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What is it Worth to Rank Number One?

Insights February 28, 2014

As one of the leading SEO companies in the world, brands (for the most part) come to Terakeet with a single goal in mind: to rank number one in Google search results for a key term or list of terms related to their business. This is our core competency at Terakeet.  We are number one at ranking our clients number one, and as my profile picture has undoubtedly already demonstrated to you, we take this very seriously.

Given the rate at which we’re growing at Terakeet, there are obviously a fair number of brands out there who understand the importance of a healthy website that ranks well for relevant key terms and phrases related to their product or service offering.  And, as SEO as an industry continues to grow and evolve, becoming even more important as an integral part of a brand’s overall marketing strategy, the trend will only continue upward.

It’s obvious that having a great website, producing great content, and ranking number one for relevant keywords and phrases in search engine results pages is very important, and valuable.  But does anyone truly know how valuable?  How do we measure opportunity when it comes to SEO?  How do we measure success?


Before we jump into measurements, there are some important facts to consider.  First, we have to take a look at click distribution when it comes to Google search result pages.  Roughly 94% of click-throughs occur in the organic results, while 6% occur in the paid results, or sponsored posts.  That means if 100 people search for the term “mens shoes,” 94 will scroll right by your yellow-shaded ad and click on one of the results that hasn’t sold out to The Man.  Six elderly people using Internet Explorer will click the ad, having no idea the difference.  Exactly zero people will click the ads in the sidebar.  Probably.

Of the 94% of click-throughs that occur in the organic results, between 30 and 40 percent occur on the result in the number one position.  That means that whoever holds the number one position for a given term stands to gain approximately one third of all the traffic searching for that term.

Now, we can get down to business.  Let’s revisit the term “mens shoes,” a term with roughly 90,000 monthly searches.   According to Google Adwords, to buy this traffic would cost approximately $1.33 per click.  So, if you could theoretically buy all of the traffic for the term “mens shoes,” it would cost you $119,700.

The kicker is that even if you had $120K to spend each month, you still wouldn’t be able to.  Remember that the only ones who will click your ad are the 6 elderly people who had their grandsons help them “turn on the Internet” a moment ago.  So, if you’re relying on sponsored results, you’ll have to settle for those 5,400 mens shoes-Googlers who either trust The Man, or don’t know any better.  At $1.33 per click, that traffic will cost you $7,182 and change, monthly.

At long last, lets take a look at what the number one organic search ranking is worth for the term “mens shoes.”  There are 90,000 people searching for mens shoes each month.  94% of them will skip the sponsored results in favor of the organic ones.  That leaves us with 84,600 people.  Roughly 35% of those people will click on the number one result.  That’s 29,610 people that will end up visiting your site, should you hold the top spot for “mens shoes.”  If you were to buy that traffic with Adwords, you’re looking at a monthly bill from Larry and Sergei for $39,381 and change.   And that’s just for one term.

Quantifying Success


It’s obvious that taking an interest in SEO with the goal of ranking number 1 for your most important keywords is a worthwhile investment.  The opportunity presented by a number 1 ranking is enormous and ever growing, but in many cases, it can take months for a site to emerge onto the first page of the Google search results for a given term.  However, this doesn’t mean you have to wait that long to see an ROI. There are other ways that SEO can provide ROI both on the way to ranking first, and once you get there.


Historically, SEO was about gaming the system, finding weaknesses in Google’s algorithm and exploiting them.  These days however,  it’s all about building quality relationships.  What does this mean for a brand investing in SEO?  It means brand advocates interacting and communicating within communities that are relevant and interested in your product or service.  It means building trust and loyalty with your consumers that live online.  It can also mean a direct impact on traffic and conversions, even before high rankings are achieved.  The high quality relationships and resulting links we build often result in immediate jumps in referral traffic, and in some cases even direct conversions.  And most importantly, the value that SEO provides to your website lives on, whereas any value gained through paid ads disappears the moment your check-writing hand gets tired.

Today, brands face a choice when it comes to digital marketing.  Do they want to earn visibility, or purchase visibility?  The fact is, today’s consumers are plenty smart enough to know the difference, and the numbers prove that they prefer one to the other.

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