How Low Can #1 Go? (2020 Edition)

Posted by Dr-Pete

Being# 1 on Google isn’t what it used to be. Back in 2013, we analyzed 10,000 explorations and found out that the average# 1 ranking began at 375 pixels( px) down the sheet. The worst case scenario, a search for “Disney stock, ” propagandized# 1 all the way down to 976 px.

A lot has changed in seven years, including an detonation of rich SERP( Search Engine Results Page) features, like Featured Snippets, local multitudes, and video carousels. It feels like the plight of# 1 is only getting worse. So, we decided to run the numbers again( over the same inquiries) and see if the data accords our sensings. Is the# 1 listing on Google being propagandized even farther down the sheet?

I try to let the numbers speak for themselves, but before we dig into a lot of stats, here’s one that legitimately offended me. In 2020, over 1,600( 16.6%) of the searches we analyzed had #1 positions that were worse than the worst-case scenario in 2013. Let’s dig into a few of these …

What’s the worst-case for# 1?

Data is great, but sometimes it takes the visuals to really understand what’s going on. Here’s our big-hearted “winner” for 2020, a search for “lollipop” — the# 1 grading came in at an incredible 2,938 px down. I’ve annotated the #1 position, together with the 1,000 px and 2,000 px differentiates …

At 2,938 px, the 2020 win comes in at precisely over three times 2013 ‘s worst-case scenario. You may have noticed that the line is slightly above the organic tie-up. For the reason of consistency and to be able to replicate the data later, we chose to use the HTML/ CSS receptacle post. This hits about halfway between the organic associate and the URL breadcrumbs( which recently moved above the link ). This is a slightly more conservative calibrate than our 2013 study.

You may also have noticed that this result contains a large-format video result, that is actually predominates page-one real estate. In fact, five members of our top 10 lowest# 1 results in 2020 contained large-format videos. Here’s the top challenger without a large-format video, coming in at fourth plaza overall( a search for “vacuum cleaners”) …

Before the traditional# 1 organic position, we have shopping upshots, a research carousel, a neighbourhood bundle, People Also Ask arises, and a top products carousel with a big vertical footprint. This is a relentlessly commercial-grade decision. While exclusively a portion of it is direct advertising, most of the focus of the sheet above the organic decisions is on beings looking to buy a vacuum.

What about the big picture?

It’s easy — and more than a little entertaining — to cherry-pick the worst-case scenarios, so let’s look at the data across all 10,000 upshots. In 2013, we only looked at the #1 position, but we’ve expanded our analysis in 2020 to consider all page-one organic situates. Here’s the outage …

The only direct comparison to 2013 is the position# 1 row, and you can see that every metric increased, some significantly. If you look at the maximum Y-position by grade, you’ll notice that it peaks around# 7 and then begins to decrease. This is easier to illustrate in a chart …

To understand this phenomenon, you have to realize that sure-fire SERP pieces, like Top Stories and video carousels, take the place of a page-one organic develop. At the same time, those features tend to be longer( vertically) than a typical organic decision. So, a page with 10 traditional organic makes will in many cases be shorter than a page with variou rich SERP features.

What’s the worst-case overall?

Let’s dig into that seven-result page-one bucket and look at the worst-case organic standing across all of the SERPs in the study, a# 7 organic rank coming in at 4,487 px …

Congratulations, you’re eventually done scrolling. This SERP has seven traditional organic ranks( including information with FAQ links ), plus an incredible seven rich the characteristics and a full seven ads( three are below the final result ). Note that this sheet shows the older ad and organic design, which Google is still testing, so the position is measured as only above the link.

How much do ads matter?

Since our 2013 study( in early 2016 ), Google removed right-hand column ads on desktop and increased the maximum number of top-left ads from three to four. One noticeable site about ads is that they have prime placement over both organic results and SERP pieces. So, how does this impact organic Y-positions? Here’s a disturbance …

Not surprisingly, the mean and median increase as ad-count grows- on average, the more ads there are, the lower the# 1 organic statu is. So why does the maximum Y-position of# 1 abate with ad-count? This is because SERP peculiarities are confined closely to scour intent, and decisions with more ads tend to be more commercial-grade. This naturally rules out other features.

For example, while 1,270 SERPs on February 12 in our 10,000 -SERP data set had four ads on top, and 1,584 had peculiarity snippets, simply 16 had both( just 1% of SERPs with featured snippets ). Featured snippets naturally reflect informational intent( in other words, they provide answers ), whereas the presence of four ads signals strong commercial intent.

Here’s the worst-case # 1 position for a SERP with four ads on top in our data set …

The college results are a fairly uncommon peculiarity, and neighbourhood battalions often appear on commercial develops( as anyone who wants to buy something is looking for a arrange to buy it ). Even with four ads, though, this result comes in significantly higher than our overall worst-case # 1 position. While ads certainly push down organic causes, they too tend to preclude other rich SERP features.

What about boasted snippets?

In early 2014, a year after our original study, Google launched featured snippets, promoted decisions that combination organic links with reacts removed from boasted pages. For pattern, Google can tell you that I am both a human who works for Moz and a Dr. Pepper knock-off available at Target …

While boasted snippets are technically considered organic, they can impact click-through frequencies( CTR) and the extracted textbook naturally propagandizes down the organic connection. On the other hand, Featured Snippet tend to appear above other rich SERP boasts( except in cases of ads, of course ). So, what’s the worst-case scenario for a# 1 result inside a featured snippet in our data set?

Ads are still propagandizing this result down, and the bullet listing extracted from the page takes up a gala amount of cavity, but the absence of other SERP boasts above the peculiarity snippet settles this in a much better position than our overall worst-case scenario. This is an interesting example, as the “According to … ” text is linked to Mashable( but not considered the# 1 decision ), but the portraits are all linked to more Google searches.Overall in our study, the average Y-position of# 1 decisions with featured snippets was 99 px lower/ worse( 704 px) than traditional# 1 develops( 605 px ), recommending a net hindrance in most cases. In some clients, multiple SERP pieces can appear between the featured snippet and the# 2 organic result. Here’s an example where the# 1 and# 2 upshot are 1,342 px apart …

In events like this, it’s a strategic advantage to work for the peculiarity snippet, as there’s likely a substantial drop-off in sounds from# 1 to# 2. Featured snippets are going to continue to evolve, and patterns like this show how critical it is to understand the entire terrain of your search results.

When is# 2 not worth it?

Another interesting case that’s evolved quite a bit since 2013 is brand examinations, or as Google is more likely to call them, “dominant intent” examines. Here’s a SERP for the company Mattress Firm …

While the# 1 reaction has solid placement, the# 2 result is pushed all the way down to 2,848 px. Note that the #1 position has a search box plus six full site-links below it, taking up a massive quantity of real estate properties. Even the brand’s ad has site-links. Below# 1 is a neighbourhood multitude, People Also Ask outcomes, Twitter results from the brand’s account, heavily labelled portrait upshots, and then a produce refinement carousel( which translates into more Google rummages ). There were five total, traditional organic arises on this page, and they’re made up of the company’s website, the company’s Facebook page, the company’s YouTube channel, a Wikipedia page about the company, and a news article about the company’s 2018 bankruptcy filing.

This isn’t just about horizontal outlook — unless you’re Mattress Firm, trying to compete on this inquiry truly doesn’t manufacture much ability. They basically own page one, and this is a situation we’re picture more and more often for searches with clear reigning goal( i.e. most searchers are looking for a specific entity ).

What’s a probe marketer to do?

Search is changing, and convert can certainly be shocking. There’s no question that the SERP of 2020 is very different in some ways than the SERP of 2013, and traditional organic results are just one section of a much larger picture. Realistically, as examine marketers, we have to adapt — either that, or find a brand-new occupation. I examine alpaca farming is nice.

I think there are three critical things to remember. First, the lion’s share of search traffic still comes from traditional organic arises. Second, many rich facets are certainly the evolution of vertical reactions, like news, videos, and epitomes, that still have an organic component. In other terms, this organization is reactions that we can potentially create content for and rank in, even if they’re not the 10 off-color ties we traditionally think of as organic search.

Finally, it’s important to realize that many SERP aspects are driven by searcher intent and we need to target intent more strategically. Take the branded pattern above — it may be depressing that the# 2 organic cause is propagandized down still further, but ask yourself a simple question. What’s the value of ranking for “mattress firm” if you’re not Mattress Firm? Even if you’re a direct opponent, you’re flying in the face of searchers with a very clear brand intent. Your effort is better spent on product searches, buyer questions, and other rummages likely to support your own symbol and sales.

If you’re the 11 th being in line at the grocery checkout and the line next to you has no parties, do you stand around complaining about how party# 2,# 7, and# 9 aren’t as deserving of groceries because you are? No, you deepen lines. If you’re being pushed extremely far down research results, maybe it’s time to seek out different decisions where your goals and searcher goals are better aligned.

Summary notations on approach

Not to get too deep in the weeds, but a couple of notes on our approach. These causes were based on a prepared mount of 10, 000 keywords that we track daily as part of the MozCast research project. All of the data in this study is based on page-one,, US, desktop solutions. While the keywords in this data set are distributed across a wide range of topics and industries, the established skews toward more competitive “head” periods. All of the data and images in this post were captured on February 12, 2020. Ironically, this blog berth is over 26,000 pixels long. If you’re still speaking, expressed appreciation for, and may God have mercy on your soul.

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