I’m always fascinated when discussions of search engines seem to focus excessively on ranking of a particular site in the search engines without looking at the corresponding information about referred traffic delivered to the site for the targeted keyword phrase from any of those search engines ever being taken into account. Everyone who looks at their rankings without looking at how much traffic is referred and DELIVERED to your site through those rankings is missing the most important part of the story!
When you check your site traffic statistics for where visitors are coming from and in what numbers, for which keyword searches and from WHICH search engines, you will be astonished to see that things you think are important are sometimes not so important. I’ve struggled for years to gain top rankings for “Small Business Ecommerce” and have achieved #1 at Google #5 at MSN and #13 at Yahoo (as of this writing).
But guess what? Nobody searches for that phrase in significant enough numbers to deliver any traffic from it! I’m not saying that this was wasted effort, because in the over 1000 pages at WebSite101 we have enough related phrases that the targeted phrase contributes to the ranking of hundreds of related pages. “Open Source Ecommerce” gets huge traffic for one single page, ranked at # 29 in Yahoo, #7 at MSN and #1 in Google (as of this writing).
But the really interesting thing is that even on phrases that rank equally well across all three major engines, Google delivers referred traffic at the rate of 65% compared to MSN at less than 1% and Yahoo at about 5% of all referred search engine traffic. In NO case does Yahoo or MSN refer clickthroughs at higher than 10% of all referred traffic. Referred traffic being visitors that clicked on your link from those search engines. This is true both in individual instances for specific keywords and cumulatively for all referred traffic.
Hear this very clearly – this has nothing to do with ranking! There are dozens of search phrases that visitors have searched on all three of those engines that deliver traffic to my site that I can’t find my own site for in the top 100 results at any search engine. In every case, Google delivers more than twice the traffic for every keyword combination than does MSN or Yahoo!. In many cases, I rank HIGHER on both Yahoo and MSN for many of those phrases, yet Google delivers far more referred traffic for those phrases ranked higher at MSN and Yahoo! Does that make any sense?
If your referred traffic from top rankings at MSN and Yahoo send you no traffic, why be concerned that you rank well with either of them? This exact scenario has played out across dozens of client sites I’ve reviewed traffic statistics for. No matter how the site is structured, no matter how many pages they have, no matter what keywords they are targeting. Search engine referred traffic from Google is ALWAYS at least 2 times higher than the other two and very often as much as 10 times. If we ranked engines, NOT on how many searches are performed, but on how much traffic they refer, then Google would be more than twice as highly ranked in all cases.
If Google disappeared tomorrow, there would be some dramatically reduced visitor numbers for ALL sites across the web. We would, every single one of us, lose over half of our (organic) search engine referred traffic. Look at your traffic statistics for natural search engine referred traffic (not PPC) volume and which keywords are currently working to deliver that traffic as far more important than your specific # ranking on those search engines.