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Leaked AOL data: the importance of top search engine rankings

Earlier this month, AOL released sensitive search data detailing 20 million searches preformed by 658,000 subscribers. While the AOL data obviously raises privacy concerns, it can contain useful information for search engine marketers.

Which result page gets the most clicks?

The AOL data allows us to find out how many people visit more than one result page on AOL:

Percentage of clicks per search result page

91.63% of the AOL users clicked on the results on the first result page. Only 4.49% clicked a result from the second result page, 2.19% clicked a result on the third result page and even less people looked beyond the first three result pages.

Which search result position gets the most clicks?

The AOL data also allows us to find out which search result gets the most clicks. The following diagram shows the percentage of user clicks per search result position:

Percentage of user clicks per search result position

Being #1 on the search results is best by far. 47.16% of the users clicked on the first result. That means that the first position in the search results gets almost half of the traffic.

It this also true for Google and Yahoo?

The numbers are for AOL users. Google and Yahoo users might be from a different demographic group than AOL users and they might have different search behavior. AOL users are often less tech-savvy, when compared to Google users.

What does this mean to your web site?

The AOL data shows how important it is to be listed on the first result page. The higher your search engine rankings are, the better.

To be listed on the first result page on Google and other major search engines, optimize the content of your web pages and make sure that your web site has good inbound links.

Optimized web page content and good inbound links are the most important factors for high search engine rankings. If your web site has both, it will be ranked on the first result page of all major search engines.

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August 2006 search engine articles