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It’s this simple. When given the choice between being ranked in the top 5 for good keywords or being ranked #1 for a great keyword, I will (after asking for further qualifications and some examples) almost always opt for the former. Search has changed dramatically in the last couple of years. As a result, above the fold for many is normally better than at the top for a few.
In reality, it isn’t that simple. You’d have to look at all of the factors to make an educated decisions. This general rule, however, works a vast majority of the time. The reason is based upon search habits. People trust Google and Bing to be a guide but not necessarily to be 100% accurate. In the past, the clicks for the top-ranked listing received the lion’s share of the clicks. #2 got fewer but still more than the rest, and so on, and so forth.
This is still the case for very specific searches. For example, if someone searches for “Dell” and dell.com is at the top, it will get over 90% of the clicks. However, for searches that are more general, the ones where the searcher is looking for options such as “Seattle Dodge Dealers”, the gap in clicks between #1 and #5 is minimal. In fact, there are times when the #2 or #3 listings get more clicks than #1.
People doing these general searches are looking for possibilities, not to have a definitive answer. Searching for “Seattle Dodge Dealers” gives them options. From there, they decide which to click on based upon reputation if they know the dealerships, the listing titles, descriptions, and position on maps when appropriate. The look at reviews, domains, and even previews in some cases. The point is this – being “above the fold” is the first goal. Moving up to the top is the second goal.
Some might wonder why we would only shoot for being above the fold. In most cases, the effort it takes to get a site moved up from #5 to #1 is about equal to the effort it takes to get several keywords into the top 5. It isn’t that dealers shouldn’t strive to be #1, but they shouldn’t do so at the detriment of getting more keywords driving traffic to the site. From experience, we’ve seen where the benefits are highest for dealers.
Step 1, get as many keywords into the top 5 as possible. Step 2, once a good chunk of the possibilities of valuable keywords are in the top 5, it’s time to circle back around and push those listings up higher. It’s not as glamorous as focusing on getting a few keywords to the top and forsaking the rest, but it’s definitely more effective in the long run.