It’s Not About Ranking #1 – The Monopoly Strategy

It’s not about ranking #1…

Well, it’s not only about ranking #1.

Like all things that are driven by technology, SEO is constantly changing and has reached a tipping point where to compete you need to own more real estate on the SERPs.

This means moving past the vanity of having your website URL’s ranking for your priority keywords, and instead accepting that Google ranks different types of content for different types of keywords; and the current type of content on your website may not be able to rank for the terms you’re targeting.

This is quite literally what RankBrain is all about.

The practical application is that you may have to accept that to get traffic for the keywords you want – you need to be present on websites that aren’t yours.

We see this most often in software verticals where SERP’s are comprised of a mix of providers, reviews, and directories, like this SERP for “crm software;”

If you go check out this SERP, take note of a few important elements;

  1. There are 12 organic results
  2. There are SERP elements; “People also ask” and “People also search for”
  3. There are 7 ad units; 4 on top and 3 below
  4. There’s a knowledge graph card
  5. There are only 2 brands

The last point is the most important one.

This SERP has 10 organic results that are NOT actual providers of CRM software (and 12 organic results overall), instead they’re review sites like Finances Online, Capterra, Webopedia, and Software Advice — or they’re publishers like PC mag, Business News Daily, Forbes, or HBR.

Then if you take note of the 2 software brands that ARE actually ranking; they’re Salesforce and Zoho – so in short; you have no chance of ranking your brand’s website on this SERP.

However, I’m willing to bet you HubSpot sees a fair bit of traffic (and conversions) from this SERP.

Look closer;

Hubspot is the highest ranked (organic) provider on this SERP (assuming you consider native English speakers scan left to right then top to bottom), likely sending them a steady amount of new leads.

Now check it out on mobile;

It’s not enough to rank your product or feature page somewhere on page one, diluted among a mix of results from directories, YouTube results, and review blogs.

Instead, you need to own the opinions and awareness of every bit of that SERP; and here’s where the SERP Monopoly Strategy comes into play.

Identifying Your Highest Value SERPs

Before we get into how to monopolize your target SERP’s, the first step is to identify where your efforts should be directed to ensure you’re not investing in the wrong keywords.

If you haven’t built out a comprehensive keyword matrix to determine this, there’s a shortcut you can take using the commercial value of your priority terms.

The cheat code here is to simply take your priority list of terms and multiply their average monthly search volume by their average cost per click, or if you’re a lazy marketer you can use KeywordKeg which will do this for you.

The goal here is to identify the terms where it would be most expensive for you to have to buy traffic versus rank organically and acquire that sustainable traffic for free, month after month.

So looking at the above data we can see that “crm software for sale” is the second most valuable commercial keyword that we would want to be monopolizing for after “crm software.”

Another big consideration here is that crm software while it’s the 800 pound gorilla, might just be too expensive to go after due to the level of difficulty – and instead it may make more sense to consider going after some of the “cheap” modifier keywords (even if you don’t sell “cheap software” AND you don’t want your product associated with being cheap).

This just requires a bit of creativity on how to create assets to grab rankings in those SERP’s, remembering they don’t necessarily need to be assets that carry your brand.

I don’t want to make this post about keyword research, but if you need a refresher on how to find and prioritize your most important terms (based on commercial value), check out my other post that is actually about keyword research.

Let’s Look at a Local Professional Services SERP

I’ve picked a fun local term (that personally I don’t care about, but that’s another discussion – if you really want to know why – shoot me a tweet); “seo services philadelphia” (f0r the purposes of this example I’ve scrolled down past the 4-pack of AdWords ad, and the map pack with 3 results).

Or an Ecommerce Investigation SERP

Starting to see where this is heading?

Remember the main goal here is to build a list of commercially focused terms so you can off-set your cost of traffic acquisition via SEO.

Once you’ve gotten your prioritize identified and confirmed, now comes time to dial in your strategy to own as much of the boardwalk as possible.

Share of Pixels

The sheer amount of physical real estate that you’re able to occupy on the SERP has become the equivalent of owning Boardwalk and Park Place on the Parker Bros game board.

Each ranking position on the SERP accounts for an approximate total percentage of total clicks; with the breakdown being a relative average (based on a running study by AWR) on desktop of:

  1. 30.66%
  2. 14.25%
  3. 9.5%
  4. 5.64%
  5. 3.82%
  6. 2.67%
  7. 2.0%
  8. 1.55%
  9. 1.24%
  10. 1.03%

and on mobile:

  1. 24.48%
  2. 13.81%
  3. 9.61%
  4. 5.94%
  5. 3.99%
  6. 2.78%
  7. 1.99%
  8. 1.4%
  9. 1.01%
  10. 0.73%

and featured snippets pull in approximately 8.6% of clicks (according to Ahrefs).

This means that the gains to be had are exponential in nature for every additional ranking you’re able to own on the first page.

Backing into Traffic

If you have 2 rankings on desktop SERP 1, regardless of position, you’re looking at an average net click-through rate of 14.48%.

If you have 3, it’s 21.72%. 4 is 28.96%, and 5 is 36.2% (based an a gross average of ~7.24% for being on “page 1”). This is just a rough baseline as the likelihood of these total click-through percentages actually being much higher depending on which positions those rankings are for.

When you start backing into revenue realization based on these increase traffic share percentages the numbers become staggering.

Imagine if you will a scenario where your site converts 3% of gross traffic to a lead, and then you convert 34% of leads into sales, and your average sale is $100.

This means that every visit to your website is worth $0.98, which doesn’t seem like much but follow the math;

100 visits = 3.4 leads = 1 sales x $100 = $100.00 (Gross conversion rate = 1%)

Now let’s assume that your current SEO traffic is based on ranking #1 (and only #1) for a keyword with 1,000 searches per month.

Your average CTR for your position #1 ranking is ~22%, which means you’re receiving 220 visits/month, creating 2 sales worth $200.

If you were to increase your total share of real estate on that one SERP, based on an average aggregate of ~7.24% CTR per additional ranking, here’s how it would break down into revenue;

# of Rankings Avg CTR Est. Traffic Est. Sales
2 14.48% 200 $200
3 21.72% 300 $300
4 28.96% 400 $400
5 36.2% 500 $500

In this example every additional ranking equals an additional sale each month from the same SERP.

You need to understand that this is at the individual keyword level, so this potential exponential return is for every keyword you dial in, and then will continue to pay returns month over month, month after month.

Based on the above model, you’re ranking 5 URL’s on SERP 1 for a keyword with an average of 1,000 searches per month, netting you $500 in revenue per month.

If we expound upon this and say you’re able to do this for a reasonable amount of terms, let’s call it 300 keywords (where you’re able to eat up 5 rankings anywhere on page 1) for a total monthly search volume of something more realistic (in aggregate) like 85,000 searches/mo this revenue number is closer to $85,000 (and that’s with just a 1% gross conversion rate… which kind of sucks).

Compare this to if you only had the #1 ranking on those same SERP’s, which instead of ~42,000 visits/month would be bringing in only 18,700 visits, equaling only ~$18,000 in total revenue.

How to Take Advantage

The best way to take advantage of this is to:

  1. Identify your top 50-100 highest priority keywords.
  2. Scrape page 1 of Google for all the ranking URL’s.
  3. Pull back baseline trust and authority metrics on those URL’s; domain age, # of links to the domain, # of links to the page, word count, and page-level keyword targeting (via meta attributes), using something like URL Profiler.
  4. Map a content type to each (we’re now doing this using DeepCrawl, which is pretty sweet)
  5. Sort by content type, and create a new list for each.
  6. Use this data to inform your SEO content map, and get crackin’.

Thoughts? Questions? Criticisms? Drop a comment below; I read and respond to every one.

Nick Eubanks

 | February 14 ,2019