t always mean glitter and gold. In the ever changing landscape of search engine optimization and search engine marketing today, #1 means less than ever. Here are 4 reasons that being #1 on Google, really isn’t that important.

1. Placement

The most important reason you don’t need to fight for the top organic spot anymore is the placement of organic results. Over the last decade, Google has made it clear that ads and other content are taking precedence over organic results. Google has been slowly moving organic results further and further down the page. Just take a look here at this example of a typical Search Engine Result Page (SERP).

Google SERP Page
The first true organic result is buried below several ads, images, maps, and depending on the search, even more. More content is being added to the SERPs, and consistently pushing organic results further and further from the top of the page.

The first spot in organic search results has significantly changed over the last few years. Videos, ads, news articles, Twitter mentions, AMP pages, and images are all taking the prime real estate in SERPs. Putting effort into these other types of content is often a better way to be seen in most cases, rather than simply trying to organically reach the top.

2. Relevant Keys

For some reason several businesses seem to be under the impression that they need to be at the top for the most generic broad keywords possible. Let’s take a fictitious T-shirt company “Doug’s T-shirt Emporium” based in Tampa, FL that specializes in custom printed shirts. Often times, businesses such as Doug’s T-shirt Emporium would target and measure their success off of ranking for keywords like “t-shirts” “shirts” or “custom printed”.

T-shirt Google SERP Page

When looking at the SERP, there are a number of different types of t-shirt results that appear. Some are about types of t-shirts, others are about custom printed shirts and everything in between. The point is general keywords are too broad to really target customer intent. Someone simply searching “t-shirts” could be looking for photos of t-shirts or looking for cool ideas to copy. On the other hand someone searching “custom printed t-shirts pricing” or “custom printed t-shirts in Tampa” is much more likely to make a purchase, and is the person you want finding your business online.

3. Metrics Lose

The advantages of being on the first page of Google are obvious. There’s more visibility, more impressions, and more clicks. A study done by Chitika showed that 33% of all search traffic goes to the website in the first spot.

SERP Page CTR

All of the extra traffic is terrific, but businesses often don’t consider that their top performing keywords may lose the stellar metrics they’ve seen in the past. Here is a snapshot of the metrics for a few organic keywords that made large jumps in average position up to the first 10 results. After the jump, they saw their CTR completely drop off the the face of the earth.

SERP Impression Change

CTR may not be important to some companies, but to others that’s how they measure the success of a campaign. Other metrics like bounce rate, time on page, and page views can all take a significant hit when ranking higher for keywords. In several cases, being in one of the top spots on Google is nice but the extra clicks a month don’t always make up for double digit losses to key metrics.

4. Cost

Return on investment is often the most common metric companies use to measure the success of a marketing campaign. With organic SEO it’s often hard to attribute sales and revenue to the improvements made in search results. Most companies only think about the added traffic to their website, but not the true cost of getting onto the first page.
MOZ did a survey a few years back to get the average price from SEO agencies over the country. After their research MOZ found that in the US the average hourly price of SEO services is roughly $150.

Hourly SEO Rates

A company hiring an agency to create an infographic to help with SEO can expect the project to take around 10 -15 hours for the completed deliverable. After the infographic is completed to get the most traction out of the piece, expect to spend another 10 – 15 hours on outreach and link building. At $150/hour the total price for one content piece and outreach could be between $3,000 – $4,500. Paying a few grand a dozen times or more in a year adds up very quickly.

If a company decides to do everything internally the cost of ascending the Google ranks can be even steeper. Every hour a team spends on content is an hour they aren’t spending on any other aspect of the business. Most projects aren’t done by one person so several people per day are tying up hours a day. Looking at the actual time and effort to create content it may twice as much to do it internally, and tie up precious resources for weeks at a time.

The content marketing game is a marathon not a sprint. Long term, a website has to be turning out content on a consistent basis to compete for the top spot. To reach the top of organic search, it takes time, money, compelling content, and a lot of effort.

As Google continues to manipulate the layout of the SERP, it’s hard to gauge the effectiveness of being on top of organic search results. Content marketing efforts aimed at generic terms like “hats,” “marketing,” or “t-shirts” are time consuming and aren’t nearly as profitable as long tail keywords.

Quality long tail queries are the terms users are searching with the intent to take an action. Search terms at the bottom of the sales funnel are the terms that drive traffic, revenue, and online growth. Next time you think about getting to the top of a search page remember all the pros, cons, and effort that goes into it….. and remember that you can always just pay to run ads at the top of the page anyways.