Columbus, Ohio SEO Expert | Jacob Stoops

How To Estimate How Much Traffic You’ll Gain By Increasing Your Rankings

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In this article, I’ll teach you how to estimate how much traffic you’ll gain by increasing your rankings. By understanding search volume and click distribution among the SERPs you can estimate how many visits you’d stand to gain or lose by moving up or down in the rankings. Knowing how much traffic you may stand to gain or lose by moving up or down in the search engine rankings is critical in terms of allowing you to sell the value and potential business impact to folks within your organization or to potential clients.

The first thing you’ll need to review would be the concept of Click Distribution by SERP Ranking. This basically refers to how user’s clicks are distributed throughout the Top 10 SERP rankings.

If you recall, there are limited data sets available within the search industry regarding the distribution of clicks. I’ve taken the liberty of averaging all of the known data sets together in an effort to consolidate the percentages into one percentage. Here’s what I came up with for the click distribution percentages in SERP results.

  • Position #1: 45.46% of all clicks
  • Position #2: 15.69% of all clicks
  • Position #3: 10.09% of all clicks
  • Position #4: 5.49% of all clicks
  • Position #5: 5.00% of all clicks
  • Position #6: 3.94% of all clicks
  • Position #7: 2.51% of all clicks
  • Position #8: 2.94% of all clicks
  • Position #9: 1.97% of all clicks
  • Position #10: 2.71% of all clicks

Total: 95.91% of all clicks occur on Page #1 of SERPs

SERP Rankings, Search Volume, and Click Distribution

Lets follow this logic…by monitoring your search rankings, examining search volume, and applying the distribution percentages you can begin to get an idea of how much traffic you’re likely to receive based on where you rank within the search engines.

Lets work on an example. In our example, we’ll say that you’re a nationally prominent seller of dog supplies. Over the past few years you’ve worked really hard and are now ranking #10 for the term “dog supplies.”

By using the Google Adwords Keyword Tool, you’ll see that the key term “dog supplies” receives 74,000 Global Monthly Searches.

Dog Supplies - Search Volume Example

This is the first place where it gets a little tricky. Which search volume number do you use? This depends on your business type and how realistic you wish to be about the quality of your traffic.

If you’re a global brand like Petco or Petsmart then its safe to say you should use the Global Search Volume number. However, if you’re brand is more local within your country, you should go with the Local Monthly Search Volume (Note: Your Local Monthly Search Volume constitues the search volume generated by your country, in my case the United States).

Now, lets apply our initial logic.

“Dog supplies” generates 74,000 global monthly searches and we’re currently (fictionally) ranking #10. Based on our original click distribution percentages, we should receive 2.71% of all clicks. If that’s the case, we should currently be getting approximately (carry the one, minus the blah blah) 2,005 visits. That’s 74,000 x 0.0271. Make sense?

Now, lets make another connection. Let’s imagine that you’ve worked really really hard – built your links, ate your spinach, said your prayers – and achieved the #1 ranking for the term “dog supplies!” Good work.

Based on the percentages, we’ll now take 74,000 and multiply it by 0.4546. This SERP position should give us approximately 33,640 visits. That’s a big jump in traffic and clearly shows you how valuable the #1 position can be in terms of gaining additional traffic. But how much did you gain?

Okay, let’s put this last piece together. Take 33,640 visits minus 2,005 visits and you’ll see that you stand to gain 31,635 additional visits by moving from position #10 to #1.

Quickly, let’s apply this logic backwards. Let’s say you’re ranking #3 and slip to #6. At the #3 position you should expect around 7,467 visits. At position #6, you should expect around 2,916 visits. That’s a slip of 4,551 visits! That’s a lot to lose and can be the difference in gaining or losing a lot of web revenue/exposure.

The Flaws in this Logic

Now here’s the disclaimer. The above logic is flawed. It assumes that every search result is absolutely perfect and only includes the 10 organic listings – nothing else. We know that’s false.

The search results of this day and age are what I like to call “muddy.” The reason I call them Muddy SERPs is that there are so many different types of results that are injected right into the natural results that may draw a click away and water down the click percentages (local, news, social, etc).

Here is an example of a Muddy SERP result:

You can see how different types of listings are injected into the natural SERPs

In addition, there are different types of searches. Different search contexts certainly impact the patterns in which people click around the SERPs, which in turn may affect the click distribution percentages.

Different types of search classifications is discussed in detail by Aaron Wall over at SEOBook. These types are Navigational, Transactional, and Informational.

  • In general, for navigational searches people click the top result more often than they would on an informational search.
  • In general, for informational searches people tend to click throughout the full set of search results at a more even distribution than they would for navigational or transactional searches.
  • The only solid recently-shared publicly data on those breakdowns is from Dogpile [PDF], a meta search engine. But given how polluted meta search services tend to be (with ads mixed in their search results) those numbers were quite a bit off from what one might expect. And once more, they are aggregate numbers.

Another thing that may affect how the numbers that Google may not show are the number of searches that don’t result in a click. With the new Google Instant Search feature, I know that many of my searches are abandoned quickly without a click if I don’t see what I need right away. This type of behavior may not take place on the other two major search engines, but Google is ahead of the curve in this regard.

The Smartest Thing To Do

The best thing you can do is knock at least 30% off of whatever number you have, and then you may have a more accurate estimate of the real traffic that may come in by being at a certain position.

So with that logic we’ll re-approach our original example. Remember, we were ranking #10 in which we were garnering 2,005 visits. Remember, we moved to the #1 position which represented 33,640 visits.

Let’s slice 30% right off of both of those numbers. The #10 ranking will probably garner closer to 1,404 visits rather than the original estimate of 2,005 visits. Likewise, the #1 ranking will probably pull in something closer to 23,548 visits rather than our original estimate of 33,640 visits.

This means that you ultimately stand to gain around 22,144 visits per month by moving from the #10 SERP result to the #1 SERP for the term “dog supplies.”

There it is! You’ve done it. You can apply this logic – however flawed – going forward to attempt to estimate traffic gains/losses by fluctuations in SERP rank.

Note to readers: This is not an exact science and there are any number of factors that come into play. It is merely a logical SEO’s attempt to use the data available to make logical conclusions and come close to answering a question that I receive from clients all the time.

This is a starting point in order to help you get your head around how to think about your SERP position and the potential to gain or lose traffic by moving up or down.

I’m very interested to hear your feedback, so shoot away!

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How To Estimate How Much Traffic You'll Gain By Increasing Your Rankings, 5.0 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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Jacob Stoops

About the Author

is an SEO professional living in Columbus, Ohio and working for Rosetta Marketing. He's been working in the SEO industry since 2006, and has been blogging since 2009. Learn more about , a Columbus, Ohio SEO Expert.

Comments & Social Reactions

  • Rusty

    Good mathematical equation plus good guessing. With further explanation on how Click through increases SERP

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  • Rusty

    Good mathematical equation plus good guessing. With further explanation on how Click through increases SERP

    GD Star Rating
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  • http://twitter.com/rawkinrich Richard Giles

    Absolutely brilliant. Just what I was looking for. Thank you very much for posting!

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  • http://www.franklydigital.co.uk/ Amelia Vargo

    Hi Jake – I applied the same logic when you posted your original Click Distribution blog post. Only thing I did differently was to use Exact match rather than Broad, which is what you appear to be doing here. The numbers tend to be smaller, but my logic is that Exact is what it says on the tin – Exact, whereas Broad is the number of searches where that particular keyword appeared in – e.g you’re counting in longtail keywords as well. This leads me to wonder – do you use exact match keyword data for keywords or stick to broad? We have had many a discussion in our office over this same thing, I err on the side of exact, but my MD is of the opinion that Broad is better… What do you think?

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    • Anonymous

      I believe the logic should be applied towards exact-match keywords. But here’s the issue with that. I’ve found it very difficult to find semi-accurate search volume numbers when using keywords that tend to be more long-tailed or of the local variety. For example, sometimes Google’s tool will return 0 searches for keywords that I’ve seen traffic for on some of my sites. So it isn’t a perfect science any way you do it, but it’s just a bit of math using available data points to at least begin to get you in the ballpark so to speak…

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      • http://www.franklydigital.co.uk/ Amelia Vargo

        Yes, I get the same thing with local keywords and longtail – often Google says there is no search volume but Analytics tells me a different story. But I still think that exact is better – also with smaller figures for predicted visitor numbers I at least have the opportunity to do better than expected, which makes the clients think I’m some sort of genius or something… Which I kinda like!!!

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        • Anonymous

          Haha yes, it’s a classic strategy. Shoot low, so when you actually perform at an average or above average rate you look amazing!

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  • http://www.cbusr.com/jeffherbst Jeff Herbst

    Agree with the logic…I’ve applied this in the past when doing keyword research. My biggest problem has always been the data source – Google Keyword Tools. I’ve been searching / testing other keyword tools with little success…wordtracker, keywordspy, spyfu – none of them seem to be much better. My frustration has brought me to running a controlled, exact match PPC campaign to discover a keyword’s actual impression count. Has anyone come across a reliable / accurate keyword tool?

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    • Anonymous

      I might throw this out to my PPC Director…

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  • http://twitter.com/EdWords Eduard Blacquiu00e8re

    I agree on the logic of this model, using it for several years now as well.nnBut I think you make one major mistake in your calculations: you assume that search volume equals to clicks on the search results. nnHowever that is not the case. Not every search results into a click on a search result. For example there’s a lot of refinement of the search query going on while people are searching. nnI still think this is a good model to at least have an idea how much gain your SEO efforts will have, but – as you write as well – the interpretation and use of the data have to be done carefully.

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  • http://twitter.com/phillgeorge george phillip

    Do those stats take into consideration the first 3 results being sponsored ? ie paid search ?

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    • Anonymous

      I did knock off a certain % to take into account paid search and other universal search factors.

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