Sunday, February 8, 2009

The importance of a high position on Google Search Results: Eye-tracking study

The map above is a "heat map" analysis conducted by Google tracking how people's eyes navigate typical search results. Further details of the study can be found at: Official Google Blog: Eye-tracking studies: more than meets the eye.

The purpose of the Google post seems to be to point out the effort Google puts into making the results useable and also that the results it delivers are typically relevant. Both of these are very worthy aims!

There is one other conclusion you can draw from the results: If you aren't result 1 or 2 then a lot of people aren't going to spend any time looking at your site in the search results and consequently aren't likely to click through to your website.
Our User Experience Research team has found that people evaluate the search results page so quickly that they make most of their decisions unconsciously.
This is certainly the case for most searches undertaken - instant gratification is important and split second decisions are made by your brain on the basis of a quick scan of the results and our in built conditioning that you read from top to bottom. Would results be different for searches who are native Right-to-Left language readers (eg Arabic, Hebrew) or logographic languages (like Chinese) that can be read from top to bottom and right to left (ie from the top right hand corner to the bottom left hand corner of the page)?

Notice the hotter areas around the first few search results (particularly results 1 and 2). Perhaps this analysis can be taken further and if you put your keywords on the hottest areas then people doing a quick scan of the search results are more likely to see your website is relevant to their query. Note however the small sample size.

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