Chitika Insights- The “Dirty” Secret of Being #1 on Google
Chitika Insights: The “Dirty” Secret of Being #1 on Google

This is a guest post from Andrew Waber. He is a PR analyst at Chitika Advertising Network.

Back in late July, Bryan O’Neil published a post on this blog detailing his opinions as to the value of organic traffic.

In Bryan’s own words “in reality organic traffic is far less valuable and more risky than its paid counterpart,” using several examples including volatility, effort , and competition as key pillars to his argument. Of course, a post like this generated a wide range of opinions in the comments section, but regardless as to how you feel on the topic, it’s admittedly a very broad subject.

At Chitika Insights, we tapped into data from our publisher network of over 300,000+ sites to answer another related question: is all organic search traffic created equal when it comes to potential ad revenue?

Back in June, Chitika Insights published a study examining the value of each Google result position. Analysis of the data revealed that the first position on an average Google search engine result page (SERP) garnered about 33% of Google search traffic, with largely a classic exponential drop off in traffic at each subsequent position.

Obviously, a Web page’s traffic is just one possible key performance indicator (KPI), with ad conversion rate, commonly known as CTR, being another.

The Study from Chitika Insights

To study how CTR varies depending on the Google result clicked, Chitika Insights examined tens of millions of online ad impressions in which the user was referred to the page via a Google search. From the referring Google URL, Chitika is able to extract the position that the webpage was on within the prior search results page.

From this, Chitika can measure what percentage of Google traffic comes from each position of the search results page. The data set was drawn from a date range of August 1 to August 7, 2013 and is representative of U.S. and Canadian Web traffic only.

An index was created to graphically represent the data. “100%” refers to the Google rank at which corresponding visitor CTR is maximized. If a point is “70%”, for instance, that means that the observed CTR from that rank’s corresponding visitors is 70% of the CTR at the peak.


Note: all percentages mentioned in the above graph are indexed CTR and not actual CTR.

The results show that, on average, of the first 100 positions on a given Google SERP, the highest CTR was from users who visited via clicking on the 10th link, rather than the first result. In fact, visitors who were referred from the first position had the lowest CTR among those in the top 100 search results.

Surprising, right? Let’s take a step back to the decision-making process that likely contributes to this behavior.

A Searcher’s Decision-making Process

Generally speaking, the chance of any user clicking on an ad increases when that user finds something that they are looking for in the form of an ad. For example, a person that searched for “headphones” is probably more likely to click on an ad relating to headphones or music as compared to an ad on an unrelated topic.

So what’s different when someone goes to the first result on a page?

It’s reasonable to assume that most users who click on a link in first position are keenly focused on what they are looking for and/or have already found what they need. A person searching for “Whirlpool refrigerator” who saw the top result as addressing what they were looking for, will likely be “all business” – buying or researching based on that result since they found so much value in it.

Along the same lines, when a user scrolls down and clicks on a link at position 10, it is more likely that they have not found exactly what they were looking for, increasing the probability of that person clicking on an ad related to their search query.

However, leaving aside these possible behavioral causes, what is clear from the data set is that although the first position of a Google search result drives the most search traffic, an average visitor coming from that link is the least likely to convert into an ad click.


Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should tailor all your site’s SEO efforts to focus on attaining the 10th ranking for a given term. If your daily traffic is already high, say hundreds of thousands to millions of visitors per day, looking to maximize CTR by way of your Google placement may be a worthwhile idea.

If, however, your daily traffic is low, the first priority should be to increase site visitors before going after that smaller number of higher-value users.

With these caveats and the traffic breakdown by Google SERP ranking in mind, what these statistics point to is that for high volume search terms or phrases in particular, the 10th position is a great place to be.

On a popular search term, 2.4% of potential visitors still represents a sizable audience, and by being the number 10 result, it’s likely a site will see higher ad revenues. However, for lower volume or specialized search terms, it’s much more useful to rank as high as possible in order to attract the largest audience, since the proverbial “pie” of users on those terms is already fairly small, along with the potential revenue impact of higher visitor CTRs.

Knowing how a site ranks on key terms in Google can also help point to the best ad revenue option – cost-per-mille (CPM) for sites ranking generally higher and cost-per-click (CPC)-based ad revenue for those which generally rank closer to the bottom of the page.

Thoughts or questions? Let me know in the comments!

About the Author: Andrew Waber is a PR analyst at Chitika Advertising Network. You can follow him at @ChitikaInsights.

Thanks to Stuart Crawford for the photo!

  • anon

    “in reality organic traffic is far less valuable and more risky than its paid counterpart,” depends on a few things. how much your paying to maintain or increase your organic traffic. if it costs nothing but doing a little restructuring of content every week or two for a few hundred or thousand incoming search queries, that’s a great deal. ive had organic projects receive a ton of traffic with no attention paid to the site after creating it, ive also seen competitor sites plummet after an algorithm change. it just depends how your leveraging your marketing strategy to get a an ROI that is positive, and hopefully scalable; I’d like to mention that PPC is a very solid traffic source however the ROI of SEO projects can be way higher if executed properly. Food for thought 🙂 – guest

    • Olle Lindholm

      Thanks Anon for sharing your experiences!

  • Syed Haider

    Now I am double minded….. weather to stay organic or use paid marketing

    • Olle Lindholm

      Hi Syed,

      Maybe you can think of a way to do both?

      • Syed Haider

        Olle Lindhom,
        Can you suggest a book or a blog to get my self started in best to get out of Paid marketing…. Cau I have no idea where to start..


        • Olle Lindholm

          It depends on what kind of paid marketing you want to try, Syed. If you’re interested in pay-per-click and SEO strategies, I’d check out the SEO book and maybe also the PPC blog. They have some useful stuff on there. Hope this helps. And good luck with your online ventures!

  • Bob

    Worthless post. How do I get to number 1 on google?

    • Jp

      I agree talks a lot and says nothing.

      • Michael McDonald

        Like most of the junk on the Flippa blog


    I am trying to get some traffic but it’s working too much slow, Please visit my blog and give me some suggestion.

    • Get to position 10 in Google and add Ads… lol


        lol 😀

    • I don`t know much about getting traffic to your site but on your “recently added” bit at the top of the page you should consider slowing it down if you can, it`s way too fast to read it scrolling past, (unless your used to american film credits). 🙂

  • Scanner

    Such a stupid Title!
    The contents of this post has nothing to do with the title, this is misleading the users. OMG, when you handle the clients also in this way in your network how you write blog posts then….

  • Dave

    This is so far off I couldn’t read it all.
    Of course a PR guy for a paid service would make such claims.

    “in reality organic traffic is far less valuable and more risky than its paid counterpart,”


    Flippa, you need some quality control on what you post.
    You’ve burned this bridge. That post was crap.

    • Hektear

      That’s a quote from the previous article…

      • Hektear

        Plus Chitika isn’t even involved in paid Google ads. Reading comprehension is part of reading.

  • rakesh Narang

    Deceptive title…poor information.

  • Adam

    umm… Im confused. so is this saying that a 50% better conversion rate with 2.4% of the traffic at position 10 is somehow better than having 33%+ of the total traffic?

    Does this assume that someone can only handle like 10 visitors per day to their site? Why would you possibly not want as many conversions as possible?

    Who cares what your conversion percentage is… its about making sales. 30 sales out of 100 is still much better than 2 out of 4.

    • Andrew

      Hey Adam, we presented this more as a study of user ad clicking behavior – indeed, getting a high number of visitors should be the first priority (as was explained in the conclusion). However, for more established websites with healthy traffic levels, and high-traffic keywords/phrases, this knowledge of ad CTR behavior can help inform SEO decision making. Obviously, the applicability of these data, and the corresponding strategy, will vary depending on a website’s revenue focus – e.g. we’re talking about online ad CTR, so it may not concern a site with a revenue model centered on making sales directly to the user themselves.

  • Tielman Cheaney

    This was really interesting. It’s a pity that some commenters were unable to get past the second paragraph.
    I don’t see a practical application for this knowledge, but it’s always good to understand more about search behavior.

  • Isn’t this because of the nature of Chitika contextual ads vs. Google search algorithms?
    I mean, ads will always be appropriate with the content, while search results lose quality as you get far from #1…
    Place *should* in above sentenced as you like 😉

  • ofer

    Extremely poor numerical analysis. The traffic decreases exponentialy with each ranking and CTR increases somewhat linearly – you are still ahead of the game being ranked higher. So according to the graph position 10 has twice the CTR than position1, but poistion 1 has 15 times the traffic – so position one still has 7 times more click throughs than position 10

    The explanation of why clickthrough is higher at position 10 is however valid.

  • Tribbl, Inc.

    And the moral of the story is that it is a huge pain in the ass to get on the 1st page of google!

  • Frank

    Really don’t agree at all with you post, in fact I think it’s awful.

    • Olle Lindholm

      I’m sorry to hear that Frank. We always try to add different perspectives on the blog, but we don’t necessarily have to agree with what they say. The point is to make us think and always be open to new approaches and insight that we might not previously have considered.