Any search professional worth his or her salary can cite search click-through rates (CTR) off the top of his or her head. No matter the study they cite, the basic idea is that the higher up the search page the result, the higher the click-through rate.
Knowledge drives strategy and this CTR knowledge means search marketers have long been focused, often exclusively, on reaching the holy grail of search: position 1. In the context of a static, link-driven search page, this strategy has long made sense.
Search Results Have Become Dynamic Media Billboards
Today, search results inevitably contain rich media such as images, video, reviews and map packs. In a previous job, I analyzed search results and found that 8 out of 10 high-volume search results contained rich media of some kind.
Marketers’ laser focus on reaching the top of the rankings, combined with the proliferation of rich media in the search results, led Blue Nile Research to design a study that tested for the degree to which searchers click on rich media results below position 1 vs. a non-rich-media result in position 1. (Disclaimer: I am the founder and CEO of Blue Nile Research.)
If the starting hypothesis stands up — that searchers will be drawn to rich media results farther down the page — it will force marketers to rethink their deep focus on position 1 and to consider if there are other ways of driving click-through beyond the “top of the SERPs or bust” mentality.
Testing Searcher Response To Rich Media
To test searchers’ response to rich media in the search results, the study looked at three distinct rich media scenarios, among the most commonly occurring in search:
- Star reviews.
- Author images.
- Map pack (three-pack).
The study showed respondents search results pages with the target brand enhanced in position 2, and separately, unenhanced in position 1, then tested the degree to which they would click on each.
13 Percent Lift For Rich Media Result In Position 2 Over Non-Rich Media In Position 1
When we look at the overall click results across all three scenarios, we see that the rich media-enhanced result in position 2 captures an average of 61 percent of clicks versus 48 percent when the same unenhanced result is in position 1. That’s a lift of 13 percent. The same unenhanced result in position 2 receives 35 percent of clicks, a lift of 26 percent.
These findings strongly support our initial hypothesis that a search result enhanced with rich media can outperform an unenhanced search result higher on the page.
Conclusion: Expand Your Thinking Beyond Position 1
In our research, users tell us loud and clear that they would sooner click further down the page on a search result enhanced with appealing rich media than on position 1 containing a plain, text-only link.
These imbalances in click-rate can be even more pronounced when looking at individual rich media scenarios (such as only “star reviews”) rather than the average of all scenarios (See the full study for more).
For marketers seeking maximum CTR, this means a shift in the way the search results pages for relevant keywords are viewed.
Three primary takeaways for marketers emerge from the research:
- Change Your Thinking. Marketers must accept that rich media in the search results changes the “position 1 or bust” paradigm. A laser focus on position 1 blinds marketers to other opportunities to appeal to customers throughout the page and is a mentality that must be updated.
- Know Your Landscape. Rich media opportunities and results differ dramatically from one search term to the next. In order to act on and benefit from their correlations, marketers must be well-versed in where the opportunities exist within the search results pages of individual keywords.
Capture The Low-Hanging Fruit. As you develop a long-term plan to capture rich media opportunities in your search results pages, be sure to act on those elements you can immediately control. Capture reviews on your site, or partner with a review vendor. Claim your business’ local registration with Google. Leverage markup on your site. Such actions give you the best chance of appearing in rich media in the search results page and to benefit, as a result, through increased traffic on your site.