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Google Looks At Itself Through Your Eyes

Eye Tracking Search Engine Results

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What captures a user’s attention on their screen can play a large part in whether or not they click through to a search engine result. Naturally, that makes finding out where eyeballs go on a SERP vital to their overall search experience, and hence, vital to Google’s strategy.

Google of course obtains this knowledge through extensive eye tracking research. The company has a post up today revealing some findings from their latest efforts in this area.

"Based on eye-tracking studies, we know that people tend to scan the search results in order," says the post written by User Experience Researchers Anne Aula and Kerry Rodden. "They start from the first result and continue down the list until they find a result they consider helpful and click it — or until they decide to refine their query. The heatmap below shows the activity of 34 usability study participants scanning a typical Google results page. The darker the pattern, the more time they spent looking at that part of the page. This pattern suggests that the order in which Google returned the results was successful; most users found what they were looking for among the first two results and they never needed to go further down the page."

Eye tracking google SERP heatmap

One interesting finding, which Google’s Universal Search Team considers a success is that even on results pages where there are images embedded further down the page (such as in the example below), people still generally look at the results in order. There was concern that perhaps the images would capture users’ attention first. I believe I looked at the images first myself though, so I don’t know, maybe I’m a weirdo. Their findings would suggest that I’m not in the majority either way.

"For the Universal Search team, this was a successful outcome. It showed that we had managed to design a subtle user interface that gives people helpful information without getting in the way of their primary task: finding relevant information," the post says.

They note that Google is conducting similar eye tracking tests with image search and Google News. They have discussed such testing with different features in the past as well. Overall, such tests theoretically lead to enhanced usability of products. The results found for SERPs, will make people strive to get that number 1 ranking all the more.

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  • http://www.preferredseat.com Greg

    This just tells me that advertising past the first 3 paid spots will not get you many clicks, and the majority of clicks go to the paid search results, not going very far through the organic. Good for large companies with big budgets, bad for small business. Not surprising at all.

  • Babak

    If this is true then there is no need to have a search engine. We can collect all queries possible (even we can give people a hint what to search) and then display few items that we think are the best. BOOM! the search engine job is over.

    We all know the best search results can not possibly be in the top two, if this is the case then probably we need a better bookmarking technology rather than a search engine. A search enigne should distance ifself from human behaviour otherwise it becomes limited to what humans are capabale to do when it comes to analysing peta bytes of data.

    Search Engine Guru

  • http://www.uniquegarageconversions.com Dallas Garage Remodeling Services

    Results from eye tracking is a great tool to have and assess
    the results.
    Just think if your listing was a video that shows the square pics of your video in the search result, and all other were in text.
    most people’s eyes would go directly to the vid pics and clicking on your web page, even if you’re ranked at number 6 vs the number 1 position.

  • http://www.flowersbypost.com Jersey Flowers

    time Google themselves have shared eye tracking studies?

    Haven’t seen this before. The sample was not particulary big, but interesting none the less!

  • ajseoservices.com

    i completely agree with Search engine Guru on this because its very much obvious that there is no role of search engines in this case.

  • Guest

    I always look at the results with images first. Myabe it’s just me, but I find them to be the ones that pop out to me.

  • http://www.firmalatter.dk Ejvind

    I found it especially interesting that google is indexing all instances of the search term, and presenting it at the same time, whether it was a text link, a picture, or a video.
    Food for thought.

    Also very interesting to see how “chaotic” we look at a page up, down sideways, up again. It must be difficult to conclude anything from those results.

  • http://niche-traffic-sale.blogspot.com Niche

    Heat maps have been around for a while and marketers try to make use of this by putting their most persuausive text in the hot spot. I have found however, that things don’t always follow this logic. In fact they often don’t

  • http://quotes.stocknod.com/stocknod?Page=MarketSummary RC

    Maybe the new SEO marketing frontier will be the most creative images displayed with meta-titles and descriptions versus relevent text. I think it will be the same game and new players.

  • http://www.meetmeonline.co.za Anton

    It’s funny to see that they didnt include the paid search results in this case and show a eye tracking chart there

  • http://www.paydayfinancial.co.uk/payday-loan/same_day_loan.html Same Day

    Yes, very interesting things in the research.

    From it we can find that the 1 and 2 position takes all the attention. If you’re the third you must work very hard…

    It’s good that people are focusing on studies like this.