Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger links
to a post about the difference between being 1st and 2nd on Google for a particular search term.
"I can tell you that our site receives approximately 30k of visits on average per day from Google, just from keyword searches for Term X. There’s typically one or two Sponsored Links just above us on the SERP, and a few Sponsored Links on the right side column, too.
When we dropped to second slot on the SERP for Term X, we lost approx 18k of visits per day. So, there it is: the difference between the number one slot and the number two slot for a major keyword term comes to about a 60 % change in visits!"
A 60% drop is pretty big when it's out of your control and could be down to some change made by Google. How can you plan a business on this?
There was an article
on Clickz the other day which talked about where the internet would be in the year 2010 and the first point was "Everyone Hates Google... Except the Consumer". One of the reasons for this was the rising cost of keyword advertising and quoted somebody who spent 60% of their ad budget on Google but it only drove 20% of their revenue.
Now you probably need to take the particular details of each situation into account but its going to make it very difficult for a small company to drive any great revenue from Google if you have on one hand high cost and the other high risk and difficulty. It will put an increased importance on how your site is constructed and the value of content that you have on it. A web standards based site, so that the search engine spiders can understand it, which has interesting and relevant content, so people read and link to it, will have a higher listing than a site with mainly static content. This won't guarantee you that coveted No.1 spot but it will help and to get there takes lots of little things that you have to do together.