Obviously it depends on the search volume for whatever term you’re interested in. Some terms have a lot of search traffic, and others not so much.
Whatever traffic you’re getting for a particular term now, I can tell you what you’ll get if it moves up or down in the SERPs. There’s a calculator after the jump…
If you’ve been working in SEO for a while, you’ll probably remember when AOL published 20 million not-entirely-anonymous web queries, including the rank of the search result clicked by each user. This led quickly to an analysis of the clickthrough rate for the top 10 positions in the SERPs:
Total Clicks: 4,926,623
Click Rank1: 2,075,765
Click Rank2: 586,100 = 3.5x less
Click Rank3: 418,643 = 4.9x less
Click Rank4: 298,532 = 6.9x less
Click Rank5: 242,169 = 8.5x less
Click Rank6: 199,541 = 10.4x less
Click Rank7: 168,080 = 12.3x less
Click Rank8: 148,489 = 14.0x less
Click Rank9: 140,356 = 14.8x less
Click Rank10: 147,551 = 14.1x less
Chances are this chart was simultaneously invented by numerous SEOs, but this particular version was the work of “Breakpoint,” a member of the EarnersForum site (which went offline earlier this year). Breakpoint’s analysis used a sample of roughly half the clickthrough data available in the full AOL data set, and included only the top 10 positions.
I’ve reworked the analysis using the full set of AOL data, and extended it to cover the top slots on page two of the SERPs. This makes it easy to calculate the value of any movement, up or down, within the first 12 results.
To use the chart, find the row matching the old (or current) rank of your page, then trace your finger to the right, to the column representing the new (or desired) rank. Multiply your current traffic (measured in clickthroughs per day/week/etc) by the number in the resulting cell to find out what your traffic would be, given the SERP rank change you’ve projected. The color is simply a visual hint about whether you’re going to gain or lose traffic.
It’s not always realistic to think you can move your site to #1, at least not in the short term, but it’s reasonable that some focused effort could bump it up 3-5 positions. What’s that worth? For example, if you’re getting 500 visits per day from your #8-ranked listing, you can project that you’d get 1415 visits per day if you could jump to position #3. (500 * 2.83 = 1415)
This is a great tool for justifying SEO investments — or for avoiding them.
If you can put a dollar value on each clickthrough, you can quickly calculate the relative value of each increase in ranking. By the same token, for some longer-tail searches you might find that there’s just not enough upside potential to justify any expense at all.
Let’s revisit our earlier example: if you make an average $5 cpm for clickthroughs from search, and you think it will cost you $1500 (for content development, linkbuilding, etc.) to realize that +5 jump in the SERPs, your net gain of (1415-500=915) 915 new visitors per day would take 328 days to pay for itself: $1500 / (915 visitors/day * $5/1000 visitors) = 328. That seems like a questionable investment — but at a higher CPM, maybe it would make more sense.
Not only can you use this grid to project the value of and therefore justify SEO investments, you can prevent yourself from sinking a ton of energy into elevating your rank for keywords that just aren’t driving enough revenue to matter.
By the way, I’ll be at PubCon in Las Vegas next week. I’d be interested to hear your take on ROI for SEO. Please get in touch!