In the book Positive Linking, Paul Ormerod says that the top 3 items on a Google search account for 98% of clicks. The top 1 item, the top result that comes back, accounts for 60% of clicks.
If almost every click occurs in the first three results, Google could go as far as leaving just 4 results on a page and almost nobody would notice. There may even be a slight upward trend in users clicking that fourth link, “just in case”.
Four results to a page may even become a reality. SERoundTable reported that Google are testing that four result option, among other combinations.
One reason why so many clicks are on the first result is because many people search for a site through Google when they know the web address anyway. For instance, a Google search for Facebook is done a lot of the time instead of actually typing facebook.com in a web browser.
When logged in to Google, you have the option to ask for more results per page. Check the preferences page to alter what comes through. I currently have Google set to give me 50 results to a page. If Google took that option away and only allowed four results to a page, I’d be hugely frustrated.
What if Google made every first search a 4-result page and made each subsequent page a 50-result page (or whatever you preferred)? I’d probably still be frustrated, because many of my searches rely on more than the first few results. I’d probably learn to live with it though.
Phil Bradley wonders if Google are looking to get more advertising coverage with fewer results to a page. Whether or not this is the case, this will impact power users than average users.
As a student, you should be a power user as often as possible. Go beyond the first few results. Be the 2%.
Try out different searches if the first one doesn’t help. I’ve been known to make subtle changes to a search, yet get wildly different results.
Learn some of the tricks to help you get a serious search on.
And, importantly, don’t rely on Google alone. Other search engines exist. And specialist searches help you find photos, social media, Creative Commons content, people, TV broadcasts, education resources, books, among other things.
Keep on searching. Don’t be too quick to give up. You never know what’s just around the corner.