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Googles Golden Triangle

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“It’s not the searcher, it’s the engine,” said Gord Hotchkiss, President and CEO of Canadian search engine marketing firm, Enquiro. Hotchkiss, presenting at SES Chicago last week, was relaying some telling eye-tracking data, comparing where users’ eyes fall on major search engines like Google, MSN, and Yahoo. Google, with its “Golden Triangle” eye-tracking pattern, seems to produce results faster than the others.

“Google has trained us how to search. Sorry MSN. Sorry Yahoo,” Hotchkiss continued.

The data suggested that Google’s homepage was set up exactly right. Users’ eyes landed directly on the search box. With busy portals like MSN and Yahoo, eye patterns were more diverse, distracting users with a barrage of imagery. The imagery causes the pattern to scatter as users look around the page between query and result. This is a pattern Hotchkiss called the “accidental tourist.”

Users scan Google’s results page in a triangular pattern now called the Golden Triangle, a shot of which can be found here, from the top left to the top right, connecting to the bottom left just above where searchers begin to scroll. Eyetools reports that in its initial study, 100% of study participants looked at this area of the SERP.

The percentages of users that looked at any given rank, says Eyetools, are as follows:

Rank 1 – 100%
Rank 2 – 100%
Rank 3 – 100%
Rank 4 – 85%
Rank 5 – 60%
Rank 6 – 50%
Rank 7 – 50%
Rank 8 – 30%
Rank 9 – 30%
Rank 10 – 20%

As you might guess, the top three listings on Google’s SERP are prime real estate.

Hotchkiss asserted also that users perceived Google to be more relevant than MSN or Yahoo.

“There really is a Google Effect,” he said. “There is a Google halo effect.”

Google users don’t take much time to scroll down, which may indicate that the top links are trusted or deemed most relevant most often. The bare bones design may have something to do with the scrolling pattern however. At Yahoo, 60-70% scroll down the SERPS, a scattered eye-tracking map that may be indicative of the dominance of sponsored links before a searcher actually sees the organic results farther down the page.

Googles Golden Triangle
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