SEO News: Eye Spy with Users Little Eye

19 March 2013

San Francisco: Ever wondered precisely what people look at when they search on Google? Where do their eyes travel when they are searching? These are important questions with regards to any SEO campaign. For instance do people’s eyes even focus on the Google Places listings for a local search? Or do they flutter past them, straight down to the organic listings?


The path one’s eyes take can have huge implications on the effectiveness of a listing within a certain position, and to know where a user focuses his or her eyes on the page would be very useful information indeed.


Of course, these actions of the user are ones that we cannot at all expect to control (unless you have Darren Brown-type powers). Yet we need to understand our customer’s behavior and any additional information we have at our disposal will help us to maximize our SEO campaigns; which is where the good people at Rosetta have provided us with just the information.


With a group of 11 participants, the people at Rosetta performed a qualitative eye tracking test over 2 days. They tasked their subjects to carry our 3 generic searches – to find a new bank, find a new article of clothing to buy and search for an item they soon wish to buy themselves. During this time they monitored the journey each participants eyes took while carrying out these searches, even providing information on how long ones vision was focused on each area of the screen.


Unsurprisingly, one of the results of their experiment showed that users very rarely interact with Google Instant – Google’s feature that provides results before you’ve even finished your search query, assuming the ones that you will want. Results showed that the majority’s focus did not leave either the search bar itself or the keyboard until they had finished typing the search.


However a more interesting result was with regards to Google’s Autocomplete feature. Rosetta’s findings showed that this is the most used of any of Google’s features, and that the majority of users made use of this to help them ‘find’ the search query that relates best to what they are wanting to seek.


This has both positive and negatives effects to SEO campaigns. We as users have no control over manipulating what search queries appear in Autocomplete, and so we can only hope to use it as an advantage to our campaigns. It provides us with valid and effective long tail variations for keywords and one’s that, according to this research, will inevitably gain a search volume. By the same means however, any keywords that are currently being optimized for that are longer in nature may not be appearing in the Autocomplete feature. Instead it may be providing other keywords that you have not been gearing your campaign towards. Google threw another spanner even further into the works with the fact that the search suggestions provided in Autocomplete invariably change from time to time as well!


And finally, we have the findings with regards to Google Places listings. With Google’s ever increasing push for the dominance of places listings within their SERP’s, it is important to understand if user’s actually focus on these listings at all. (NB. What is important to note is that the SERP’s that the participants were subjected to include the Places listings in the list format, not the apparent blended listings that appear frequently.)


Their findings showed that, unsurprisingly, users interacted highly with the local listings. What is more surprising though is that they found that most attention was directed towards the geographic map, rather than their location links. This will be dependent upon the search query itself (i.e. If you are looking for the closest bakery you’d use it more than perhaps your closest plumber), but the findings do show that the local listings portion of the page had almost exclusively all of the interaction from users rendering the organic listings down the page almost non-effective.


These results go some way into helping us understand the behavior of users on Google, more specifically the actual information they intake and process by virtue of the movement of their eyes. It is up to us to help use this information for any campaign, if only to know where to target our efforts. Big thanks again for Rosetta in providing us with this helpful information.


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