1.1 trillion reasons SEO is still important

Over the past few months, I’ve been asked the same questions over and over again. Does SEO even matter anymore? Should we even bother? Are we better off just buying traffic?

It’s not surprising to hear these types of questions given the continued and aggressive focus of Google to drive searchers to click on paid ads, especially on mobile devices. But while it may appear that Google is now dominated by advertising, its numbers tell a slightly different story.

Digital Marketing
A phone showing SERP results showcasing SEO and organic rankings.

Organic search is absolutely, 100%, without a doubt still important, and as long as organic search is important, organic search optimization remains important. So let’s take a look at why organic search is still so important.

While Google rarely shares its search volume numbers and likely never will, the general consensus is that the search engine handles a mind-blowing 40,000 searches every second.

SEO Tactics Lead to 40,000 searches. Every. Single. Second.

That’s a staggering 3.5 billion search queries every day and more than 1.2 trillion annually. These numbers, while estimated, have to some extent been confirmed by Google when, in 2014, it publicly mentioned it handled “trillions of searches” that year.

We also know Google generates 90% of its revenue from paid search ads. The company is very open about that. In 2017, Google will generate just over $100 billion in revenue from paid search, and it’s estimated the average cost-per-click across all industries will come in somewhere between $1–2. So lets do the math here.

An average CPC of just $1 would mean paid search generated clicks for 100 billon search queries. At a $2 CPC, paid search would generate clicks for just 50 billion search queries. So at $1, that means paid search ads only accounted for 8% of the more than 1.2 trillion searches users performed—leaving 92% of all search queries ending in non-paid clicks (AKA organic search). That number goes to 96% if you use $2 as the CPC (same revenue, fewer paid clicks, same search volumes).

Admittedly, my model here is using some speculative data. Lets say I’m off by a factor of 3, meaning the average CPC is only $0.33, which would mean an even larger percentage of clicks result from paid search ads. Even if that is the case, that means organic search accounts for more than 70% of all search clicks. We run thousands of paid search campaigns at Lightburn, that include hundreds of thousands of keyword and search phases across dozen of industries. When looking at our numbers we see an average of $1.45 per click for keyword campaigns and a lower average when factoring in our shopping campaigns. The blended across all campaign types comes in at almost exactly $1.00.

Google paid search is certainly nothing to ignore, but our research strongly suggests that that organic listings still take the lion’s share of SERP clicks – leaving you with 1.1 trillion reasons why organic search and SEO are still important.