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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)

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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.

[prweb.com...]

11:55 am on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I don't think most people realize just how important it is to be in those top 5 results.

"Eye scan and click through behavior changes dramatically as users moved “below the fold” to the section of results that required scrolling down. At the top of the page, the amount of eye movement declined rapidly through the top 4 or 5 results, and then at the bottom of the screen, tends to become more consistent through to the end of the page."
12:30 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks SeoMike, this is interesting

>dropping to 85% at the bottom of the “above the fold” listings

This differs from my experience. "Bottom of the “above the fold” would be SERP positions # 6-8 on most screens. At least in my subject area dropping from #1 to #6 means about 3x less clicks for that search term, compared to just 15% decrease according to this study.

What is your experience?

12:37 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Sorry for unfinished thought,

what is it worth anyway, if 85% stare at SERP #6 but only 33% click ;)

12:42 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Ah, finally! Some usability nuggets!

And this has been around and known for a long time.

If you scour some of Jacob Nielsens usability reports, in particular his research on "banner blindness", I think in late '96, or take a look at the "Macintosh Human Interface Guidelines" from Apple, you will find similar results and suggestions.

Maybe this time it gets picked up by the general media, make it into a webmaster fad, and every page gets chopped down to non-scrolling page. :) THAT would be funny.

Of course, we still have menus on the left side of view screens, and that's an even bigger usability issue, but who cares, right? It's not in the papers...

12:44 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Well, conveniently I didn't finish my thought either.

Besides the search engine position, this study has an other implication.

Position of advertisement on your web page. I venture to say, (going with my previous post sources), that advertisement further down your page will get less action.

1:19 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Is it me or have I seen this image before using eye tracking software?
1:25 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The picture also shows how few look at Adwords in comparison to organic SERPs.
1:39 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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They did not mention a screen size for the test. Below the fold can be different for different monitors. My labtop gives me 3 organic reults with news/Froogle info and 4 organic results without. My desktop has a 17" monitor and I can see up to 7 seven organic results before scrolling down. They should have done a study for different size monitors and resolution settings to see what difference that would make.
1:44 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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great pr angle for all 3 companies involved

shak

1:48 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I don't know if this would apply to every page on the web. If you pay attention to the data you can see that the subjects are reading the entire first description, some of the second and just scanning after that.

It seems that they are making a judgement on the quality of the search by what appears in the first few spots. So if you are not in the top few spots your CTR is affected not by the fold, or your general position but by the quality of the descriptions above you.

It would be a great follow up to this study to see how many unique searches are performed for a give topic by each subject, how many listings are followed before each adjustment to the search, and the average position of the listings that were selected.

2:02 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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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.

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

Now if they incorporate, the number of qualified customers and actual conversions to sales, this report would be worth something.

2:36 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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The Software Usability Research Laboratory at Wichita State University just released a study entitled "Using Eye-Tracking Data to Understand
First Impressions of a Website" that shows results from online shopping websites.

[surl.org...]

Summary: This study discusses the contributions of eye-tracking data to traditional usability test measures for first-time usage of websites. Participants viewed the homepages of three different websites. Results showed that eye-movement data supplemented what users verbally reported in their reactions to a site. In particular, the eye-tracking data revealed which aspects of the website received more visual attention and in what order they were viewed.

[edited by: tedster at 2:39 am (utc) on July 3, 2008]
[edit reason] update the link [/edit]

2:44 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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This is a horrible survey. They don't say much about their techniques so it's next to worthless.

From what I can see, this scenario is horribly manufactured...

They're told to look at a search page specified by the survey company. So they're not actually searching for information, they're just doing what they're told.

If you were told to look at a page about something you're not interested in ("tibetan mountain goats" perhaps), would you look at the page in the same way as you would one that you are interested in ("google allegra" perhaps)? Would you scour the tibetan mountain goats page looking to see which is relevant? No, because nothis is relevant, you're not interested in tibetan mountain goats!

Beware of statistics based on manufactured scenarios.

3:35 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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So if users look at web pages in an "F" pattern, then why do the two sponsors of the survey have websites that have next to no information in the top right sections of their pages?

One is a flash masterpiece, and the other has a non-relevant photo dominating that area....

4:14 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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So if users look at web pages in an "F" pattern

No users don't look at web pages in an "F" pattern. They look at google results pages in an "F" pattern. Change the page layout and users will look at it in a different way.

If each google page had a picture of a reclining Pamela Anderson in the bottom right hand corner users would look in an "-@@o" pattern.

4:47 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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>I don't think most people realize just how important it is to be in those top 5 results.

Yep. One of the implications of this is that if you can get a page anywhere into the top 5, the key is to have a page title people will want to click on. #3 can be as good as #1 if the top 2 positions are occupied by pages with an unappealing page title.

4:56 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Notice also in that other study that people tend to look first at the most prominant graphical element on the page.

The large circular graphic in the one page, and specifically at the face of that kid on the other site. Using graphics could also be a way to draw attention to the items you want people to notice.

The face thing really shows me something. The page after also had an image in the same spot but it had a lower attention factor probably because it was a less interesting image, there were no faces in it.

5:03 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Screen resolutions?

Doesn't the fold depend on how you view the page...

5:42 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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People that does a bit of searching or search the 2nd or 3rd page is more qualified, and are more likely to buy.

Oh so true for me. I've dropped my bids 75% recently and I'm getting much stronger ROI and gross revenue.

6:01 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Here is one from a few months ago:
[poynterextra.org...]
6:46 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Would this data support the theory that in some ways it is better to be number #11 than #10 in the SERPS?
6:57 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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>Would this data support the theory that in some ways it is better to be number #11 than #10 in the SERPS?

Not particularly. It's been my observation that for most SERPs that people don't go beyond page one. ALTHOUGH, the exceptions might be relevant for people reading here. For someone doing a simple informational search, the first site they find that answers the question tends to be adequate. However, if the person is searching looking to buy an expensive item, they are far more likely to dig down in the SERPs for the best price/value.

7:28 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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A study that shows that people (in the West) look first at the top left and click on the first result (long marketed as most "relevant") is not new nor news nor particularly useful. It is simply how we learned to read. As mentioned above - similar studies long done, results long known.

The eye-track studies I would like to see:

* if tracking/clicking differs when users are opening "tabs" instead of "windows".

* if tracking/clicking differs when apparent "spam" results list higher or are mixed in with "wanted" results.

* if tracking/clicking differs when a search term can mean (and return) conflicting results i.e. Washington (US state, US capitol, several persons, etc.).

* all of the above differentiated between novice, casual, and professional searchers.

Let's get real and practical and useful. This "release" appears to be a wonderful example of a PR exercise.

8:18 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It doesn't really say ANYTHING concrete, or draw any conclusions about CLICKING which is what most of us are concerned about (it might say a lot about branding though if they did a memory retention study in correlation). Just because someone who uses Google all the time is TRAINED by habit to look at the same spot first, time after time, because traditionally that is the proper place to start, doesn't mean they are going to CLICK on the FIRST THING THEY SEE! As someone else pointed out, if the first two results are not what they want the 3rd will have the highest CLICKTHRU. I wouldn't run and start moving all the menus to the top left though. A different screen format, say a site which consistently places the navigation bars on the right (or an important menu, like the second toy website for instance) would likely show a totally different pattern by the third page visited by the same viewer.

The total lack of attention to the right-side paid ads is pretty interesting, though not surprising. Obviously #1 organic ranking is 6 x more advantageous than #1 paid ranking! So get off your lazy butts paying for Clicks and work on getting in the SERPS again :-).

[edited by: MikeNoLastName at 8:25 pm (utc) on Mar. 2, 2005]

8:24 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Just to contradict this, one of my sites gets very nice Google traffic from being the very last listing on the first page. It seems when people hit the bottom they just wanna click something... :)

Of course I wasn't aiming for that spot but if I can't have the top 5 (not for these keywords, it would be insanely hard) its a good place to be.

People have scrollwheels these days any they aren't afraid to use them.
Page TWO however is an entirely different matter - most novice users won't go that far.

[edited by: amznVibe at 8:25 pm (utc) on Mar. 2, 2005]

8:25 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What they need is a "customer aquisition" triangle, that'd be cool
8:46 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I agree that this is not new information, but I like the "heat charts". They're pretty! :)

There's a reason why the term "above the fold" is used. It has been well-known for almost a century that there are particular areas of any publication (like a folded newspaper ... with the area "above the fold" on the top issue being what people see when they walk past a stack of them on the street) that people look at more often or for a longer duration than other areas. We've known about the top-left corner for many, many years. The "F" shape seems incidental: there is a second "virtual" page being formed by the PPC ads on the right, and experienced surfers know it and respond accordingly, either by ignoring that area or by giving it a cursory glance.

I agree that using Google as a control is a poor choice, as there is nothing visually different about any result, whether for toys or for information, so there is no incentive/motivation to look anywhere other than where the people in the study looked.

This (admittedly unfinished) study would do well to evaluate factors like site familiarity, surf purpose and user comfort in their final results.

The other studies seem to bear this out: different sites, different goals and different levels of experience all skew the data differently. They do seem to imply, however, that (a) a big, round graphic grabs the eye first, then (b) the eye spends more time on text, even in an ad where the picture might be looked at for a very brief period. (Sorry, Flash/heavy-graphic users! :)

I seem to remember (from a long time ago) that right-handed people scan from left-top, where left-handed people scan from right-top. If this is borne out in the data, all of you who run Leftoriums should run out and bid-up your PPC ads ... but don't go over position #3, or you'll end up as a banner ... not where your customers are likely to look first.

8:54 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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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).

[tobii.se...]

Pretty pricey ;)

10:30 pm on Mar 2, 2005 (gmt 0)

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So if it's not SEO's, who was surprised?
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