I originally planned on calling today’s MediaPost column “Feeding the 5,000, Ten Plagues, and First-Page Rankings,” in a reference to miracles. My wife thought it was too obscure and wordy. I let MediaPost’s editors break the tie and they agreed. So, now that it has a more logical title, enjoy the rest of the column, originally published in MediaPost.
Minor Miracles And Major Feats of First-Page Rankings
Nate Elliott by Alex Dunne via Flickr
Videos are more likely than text to get on
the first page of Google’s search results, according to Forrester
Research’s Nate Elliott. This is a huge story, but there’s an even
bigger angle: getting on the first page of Google’s search results is
really, really hard.
I missed Nate’s initial blog post, but fortunately caught the subsequent NewTeeVee analysis.
NewTeeVee reported, “Videos are 53 times more likely to appear on the
first page of search results than text pages…” In a single sentence,
this sums up the need for the importance of including videos as part of
a search engine optimization program. Done — I’m sold.
the comments to Nate’s post for a few other perspectives, like Max
Kalehoff describing how the viral nature of great videos makes them
search engine bait, and Billy Ye noting how video results have a
relatively fleeting presence in the top rankings compared to Web sites
that maintain their authority more consistently. All of this matters,
but if you have any video assets, you must consider how
you’re optimizing them. Say Nate’s analysis is off and the real effect
is 23x or 10x instead of 53x. Would you treat the study any
differently? I wouldn’t.
The numbers grew even more
staggering. Nate blogged, “There were an average of 4.7 million text
pages competing for a place on results pages with an average of just
9.4 text results — giving each text page about a 500,000-to-1 chance
of appearing on the first page of results.” Odds are, since you’re
reading this, you probably have a professional or deep personal
connection to some Web site or another. I’d say the odds of you
Googling that site from time to time are pretty high too. If you Google
a popular query and the site ranks on the first page, you’re witnessing
a minor technological miracle, and a marvel of dedication by the rocket
scientists you have working with you.
Nate looked at 40 of the
most popular queries, so his study is focused on terms that are
extremely popular. These are areas where there are massive amounts of
content developed, both intentionally (to compete for prime search
engine rankings) and organically (almost as a rule, popular queries
will also be popular subjects for people and businesses to naturally
create content around).
The research makes certain case
studies seem all the more remarkable. One of my favorite SEO
practitioners is a doctor in Dallas who has been optimizing listings
around Google long before many of his patients were finding him that
way. As I was writing this, I ran a search on “dallas botox,” a popular
and competitive term; Google Trends notes that five of the top-10
cities in Texas indexed for searches on “Botox” are in the Dallas-Fort
Worth Metroplex. This doctor appeared as the top local business result
and four of the top-10 organic listings, translating to five first-page
rankings. I didn’t see any ads for him this time, presumably because he
calculated that with five first-page rankings, he can allocate his
Google says 92,700 results are competing for
a spot on the first page, and while I’ll allow Nate to calculate the
odds of the doctor’s feat, Dr. Adelglass should be pretty proud of
himself. The odds of getting just one first-page ranking are daunting
enough, but five? I’m not just applauding him because he’s my
father-in-law (if I really wanted to kiss up to him, I’d plug his main
site, Skintastic.com, which
is all about “making you more beautiful™”; on that note, please don’t
ask for the slogan of my father’s gastroenterology practice). I just
happen to be related to a guy who epitomizes what you can achieve in
the face of these now quantifiably insurmountable odds.
There’s a lot you can do with Nate’s research. He provides a roadmap
for the opportunity for video optimization, and you can go to town
supporting your video strategy with YouTube Insights, as I described in a previous column.
As with any research study, I also keep thinking of the follow-ups I’d
like to see. How well do videos appear in the less frequent mid-tail
searches? And what if this was applied beyond video? What are the odds
of a business ranking on the first page of Google above the main
natural search results in the local index, as my father-in-law does?
And then there are books, images, products, and news, to name a few
other universal search categories.
After reading over Nate’s
work and the related coverage, I’m left amazed by the odds against
marketers, and it gives me even greater appreciation for this field
I’ve been involved with now for half a decade. I’m even all the more
impressed with the Skintastics out there who saw this coming long
before “Google” was a verb.