Carousels, local packs, and authorships – oh my! The search engine results pages of 2015 are vastly different than what was seen even just ten years ago in 2005.
This very topic of interest was discussed at the latest Search Marketing Expo (SMX) West earlier this week. Matt Agrarap and Gord Hotchkiss, both of Mediative, shared the results of their latest eye-tracking study on how users view and interact with Google search results. They results were quite eye-opening (pun intended).
2005, as some might remember, was the year of the “Golden Triangle”. Searchers had an incredibly distinctive and recognizable eye pattern when looking at search engine results pages (SERPs) that resembled – you guessed it – a triangle. Viewers’ eyes landed on the upper left hand corner of the page, scanned down slightly to result 3 or 4, and then began to move their sight back towards listing one. Searchers were notorious for only looking at the top few results. In fact, 100% of people tested would scan the first four listings and 80% would make a click within the first four results. Additionally, the average time spent on a search page was 14 to 15 seconds total.
Now, fast forward to 2015. Searchers are now presented with several different search engine results page formats for different queries that contain more different content formats than ever before. Now, one might experience a SERP with video, a carousel, a “knowledge graph” box, or a “local pack” of listings. These changes have prompted searchers to change the way they behave when looking for information on a search engine and these changes have been reflected in recent studies.
This year’s eye tracking study revealed very different trends than the 2005 report. Instead of the previous and very distinctive “triangle” pattern, searchers are now prone to scanning the whole page very quickly – about twice as fast. Average time spend on a search page has decreased dramatically to only 8 to 9 seconds total. People are scanning more of the page as a whole but are spending less actual time on the page. This isn’t necessarily bad news, though. Sites listed in position 2-4 are seeing more click activity than ever before and even the 4th organic listing was getting 26% of the overall search traffic. People seem to be far more concerned with finding a result that actually meets their needs than with just clicking all willy nilly whatever ranks first.
Other interesting facts shared from this year’s survey results include:
- Up to 60% of our feelings about a page are determined before we even click. Factors taken into consideration include link rank, review ratings, sitelinks, etc.
- Images WILL attract attention – we are naturally attracted to visuals
- When a searcher is looking for the most relevant content there is more scanning of the page and four times as many clicks below the 4th organic listing
- Less than 10% of ads listed along the right of the page were clicked
What does this mean for websites?
Well, if you take away one thing from this article it should be that ranking #1 is not everything. Every person is different and what one searcher considers relevant might not apply to the next person. A solid content marketing and branding strategy are keys to success in the ever changing world of search engine optimization.
Additionally, let us all bid adieu to the beloved “Golden Triangle”, which has served as an industry standard for quite some time. Behaviors have changed as search engines have changed and there is no longer one distinctive pattern that ultimately correlates page rank with click success.