We all know that the first page of a Google search is the most important, but many of us do not understand how important that page actually is. Did you know that 91% of Google’s search traffic does not advance to the second page of the search results, and the first organic search result receives 33% of the clicks? This means that if a user does not find what they’re looking for on the first search results page, they are much more likely to return to the search box to tweak their keyword and try again than they are to advance to page two.

In fact, the second page only receives 4.8% of Google’s search traffic. The 3rd page, just 1.1%, and the fourth or more less than half a percent.

Percentage of Google TrafficGoogle Results Graph (1)

On February 19th, 2016 Google made an important change by removing the sidebar advertisements on desktop searches. While this may seem irrelevant, it actually has huge ramifications for businesses relying on traffic from organic search results because organic results are now appearing below the fold on many devices. The fold refers to the bottom of the viewable webpage. Everything above the fold can be viewed without further action (no scrolling required), while everything below the fold requires action (scrolling) to be seen. Users resist taking action and items above the fold are interacted with much more readily than items below the fold.

Why is Google Doing this?

The world is going mobile and Google knows it. In May, 2015 Google recognized that more searches are now being conducted using a Smartphone than desktops and tablets combined. Google understands that “consumers, particularly on mobile devices, now have higher expectations than ever before – they want everything right, and they want everything right away. This requires that marketers answer their needs in the moment, whenever and wherever they are. Our investments in mobile are driven by consumers’ expectations for immediacy and relevance in the moment” [Reference].

Google is changing the way desktop advertisements are displaying in their search results because they want every user to have a consistent experience across all devices and removing the sidebar advertisements allows desktop search results to be displayed similar to mobile search results.

What does this Mean for SEO?

Search engine optimization (SEO) is important for most dental websites, but I believe dentists are being over charged and scammed. The majority of the results now displayed above the fold are either an advertisement or in the map pack. The map pack is the rectangular result below the adwords ads containing a map and 3 local businesses that match the search term.

The map pack use to contain 7 local results, but in August of 2015, Google reduced the number of businesses displayed on the first page of the map pack from 7 to just 3.

Take a look at this screen shot taken from my computer located in Irvine, CA for the search term “dentist” on March 16th, 2016. I am conducting a search using a MacBook Pro laptop with a 13 inch display and a Safari browser occupying the entire screen. You should notice immediately that every search result above the fold is an advertisement and only a sliver of the map pack is viewable above the fold.

Screen Shot 2016-03-16 at 10.52.57 AM

As we scroll below the fold, the map pack is revealed as well as the first organic result (which happens to be a Yelp page).



There are four take away points here:

  1. The first organic result is below the fold.
  2. Ranking well in the map pack is more important than the traditional organic location.
  3. The first organic result is a Yelp page.
  4. Dentists need to understand Google Adwords

What does this mean for dental website SEO moving forward?

I know many dentists who spend more than a few hundred dollars a month on SEO for their websites. Given that there are only 3 slots in the map pack and the first organic result is way below the fold, I feel confident that the money dentists are spending on SEO will be better spent elsewhere. Yelp.com has millions of inbound links and consitenatly outperforming Yelp in a competitive market will be challenging without an extreme investment of time by the dentist (the dentist needs to frequently publish her own blog posts). Even with an investment in time and money, competing for one or two slots on the first search results page is foolish because with one update to the algorithm, Google can erase years worth of effort (Moz’s keeps track of algorithm changes here).

If you are already paying someone for an SEO service and you’re reluctant to stop, ask your “expert” what he or she is doing to ensure that your website is one of the three in the map pack.