Businesses looking to increase their click-through rate should focus on improving organic search ranking through search engine optimization. Research shows that it is anything but lonely at the top, and SEO is paramount to digital marketing success.

In search marketing, the difference between a first and second place listing can be huge, according to new research from Their recent analysis of “tens of millions” of consumer-generated search engine results pages from the last quarter of 2011 illustrates that 85 percent of all listings shown are organic, while 15 percent are paid search listings.

Click through rate, SEO, search, local SEO, digital marketing, paid ads, SERP

When it comes to clicks on those organic listings, 53 percent go to the top result. The second sees 15 percent of the action, the third 9 percent, the fourth 6 percent, dwindling all the way down to 4 percent to round out the top 5.

According to a separate study from the ad network Chitika, the top listing in Google’s organic search results receives 33 percent of the traffic, compared to 18 percent for the second position, and the traffic only degrades from there. As both of these studies show, the amount of engagement and interactions a business gets through search engines is directly tied to keyword rankings.

Organic Search Rank Versus Paid Ads

Search engine users overwhelmingly click on organic search results on Google and Bing by a margin of 94 percent to 6 percent. That’s according to new research from GroupM UK and Nielsen, published by eConsultancy, based on a sample of 1.4 billion searches conducted by 28 million UK citizens in June 2011.

Who are those 6 percent clicking on PPC ads? Women (53 percent of them) are more likely to click on paid search ads than men, who click on ads 47 percent of the time. Age also is a factor. Younger searches are less likely to click on paid ads; 35 percent of ads are clicked on by searchers age 34 or younger. But as age increases, so does the number of people clicking on those ads, as 65 percent of ad clicks come from searchers age 35 and older.

Where the ad appears also make a big difference. 24 percent of ads on a SERP are at the top and account for 85 percent of the clicks. 15 percent of ads appear at the bottom of the page, which gets just 2 percent of clicks.

That being said, we believe that a paid ad strategy can be mutually beneficial to an organic SEO effort. There is conclusive evidence that running an integrated organic and paid search campaign led to improved online performance, versus running either an organic search or paid search campaign alone. For example, Nielsen ReelResearch found that when a brand name appeared in both natural search and paid search results, the brand attracted 92 percent of the total clicks. However, without paid search, the brand name from natural search results attracted only 60 percent of the clicks.

While a PPC program alone is valuable, the ability to accelerate click-through rates when combined with a high organic search ranking shows the importance of a well-rounded strategy.