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Companies conduct eye tracking study on Google
Results aren't surprising to SEOs

 2:37 pm on Mar 1, 2005 (gmt 0)

New EyeTracking Study verifies the importance of page position and rank in both Organic and PPC search results for visibility and click through in Google.

Nothing really shocking here, but the images which identify the important "triangle" are kind of neat.




 10:35 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

I just called Tobii Technologies (Sales office in San Francisco) and was quoted $27,000 for 1 of their eye tracking systems (17" monitor with built in tracking, and software).

I just got an idea for a new site ;)

Interesting study though :)


 10:44 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Slightly of track but somebody mentioned earlier in the thread that menus along the left are bad? Is along the top better?


 10:45 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

Nothing that we didn't already know based on click statistics from links on specific page positions, and everyone knows the top 2-3 links get the most traffic. Note it also proves (shock) that people read from right to left.

The only thing it reinforces which I just learned is my skyscraper ads on the left hand side works better than they did on the far right.


 10:50 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

>Nothing that we didn't already know based on click statistics from links on specific page positions, and everyone knows the top 2-3 links get the most traffic. Note it also proves (shock) that people read from right to left.

And also (shock) people read top to bottom.


 10:59 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)


Thanks for the great link to the "First Impressions of a Website" page.

If you look at the web sites they review, it doesn't really surprise me what people are looking at and in what order. Basically proving with technology what photographers, designers and artists have known for years about that the eye travels to the most dominant object on the page, then the second most, then flows around. If you construct a good organic flow you can drive customers to look at exactly what you want with very little effort.

Photographers also use the "squint" test - you squint when you look at an image or scene (or a web page) and the most dominant object that will catch someone's eye jumps out at you.

Try it, much cheaper than what Eyetools charges :)


 11:39 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

"The only thing that count is conversions. People that does a bit of searching or search the 2nd or 3rd page is more qualified, and are more likely to buy.
It's no advantage to be in the top 5 if most of the clickers are just window shopping."

I think that is what most of these type surveys miss. The fancy triangle don't mean squat if none of the items in that zone are useful.

From what we have seen, and from my own personal habits - if I am seriously looking for something I will often go several pages deep. If I am just casually browsing, I tend to follow the same pattern they found (what a surprise).

As you pointed out, window shoppers are not buyers, even thought they may be clickers. Prospective buyers usually tend to dig a lot deeper, especially on expensive purchases.

Another thing I have noticed lately is that we are getting more traffic lately from the places like PriceTool.com that allow customer ratings of merchant sites. I think a lot of people - especially on the internet - tend to shop more for reliable service etc than for just price or placement on the search engine page. I know that when I personally go online shopping, I sort computer stores by rating, not price.


 12:03 am on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

So basically we learn nothing from the study at all... because everyone tries to get top rankings anyways... But I guess it is interesting to know exactly where the eye site is for our own site and not just search result listings...


 12:17 am on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Not totally useless - now I know for sure that I should put the most important links and navigation structure in that part of the page.


 1:33 am on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

omg. They surveyed 50 people.
<sarcasm>That must make the research a good representative of the population.</sarcasm>
They need at the least over 200 to have any confidence in the research.
It also should to include the demographics of the users to really tell us anything.
I want to know.
a) how often the sample used google (of course seasoned users know where to look for results)
b) screen resolutions
c) age
d) sex
e) occupation
etc, etc

Would be great to get some valid research on a sample of different sites too. Then i could match the demographics of my target market to the research.
I would pay to access this type of research.... anyone know any?


 2:59 am on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Part of this may be that we have conditioned people to scan this way because of the broad use of left hand menu systems, with a top nav bar for the important stuff as well. Jakob mentions this many times, since people read this way as well. So could be just natural scanning behavior of the users. Anyways, interesting research nonetheless for website design.


 6:15 am on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

If you are an engine or publisher or PPC management agency and getting paid for clicks or based on your clients' spend and want to maximize the ad spend this is a great study. If the purpose of your SEM campaign is branding, the results of this study probably confirm what you intuitively know. If you are an advertiser looking to maximize ROI, you probably don't want to pay to much attention to this study.


 10:08 am on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Part of this may be that we have conditioned people to scan this way because of the broad use of left hand menu systems

I think you (and a few other people) are missing the point here. This survey is only relevant to Google's site. It does not apply to other web sites.

The reason that the triangle is there is because Google has put the main content down the left hand side. If they were to flip the design and put the content down the right, the 'triangle' would be inverted.

This 'triangle' will not appear on all sites. On sites where the navigation is on the right hand side of the page, the eye focus will be placed over it.

This reasearch does not suggest that people should start modifying their own pages and putting their important page elements where Google's 'triangle' is.


 12:05 pm on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Firstly, if u ever looked at a google site that uses right to left ordering, such as hebrw, and searched for something that brings up english results, you will find yourself starting at th eright edge, then scanning the title to its beginning somewhere in the middle and only then reading it to the left. This tells me that the visual layout dictates the scanning order more then the left to right writing direction.

Also, it shows that a title like "domain.com - cool website this is! Page on Widgets" is by far worse then "Widgets! domain.com - cool website this is!". Since further down the SERPs, the right end of hte title might never be scanned.



 2:33 pm on Mar 3, 2005 (gmt 0)

Photographers also use the "squint" test - you squint when you look at an image or scene (or a web page) and the most dominant object that will catch someone's eye jumps out at you.

It's always worked for me! :)


 1:06 am on Mar 4, 2005 (gmt 0)

This is just another VooDoo Science survey to push higher bids from the PPC advertisers

agree, not only worthless, but harmful.
they can survey 20 people all they want, it is
a) non-scientific (i.e. done to create a press release, or to deceive people)
b) for Google - makes no account for the price/position. Lower Ads already discount for this "phenomenon".
c) possibly only applies to Google search page - and that is unapplicable to other websites (with a different navigation structure, more images, different content, etc., etc.)
d) also does not take into account "banner blindness" effect.


 9:46 pm on Mar 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Smacks of the dumbing down of science by the media.

Wouldn't a survey of 50 webmasters be more revealing (but of course we wouldn't want to tell what works really would we) ;-)


 10:09 pm on Mar 7, 2005 (gmt 0)

Wouldn't a survey of 50 webmasters be more revealing

Webmasters aren't the visitors.

That would be like asking the warden if all the prisoners enjoyed their stay.

This is akin to a higher-tech version of what Jacob Neilson already has been doing for years, I just think it's been done before, the usability results are in, this just confirms it.


 1:29 am on Mar 8, 2005 (gmt 0)

I’ve seen similar eye-tracking studies done on landing pages for both PPC and email campaigns, and the results are strikingly similar. People don’t spend much time reading copy or down a page – the heading and top of the page are critical.

I think the main take away here is that the general searching public rest a lot of their trust in the top results that Google spits out.

“It’s #1 so it must be the best.” they say.

We’re a biased audience because we know how SE’s operate. Moreover, we’re programmed to scan and “hyper read” whereas many people read slowly, and have trouble digesting all of the content that spills out into a single results page.

I did a test and if you take the word count on an average Google results page and dropped it into 12 pt Times single space in MS Word, you’d read the equivalent of 3-4 pages!

Needless to say people don’t have or refuse to invest the time into digesting so much data.

Wow, I’m coming up with a great idea for a new SE to rival Google.. Anyone want to invest? :)


 4:46 pm on Mar 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

This study is completely useless, and not just because they only used 50 people.

The problem is that they end up measuring not only user behavior (which is what we want to know), but also how good Google's search results are. And they don't make any efforts to separate these two things.

In the study they told the subjects to search for something and then tracked their eye pattern. Well, if you're searching for information and looking at a search result page, you'll look only until you find what you want, right? So if Google does a great job, you'll find what you're looking for right at the top, and won't bother checking out the rest of the page. But if the results aren't very good, you'll keep scanning down the page until you find what you want. So the outcome of this study is influenced more by how good the search results are, than by intrinsic user behavior.

Imagine if somebody did a study on "when people look for lost car keys in their house, how many places do they look in?". Such a study would probably indicate that 60% of subjects look for their car keys only in 3 places, 20% look in up to 6 places, and only 5% look in 10 or more places. Well, that's great, but that only tells us about how messy people's houses are. It doesn't give us any useful information about how people look for car keys.


 4:56 pm on Apr 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Please Read My
Response to this
Posting .. I have
designed this response
to reflect recent
scientific studies
about eye tracking
and how people view
search engine result


 5:28 pm on Apr 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Here is a much better one


........................................................Don't look at this
.............................No here.
Not here.
...............................................This is what I don't care about.
here is where I . . . . . ;)REALLY;). . . . . want you to look.
based on this study you should not be scanning this smaller text but actually reading it

[edited by: Reid at 6:14 pm (utc) on April 15, 2005]


 5:48 pm on Apr 15, 2005 (gmt 0)

Decaff your post was pretty
funny but you forgot the 'f'
based on
Googles latest study of how
Eye tracking works on SERP
in Google

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