Google conducted an eye-tracking study using heatmaps that looked over 53 users and how they spend their time on the computer to conduct different searches. This was encouraged after Google was criticized for offering answers that eliminated the need for people to click on a website. For example, the direct Google resources such as photo carousels, maps, and common topic comparisons were getting attention from businesses as it reduced their traffic numbers. The study found that the eye movement of users has drastically changed since the 2005 eye-tracking study.
Google Search Result Heat Map
The above image shows the difference in eye movement between 2005 and the most recent heat map study. In 2005, users mostly focused on the top left of the page results, creating the ‘golden triangle.’ According to Gord Hotshkiss, Giro Vacations president and leader of the 2005 eye-tracking study, users would focus on the top four results, while 80% click on the URLs before moving on. Additionally, most avoided ads positioned on the right and clicked more on the top left ads.
However, the new study showed users scan the upper left, but that is the only similarity. This time, people scanned the whole page down the left side, looking at the updated Google categories. Horizontal scanning was less noticeable than before, with the average time to find desirable results being 8-9 seconds, instead of the 14-15 seconds in 2005. Leaders of the study indicated that this showed a positive improvement to Google search results, there were concerns of those depending on search engine marketing experiencing drawbacks.
Meanwhile, the lack of horizontal scrolling provides some interest towards mobile users. It is theorized by study leaders that those that are familiar with having results available in vertical layouts are more likely to have similar movements on a computer.
What Results Mean For SEO?
Because the study showed, users are more likely to review more than the top search result today compared to in 2005, fighting for the first spot could be less significant. Google uses list results based on categories; for example, local restaurants, profiles, and maps prioritize the results based on how relevant they are to the search.
These are important changes, and businesses can use them to their advantage. Campaigns can be used for drawing in more traffic without the user having to click on them. This provides exposure that results in brand awareness, and later, customers make purchases. This combines brand advertising and direct marketing to create a hybrid that is increasingly effective as time goes on.
Although the top few result positions are less important today than they used to be, the study indicated it is still a large benefit to rank in the top spots for organic traffic. The click-through rates for the top results were 12% to 14%; these are staggering numbers when it comes to CTRs. That shows SEO continues to be the leader in online marketing and an important part of any business structure or marketing campaign. However, SEO best practices are becoming more competitive, and changes need to be kept up with.
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