We’re at SMX East in New York City, which is one of the biggest conferences in the world focused on SEM and SEO. Attending over 50 sessions, keynotes, and clinics we are here to bring home the latest and best search marketing tactics to Scandinavia.
Eye-tracking on the Google SERP
One of the first sessions was looking at one the most iconic studies around search from all the way back in 2005, which essentially was a study tracking where users focus on a website. This is done by tracking the users eyes as she scans through a website, and in this case the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) of Google. This study was performed by Chris Pinkerton and you can download the entire study here.
You might recognize the screenshot of a SERP from 2005, where we see users gravitating towards the top left of the page. To the initiated, this is referred to as the “golden triangle” and you’ll realize that its not really a coincidence that Google has placed three paid listings on top of every page. It also highlights the importance of being at the first position at the SERP, and is why SEO and SEM for a long time were seen solely as a race to the top.
An updated version of the study
An updated version of the study looked at how users navigate the same page in 2014. It is worth noting that the search-experience has changed a lot in the decade since the first study was done. Google has introduced features such as local listings, star ratings, blog posts, and the knowledge graph, which together add a whole lot more information to every SERP. Its not just a list of ten blue links anymore. A different user experience yields different user behaviour, something that can be noted from the following screenshot.
The user is no longer totally fixated in the top left corner, and is more prone to scroll down the site. This is a consequence of us being more used to reading a page from top to bottom rather than from left to right, as well as our ability to take up information a lot faster than we used to. Not to mention, it also has a big impact for search engine optimization and search marketing.
Search is no longer a race to the top
It is, as it always should have been, about matching content with intent. The user is scanning more listings in 2014 compared to 2005 and will be able to take in more information. Another important finding in the study is that paid listings hold pretty much the same proportionate number of clicks compared to organic listings. This means that all the new features and organic information added to the SERP is not cannibalizing on paid search.
This holds big implications for search marketing. Users will be able to scan more information faster, and it’s important to have both a good SEO and paid search strategy in order to take over as much real estate of the SERP as possible.