Sweet Talking The Searcher In One Second Or Less

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You have four seconds to get your site loaded and about one-twentieth of a second to impress the visitor before she flits on like an attention-deficient hummingbird. But before that, you have about one second, in the search results, to get her attention in the first place. And just like the tentative beginnings of most romances, it’s all about what you say, how you look, and where you live.

Sweet Talking The Searcher In One Second Or Less
Sweet Talking The Searcher In One Second Or Less

Think of it this way: there are women out there that will dismiss a potential lover based solely on his shoes. It’s a quick, quite unfair, snap judgment that can ruin all the fun. Wooing a searcher is much the same, as that first impression in the search results can make or break a click.

Dutch firms DeVos & Jansen and Checkit recently released a very interesting eye-tracking study (PDF), examining the behavior of searchers with the intent to buy versus searchers with the intent to find information. Their results mesh with what you might intuitively know about searcher behavior, but there are some fundamental practices illuminated by the study that are quite useful.

The bottom line: buyers search longer; branding is crucial; search result language matters; the right column sucks; Google rocks harder at this than anyone else, but that’s a bad thing for you, the marketer, really; and cheesy, sandwich board, sidewalk-barker type results ain’t gonna cut it.

Let’s break down the study into nice, digestible chunks:

Buyers: "Transaction searchers" zero in on familiar brand names, reinforcing the importance of brand presence throughout the information-gathering process. They tend to look at more search results – often the entire page of results – and for longer durations.

Researchers: "Information searchers" are very keyword oriented, looking for words that match their queries exactly, but also focus on the uniqueness of the language in the search result, a process by which duplications are eliminated. As mentioned before, this is where you build brand familiarity.

Everybody: Ninety-eight percent of the study participants reviewed the organic results, and 95 percent of them checked out the top sponsored results. Only 31 percent bothered with the sponsored results at the right. On average, 9.2 results were viewed before a click was made: 6.6 organic; 2.6 top sponsored; 0.6 right sponsored. Consumers spend just over 10 seconds viewing the entire page, reserving 8.8 seconds for the organic results, 2 seconds for the top sponsored results, and 0.2 seconds (next to nothing) viewing right sponsored results. Average viewing duration for a single search result is 1.1 seconds, with slightly more time spent at organic than sponsored results.

Google Is Different: Google users spend less time viewing search results, and eye-patterns are highly concentrated in the upper left corner, also known as the "golden triangle." They’ve become so effective at being relevant to the searcher, anything below the fold is often lost completely. This is elegantly clear when comparing the eye-tracking patterns (visually rendered in the study) to other search engine results pages, especially when it comes to information searches. (Check out the 3-D rendering on page 6).

Why People Click:

1. Familiarity with and reliability of website or organization.
2. High ranking, which indicates user trust and current information.
3. Presence of keyword in search result.
4. Apparent usefulness of information, especially user reviews or product comparisons.
5. (Indirect) pricing information; staple phrases like "low price" are good triggers.
6. Apparent variety of information or products.
7. Absence of aggressive, over-the-top advertising language using capital letters and exclamation points.

General Guidance: The study authors say, "It is of great importance that the target audience is motivated in a single second to click on a link to a website. This is an important task for the copywriter: the message has to be processed quickly, knowing that references to keywords and the brand are important reasons to click."

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