SES 2006: SERP Sharp-Shooting

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Earlier we reported that presence was an essential part of the online shopping process. It’s not so much about the clicks as it is about branding. Our man about San Jose, Doug Caverly, continues this theme, reporting from the Search Behavior track at the Search Engine Strategies Conference. Further eye-tracking studies shows that position is everything.

SES 2006: SERP Sharp-Shooting
SES 2006: SERP Sharp-Shooting

During the session, Bill Barnes, vice president of sales and marketing for Enquiro, a company obsessed with searcher behavior, relates how the top sponsored result, even if bypassed for the top organic result, is a very important part of search marketing.

Remember that a simple text ad has resonance in the mind of researching shoppers, who spend time with many brands before making a final purchase. From the results of Enquiro’s latest eye-tracking study, Barnes tells us that subjects “linger” with the top sponsored result for a full three seconds before moving on to organic listings. That’s three seconds that eyeballs are processing and building a relationship with the name at the top.

“That’s great news for search engines,” said Barnes, “and more proof that the top sponsored is the best position, provided the ROI is there.”

Barnes also revealed what may be surprising for some. “The fourth highest converting was the seventh and eighth spot.”

However this is consistent with earlier findings that searchers tend to evaluate links in pairs. They look at the #1 and #2 link, perceive that the first link is more relevant, and click it. If that link didn’t take them to where they wanted to go, the tendency is to return to the search results and ignore the second link as one already considered and rejected. It’s on to the third and fourth result.

With these phenomena in mind, a search marketer should shoot for very precise placement:

    The top sponsored result gives your company presence. Below it and to the side are most often ignored.

    The top organic result is king of all.

    Searchers don’t want to scroll down. Aim for the top five.

    The top three is even better.

    Searchers examine results in pairs. Odd numbers are lucky.

    Search result 11, as the top of the second page, can outperform even-numbered, bottom of the page result 10.

    Hardly anybody searches past page three.

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