Google’s universal search makes SEO more powerful than ever and even more important.
Statistically speaking the first 3 results on the first page returned by a search query get the most clicks. But paradoxically with Google’s universal search the first three results displayed are not always what the users are searching for, so the focus moves under the line delimiting Google’s suggestions and the natural results. The same goes for the sponsored results.
An AdWords campaign brings a lot of targeted traffic. When people want to buy something they usually look at the sponsored results. If they are just looking and are undecided they’ll prefer the natural search results and they will not ignore Google’s recommendations either.
It is interesting to learn what happens in a user’s mind from an SEO’s perspective. Knowing more about the positions that bring the highest number of clicks helps a webmaster understand the users. But the optimization should not stop there.
From the click to actually convey a visitor into a customer is a long way. It all has to do with website architecture and content. And when I say content I do not mean the so called “optimized text.” I mean a content that responds to the user’s need. If “plasma TV” is what brings the visitor to your site than the first thing he sees should be a plasma TV. Not a toaster, not a set of headphones. This plasma TV should not appear solely in your text, but in the pictures too. Make it a featured product if you want to rank in the SE for that keyword and also convert.
If you think SEO is about fooling the search engines, you are wrong. SEO is about listening to the users and responding to their needs.