By Kevin O'Keefe

Search engine rankings have it all over sponsored links : Three studies

Great article in StepForth’s SEO Blog about how much more important high listings in the search engines are than paid-ads that appear on the side and top of sites like Google and Yahoo.

Over the past three years, independent research has consistently confirmed that search engine users tend to click on the center column organic (free) ads far more often than on paid ads.

Points out that advertisers pay five or six figures per month for sponsored links which are less effective than organic optimization which costs low to mid four figures a month. (Heck, an optimized blog at LexBlog costs low three figures – two hundred bucks a month and clients get a ton more.)

The three studies focused on were the Eye Tracking research conducted by Enquiro CEO Gord Hotchkiss, a whitepaper published by Lisa Wehr, CEO of OneUpWeb titled, “Target Google’s Top Ten to Sell Online and a study by Cornell professor Thorsten JoachimsAccurately Interpreting Clickthrough Data as Implicit Feedback.

Hotchkiss found search user’s eyes tend to follow the basic F (or triangular) shape when examining search results. Their eyes go heavy to the top and left before moving to the right. In addition, per Wehr search users are up to 6 times more likely to click on the first few organic results as they are to choose any of the paid results.

The conclusion of the article:

First of all, it is extremely important to be found at the Top of the search engine results. Being in the Top 10 is likely sufficient for many businesses but the sites getting the most business are found at the top. To further these findings, Gord and Lisa’s research clearly shows that searchers are choosing organic placements over paid-ads.

Secondly, the copy used in your Title tag and site content has to be more compelling than that of your competitors. Search users are reading before clicking. If they have to make a choice between three sites that are all perceived to be equal (those in the 3 rd to 5 th positions), they will almost always choose the one with the most topically relevant descriptive text and link-copy.

Put together, the results of the three studies show that search engine users are able to tell the difference between paid and free listings and tend to trust the free organic listings more than they do the paid ones. The studies also show that search users, while still tending to put a higher bias on the Top 5 results are becoming sophisticated enough to seriously consider descriptive copy before choosing to select a link. In other words, the search users are starting to make what appears to them to be the wisest choices when selecting search advertising. The advertisers are advised to do the same.

Law firms and other companies ought to wake up and look at ways to improve their rankings on the search engines. As most folks know blogs are great way to do it.

Kevin O'Keefe
About the Author

Trial lawyer turned legal tech entrepreneur, I am the founder and CEO of LexBlog, a legal blog community of over 30,000 blog publishers, worldwide. LexBlog’s publishing platform is used on a subscription basis by over 18,000 legal professionals, including the largest law firm in each India, China and the United States.

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