Case Study: Ranking #2 in Google Means Being the First Loser (61.1% Less Traffic)

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Recently, I had one of my niche sites jump to #1 in Google for my target Keyword.

After reaching #1, my site is currently fluctuating between #1 and #2 which leads to dramatic impacts on traffic that I want to share with you.

My stats show that ranking #2 leads to up to 61.1% less traffic than ranking #1.

Background

This site is a small affiliate site (as described here) that just has a few pages of decent content plus a couple of text links to a Clickbank product (the site doesn’t use e-mail opt-in).

I haven’t done any SEO or added content to this site for more than 4 weeks. This illustrates how it takes a while for Google to index your backlinks and rank you appropriately.

Also, I don’t rank for any other keywords besides my main keyword. I currently receive 100% of my Search Engine traffic from people typing in the main keyword (or slightly altered versions of it).

The ranking

I track my rankings with Market Samurai. On of the main reasons why I decided to purchase Market Samurai is because of its rank tracking module – the free alternatives that I mentioned here are just not good enough and too much work if you have a large number of sites plus multiple keywords for each site.

Rankings of my site. (Source: Market Samurai)

On November 22, I hit #1 in Google for my main keyword. On November 25, my ranking dropped to #2 only to be back at #1 on November 30.

Impact on traffic

Search Engine traffic to my niche site (Source: Google Analytics)

You see how my traffic peaks (36 visits) on November 22 (I’m on #1). It drops off drastically on November 24 as I fall to spot #2 – I only got 14 visitors that day – that’s 61.1% less traffic than on Nov 22.

On November 30, I’m back to 35 visits as I hit #1 again.

About my data: I dropped to #2 on Nov 25 according to Market Samurai. The traffic drops off on Nov 24 in Google Analytics. Keep in mind that ranking changes don’t occur at 0:00 sharp but just randomly during the day. The Google Analytics data shows me that most of Nov 24 must have been spent on rank #2. Likewise, most of Nov 21 was probably spent on #1.

Impact on Clickbank hops

A Clickbank hop occurs every time somebody clicks on one of my affiliate links for Clickbank products.

Clickbank hops for the product that I'm promoting. (Source: Clickbank Analytics)

The amount of Clickbank hops varies in line with my altered rankings that effect search engine traffic (that’s the only form of traffic my small site relies on).

The hops peak on November 22 and 30, as I hit #1 in Google. (Strangely, I’m also doing well on Nov 28 & 29 even though I’m ranking #2 at this point. Seems random to me.)

You see that I get a Click Through Rate (CTR) of about 25% which is decent, but I probably can do  better. E.g.: On November 30, I get 38 visits and 9 hops, which is a CTR of slightly less than 25%.

Conclusion

My results show the importance and the dramatic impact of ranking #1 vs. ranking #2. Thus, it certainly is worth the energy and effort to bring your site to the top spot, even if you are already ranking #2. If you hit #1, your traffic will double overnight.

My results are also in line with many online marketers who predict that 40-60% of people click on the 1st result while about 20-25% click on result #2.

Another interesting conclusion is that Google still is by far the most important search engine for traffic. Even though I’m ranking #1 in Yahoo, it is responsible for mere 2% of my site’s traffic. (Bing sends me 0% of my visitors, I just got ranked at the bottom of the first page a couple of days ago.)

Photo by Jakob Montrasio

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Jamie December 6, 2010 at 1:18 am

Great job David, sounds like something that you can really scale out.

Quick tip…. If you want to get Google to take note of your backlinks quicker just build some social media links, around 30 does it, Googles usual response time is around 2 to 4 days.

Reply

David December 6, 2010 at 1:34 am

Thanks for the tip, Jamie.
I submit some of my backlinks with Onlywire to sites like Reddit or Digg.
I’d guess that even if Google indexes your backlinks faster, they’ll probably still take their time to rank you accordingly.

Reply

Joe December 6, 2010 at 1:47 pm

Its always good to read about others experiences of what happens when you rank in Google.

I’ve had very different experiences to you with my sites. Some even get more hits lower down page one.

I guess it all depends on the niche and the other sites in the SERPs.

Reply

David December 8, 2010 at 1:15 pm

Thanks for your comment, Joe.
I guess it also depends on your meta description. If it is good, you’ve a good chance of getting chosen above pages that rank higher.
It’s still interesting that you had better results when ranking lower.

Reply

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