SERP Browsing Patterns Revealed through Eye-Tracking
The study of consumer behavior has long been integral in the realm of marketing. Along with the proliferation of the Web as an ever improving tool for business, education and leisure, the study of consumer interaction with the internet has become an area of immense interest. Just as consumers are eager to take advantage of mass quantities of information at their fingertips, businesses are anxious to get their messages in front of today’s internet savvy consumers.
Some means of Web exposure have long been measured with precision. We attempt to build an understanding of users’ behavior as they interact with our websites by tracking clicks on paid advertisements and evaluating the manner in which visitors peruse through the pages of our sites. Tracking click through rates is a concrete way to measure how many users visit a site in a given time period, but provides no insight into the process that led the user to select the site over the alternatives in the first place.
Page one of the search results generated by Google, Yahoo and MSN are prime real estate for a site seeking exposure to users who are searching for the information, goods and services it provides. But presented with the list of options on a search result page, how does a user go about deciding which listing to explore further?
Upon pondering this subject, I came across an insightful article from http://www.seoresearcher.com about an interesting eye-tracking study conducted at Cornell University, in which students’ ocular behavior such as fixations and dilations were measured as they performed numerous Google searches and selected listings related to various topics.
Not surprisingly, the study concluded that the first listing in the SERP wins a majority of the attention with regard to both fixation and the number of clicks. Though study participants spent almost as much time looking at the second listing as the first, the second listing captured less than a quarter of the number of clicks than did the first. It was also no surprise to discover that a vast majority of users never explored beyond the first page of search results.
In general, the time spent viewing each listing and the number of resulting clicks declines from the top to the bottom of the search result page, with one fascinating exception: #7. Surprisingly, the listing in the #7 position receives less attention and fewer clicks than the listings in the #6 or #8 positions, suggesting that it gets lost in the page fold as users scroll to view the bottom of the page.
In the real world, most site owners are thrilled to achieve placement on the competitive first page for relevant key phrases on any search engine, and no one has control over whether a site is listed at #6 or #7 in the SERPs. Most site owners and search marketers aim to position their sites in a way that is as genuinely attractive as possible to users and the search engines simultaneously, with the hope that search engines will take notice and deliver the site to users via the search engine result pages. Does this mean hope is lost for obtaining placement in the #1 position? Of course not. You just have to realize that getting to the top is more than a matter of getting from point A to point B; it is a matter of being consistently better than the competition over time. Provide the quality content and intuitive usability that both users and search engines desire, and your site will naturally rise above the competition.
About the Author: Pamela Westbrook is a Project Manager for a premiere search engine optimization firm based in Austin, Texas. Pamela is a graduate of the University of Alabama Culverhouse College of Commerce and Business Administration with a degree in Consumer and Industrial Marketing. For more information about search marketing and PPC management, please visit http://www.arteworks.biz