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Why being number 1 doesn’t always matter

Everyone wants to be number 1, the best, the head cheese, the top dog, etc., etc.

But when it comes to search rankings, having that coveted number one spot doesn’t mean as much as it once did.

Years ago, there was pretty solid data that said pages that ranked number one in search engines got the lion’s share of clicks and that number of clicks steadily decreased as you went down the search engine results page.

But now the results pages look a lot different than they used to.

Results pages can look different based on where someone is, what they’ve previously searched for, if they’re logged in to a Google account, and more.

Search engines like Bing and Google are personalizing search results more and more in an effort to bring people the information they’re most likely looking for, making it harder to really say where a web site will really be ranked.

They’re trying to get to what the searchers “intent” is based on the previous data they have for them and businesses should be doing that too-- but more on that in a moment!

In addition to the personalized results, the “number one” problem is even more compounded because of the number of ads and other things like news listings that could be taking up the space where the “number one” site was once found. I’ve seen search engine result pages that have only one or two websites above the fold.

All of this means that being “number one” is relative and businesses need to put a bit more thought into what things people would be searching for that would make your site what people most need or want—also known as the searchers intent.

Targeting really generic keywords and expecting a first page ranking isn’t realistic for a lot of businesses. If you want to rank for “music” and you’re a small record shop in Chapin, South Carolina…well, good luck!

But if you target “music South Carolina” or “music stores in Chapin” you’re a lot more likely to see the results you want.

Also, with better keyword research sites can target people who are looking for the specific product or services that is offered by only that company and that is what makes them unique.

Using that same music store, say they were the only place people could get the CDs from the South Carolina BlueGrass Music Festivals, then they might want to think about adding that to their keyword list so that when people are searching for that festival they find out where they can get the CDs from it.

Targeting the things that set a business apart would hopefully result in a higher conversion rate for those keywords and helps brand the company’s unique services or products.

There’s only one number one spot. Everyone can’t be there for the same keywords.

Diversifying your keywords by thinking from a searchers point of view can take you above the fray. 


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