Minor Miracles And Major Feats of First-Page Rankings

Videos are more likely than text to get on the first page of Google's search results, according to Forrester Research's Nate Elliott. This is a huge story, but there's an even bigger angle: getting on the first page of Google's search results is really, really hard.

I missed Nate's initial blog post, but fortunately caught the subsequent NewTeeVee analysis. NewTeeVee reported, "Videos are 53 times more likely to appear on the first page of search results than text pages..." In a single sentence, this sums up the need for the importance of including videos as part of a search engine optimization program. Done -- I'm sold.

Read the comments to Nate's post for a few other perspectives, like Max Kalehoff describing how the viral nature of great videos makes them search engine bait, and Billy Ye noting how video results have a relatively fleeting presence in the top rankings compared to Web sites that maintain their authority more consistently. All of this matters, but if you have any video assets, you must consider how you're optimizing them. Say Nate's analysis is off and the real effect is 23x or 10x instead of 53x. Would you treat the study any differently? I wouldn't.



The numbers grew even more staggering. Nate blogged, "There were an average of 4.7 million text pages competing for a place on results pages with an average of just 9.4 text results -- giving each text page about a 500,000-to-1 chance of appearing on the first page of results." Odds are, since you're reading this, you probably have a professional or deep personal connection to some Web site or another. I'd say the odds of you Googling that site from time to time are pretty high too. If you Google a popular query and the site ranks on the first page, you're witnessing a minor technological miracle, and a marvel of dedication by the rocket scientists you have working with you.

Nate looked at 40 of the most popular queries, so his study is focused on terms that are extremely popular. These are areas where there are massive amounts of content developed, both intentionally (to compete for prime search engine rankings) and organically (almost as a rule, popular queries will also be popular subjects for people and businesses to naturally create content around).

The research makes certain case studies seem all the more remarkable. One of my favorite SEO practitioners is a doctor in Dallas who has been optimizing listings around Google long before many of his patients were finding him that way. As I was writing this, I ran a search on "dallas botox," a popular and competitive term; Google Trends notes that five of the top-10 cities in Texas indexed for searches on "Botox" are in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. This doctor appeared as the top local business result and four of the top-10 organic listings, translating to five first-page rankings. I didn't see any ads for him this time, presumably because he calculated that with five first-page rankings, he can allocate his budget elsewhere.

Google says 92,700 results are competing for a spot on the first page, and while I'll allow Nate to calculate the odds of the doctor's feat, Dr. Adelglass should be pretty proud of himself. The odds of getting just one first-page ranking are daunting enough, but five? I'm not just applauding him because he's my father-in-law (if I really wanted to kiss up to him, I'd plug his main site,, which is all about "making you more beautifulâ„¢"; on that note, please don't ask for the slogan of my father's gastroenterology practice). I just happen to be related to a guy who epitomizes what you can achieve in the face of these now quantifiably insurmountable odds.

There's a lot you can do with Nate's research. He provides a roadmap for the opportunity for video optimization, and you can go to town supporting your video strategy with YouTube Insights, as I described in a previous column. As with any research study, I also keep thinking of the follow-ups I'd like to see. How well do videos appear in the less frequent mid-tail searches? And what if this was applied beyond video? What are the odds of a business ranking on the first page of Google above the main natural search results in the local index, as my father-in-law does? And then there are books, images, products, and news, to name a few other universal search categories.

After reading over Nate's work and the related coverage, I'm left amazed by the odds against marketers, and it gives me even greater appreciation for this field I've been involved with now for half a decade. I'm even all the more impressed with the Skintastics out there who saw this coming long before "Google" was a verb.

8 comments about "Minor Miracles And Major Feats of First-Page Rankings ".
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  1. Marshall Sponder from Monster Worldwide, February 17, 2009 at 11:16 a.m.

    I think this is an interesting, though not unexpected finding. For one thing, how many videos are targeted against specific keyword phases?

    Given Universal Search, and the lack of "inventory" that is tagged against keyword phrases, I'd suspect many long tail searches are golden opportunities to come up for Video content on the first page of search results.

    Not so sure if this will work keywords like "Debt Conciliation" or "auto loans" or "job search", but it could work for... say, Art, or even a lot of topics related to Social Media, or even a specific job title/category - at the end of the day -there's still a small population of first adopters providing content.

  2. John Sanchez from Zunch Worldwide, Inc., February 17, 2009 at 11:21 a.m.

    We have been working with Dr. Adelglass and for seven years and happy to see that our efforts haven't gone unnoticed.

  3. Vincent Vandeputte from You, February 17, 2009 at 11:24 a.m.

    We own a number of unique and Original Content Video sites with hundreds of videos that we produce for the web. Part of our content is branded (editorial) content. And thanks to the nature of web video, we provide our clients with outstanding Search results. Our latest site, was launched a little over a month ago. Now, we do live in a relatively small country (Belgium), but still, we were able to provide our clients with over 30 Google Page 1 rankings. Try 'crustini' on and you'll find results for our client 'Beemsterkaas' (a popular cheese brand here and in The Netherlands). Or try 'venkelsla' which we made for our appliance client 'Bauknecht' on our other Original Video Content site (, you'll probably be amazed with the results. Content may be King, Video Content is the Galactic Emperor!

  4. Michael Munz from Making Law Easy, February 17, 2009 at 11:31 a.m.

    Well its about time! I was wondering how long it would take (post google+youtube) for search to tell its dirty little secret. I have been an enthusiast for the last year of ( they allow you to upload like 17 different video sites (all the big names). With the right title and description to keyword ratio you can manipulate your way to the top of most search terms. I talk about the "How-To's" on ( This is the best compliment to your SEO that you can do! 100% FOR THE WIN

  5. Jonathan Mendez from Yieldbot, February 17, 2009 at 11:40 a.m.

    Salient point but I have to put on my stats hat and my seo (white) hat and refute the idea that each page has a 500k-1 chance of being on the first page of a SERP. This is like saying Google randomly chooses what sites to place there. All things are not equal in SEO or Google and the pages that do well do so for specific reasons (known to all SEOs) that naturally increase their odds. SEO isn't's more like craps. :)

  6. Gordon Vasquez from, February 17, 2009 at 11:42 a.m.

    Video is KING - take a look at our Facebook Videos and our professional productions that drive the brand of "RealTVfilms" -- Facebook Video is a different animal than YouTube style user content from a pda/video upload.


  7. Jeff Hardy, February 17, 2009 at 12:17 p.m.

    Video Search was heavily covered in the PubCon conference in Las Vegas last November--and I suspect that that will continue. The proto-typical success story of BlendTech was highlighted and the CEO of BlendTech spoke at the event. I spoke at that event on Cloud Computing.

    Anyway - the results are clear. There is a pocket of an opportunity to enhance SEO through the use of video pages. But as content inceases, it should be expected that such benefits are mitigated by saturation.

    Be well,
    Jeff Hardy

  8. Susannah Richardson from Wordstream, February 26, 2009 at 11:59 a.m.

    Great point about the mid tail (and long tail). I wonder if videos lose their edge with less popular queries.

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