Both search engines and directories will return Web site references (also called "hits") to you after you select a category or submit a search query. Knowing how to interpret the results is an important part of searching. The following MouseOver illustrates typical results from a directory (the Open Directory Project) and a legacy search engine (AltaVista) and annotates sections that give you important information.
Click Tracking: How Users Click on Results, Natural Versus Paid
By now, you should be convinced that you want to be on the top of the SERPs. It never hurts to be #1 in the natural search results.
In contrast, data shows that you may not want to be #1 in the paid search results, because the resulting cost to gain the #1 position in a PPC campaign can reduce the total net margin on your campaign. Bidding for top positions usually makes financial sense only for high-budget, brand-name advertisers. Most other advertisers will find the optimal position for the majority of their keywords to lie between positions 5 and 7.
Of course, many advertisers may seek the number 1 position in paid search results, for a number of reasons. For example, if they have a really solid backend on their website and are able to make money when they are in the #1 position, they may well choose to pursue it.
Nonetheless, the data from the survey suggests that there are many organizations for which being number 1 in paid search does not make sense. Even if your natural ranking is number 1, you can still increase the ranking page's click through rate by having a sponsored ad above it or in the righthand column. The survey showed that having a prominent paid ad on the same search results page makes your #1 natural ranking receive 20% more clicks.
To start breaking this down a bit, Figure 2-4 shows the screen real estate occupied by the two types of search results.
This screenshot was taken prior to Google's January 2012 Search. This is the type of screen layout related to studies that will help us understand which portions of the search results receive the most clicks. This example from Google shows how the paid results appear above and to the right of the natural search results. Note that Google often does not show paid results above the natural results, in which case the paid results show up only on the right.
Your position in the results has a huge impact on the traffic you will receive. Studies on the impact of SERP position have shown widely varying results, but do agree that the advantage of higher positions is significant.