4 Reasons To Avoid 1st Position

I have had clients that absolutely insist on being number 1, despite the fact that the #1 position does not guarantee the highest CTR, generally does not have the highest conversion rates, and is the most expensive.  Unless you’re making a branding play, your explicit goal should be something else, like sales or ROI.

#1 First position does not guarantee the highest CTR

Sometimes the CTR is improved marginally over the 2nd position, sometimes it actually goes down.  If you’re shooting for first position, make sure to monitor what the increase is in your CTR.  Is it worth the extra cost?

#2 Does not guarantee the highest conversion rate

There is a temptation to think that your competitor in 1st place is taking away valuable sales.  Not necessarily.  When you shop online do you buy from the first result?  Aren’t you going to price-shop?  Ask for quotes?   Many internet users just click on the first available link when they search.  When you are in the first position, you are attracting the clicks of potentially irrelevant visitors.  The worst kind of users are the uninformed quick clickers that just click on the first link when their SERP loads. These are often unmotivated tire kickers who will run up your Adwords bill without much to show for it.  Why not let your competitors waste their money on less relevant clicks while you sit comfortably at the #2 position attracting refined visitors?

#3 Marginal Cost

The improvement in results of 1st over 2nd position is not guaranteed, but one thing is certain: you will pay more than you would have paid otherwise.  Many keywords already have a megalomaniac bidder determined to keep his unassailable first position.  You may have to pay twice as much or more for first position than for a second position spot. 

#4 Cannibalization

If you rank well organically, you need to discount a certain % of your PPC conversions because they would have occurred anyway.  We call this cannibalization.  If you are in the top 3 positions organically, you can safely take 20% or more off your PPC conversion attribution because you would have acquired those conversions anyway.  At lower positions, the cannibalization rate is lower, say 10%.

Sometimes it is totally appropriate to be in first position.  I’m not trying to dissuade you from pursuing it, altogether, but consider the above before foolishly getting in a bid war for an uncertain payoff.

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