Organic Search Conversion Rates Now Top 20%

MarketingSherpa recently released the results of their 2013 survey, zooming in on what different marketers had to say about organic conversion rates in their respective sectors. That is, of visitors who landed on their site through organic results, what percentage actually ended up buying (or buying into) the business?

The results are interesting: publishing, media, agencies, and consultancies fill out the top tier, a whopping 20%, with educational, training, and nonprofits just slightly behind at 18%.

Take note that the surveyed marketers classified “conversions” in a few different ways, from lead generation to direct sales. Here’s the breakdown of the sample’s semantics:

Form completion with multiple data fields — 49%

Online sale completed — 25%

Form completion with one data field — 10%

Other — 17%

This survey shows a big jump from MarketingSherpa’s 2012 data; in fact, average rates have doubled from 8% to 16%.

That means that in 2013, on average, nearly one in five customers converted after arriving via organic results on a site (in the specified top industries).  Why are they up significantly?

In part, it may be because marketers are placing more value on different kinds of transactions besides direct sales.  Gleaning information about visitors can have substantial value, helping marketers refine their strategies and foster longer term, more robust relationships with customers.

Another strong possibility is to Google’s credit; as the algorithm becomes more intuitive and precise, searchers need fewer clicks to get to their intended result. Bounce rates go down, and conversion rates go up.

Historically, we’ve seen organic search outperform other conduits like direct, social and PPC. We may see that the increasing efficiency of the algorithm means that organic conversion rates pull even further away from the pack.

Conversion rates will always vary between types of businesses (B2B, B2C, retail vs, agencies) Overall, though, we’re seeing that organic search converts best among the channels, and seems to be gaining momentum. What are you seeing in your own analytics?

3 Responses to Organic Search Conversion Rates Now Top 20%

  1. @aroit says:

    I really love this top down look because there are so many ways to read it!

    I’d be interested in learning more about the technical and customer behavior differences of these industries. Could you speculate that retail and e-commerce have low conversions because of shopping/browsing habits? Or…

    Could you infer that it’s a focus on images and a lack of content that makes it harder for Google to connect customers to companies?

    I’d love to see a conversion rate chart with an algorithm timeline. 🙂


  2. gary says:

    Great article.

  3. Charity Stebbins says:


    Love the idea of a conversion rate/algorithm timeline.

    I agree that there’s some interesting extrapolations we can make about behaviors in the different industries…hadn’t thought of shopping and browsing habits, but that makes sense.

    It’s probably also the case that since the literal, monetary buy at an agency or consultancy is so big, those marketers there need to gauge progress by smaller increments. And perhaps the media and publishing industry values eyeballs on ads as a conversion.