Through the years, the way that Google has displayed search results has drastically changed. The space for paid ads have changed and been formatted differently (underlined, boxed, shaded, marked as paid ads, etc.) Local search results and the local pack has been making its way in and out of search results. Google Authorship photos have showed up and disappeared as quickly as they rose. Not to mention that organic results are pushed down more than ever. Because of the changing landscape, it shouldn’t be a surprise that user behavior has also changed when it comes to viewing Google search results.
Results of Eye Tracking Study
Examining user behavior in a recent study, the emphasis lies on debunking the myth of the “golden triangle” and a preference for horizontal scanning of results. In a study in 2005, it was thought that most users only look in the space that encompasses the top left hand side of SERPs, covering the top 4 organic searches and trickling down to form a triangle shape. This would skipping even the right hand section for paid ads.
The more recent study shows that eyes linger more on the first page of SERPs. Instead of just focusing on the left hand side, users start at the top left and gradually scan downwards. The scrolling back and forth behavior indicates looking at videos, local, maps, news, Knowledge Graph, and more in search results.
Less Time to Scan
Whether it’s due to experience or impatience, users are spending less time scanning. From the initial study 10 years ago, people would spend 15 seconds scanning. Now, that time is down to about 8 seconds. The difference is that users spend more time scanning vertically but less time before actually making their decision.
Takeaways from Search Behavior
As a small business, this information should be used to your advantage where possible. This means:
– Using short, concise, and straight to the point language in copy for meta descriptions and paid ads.
– Being relevant to the searcher. This means including geographic locations, phone numbers with local area codes, and important identifying adjectives to set yourself apart from the competition (free, best seller, highest rated, etc.)
– Expanding your brand reach and not putting all your eggs in one internet marketing “basket”. Focusing all your efforts into just one aspect of online marketing just won’t cut it anymore. In order to be successful, your business needs to diversify, including: organic, videos, local, social, paid ads, third party reviews, and more.
If you have questions about organic SEO and how you can improve your website’s visibility, call us at (323) 340-4010 for a free consultation and website review.
Matt Ramage is founder of Emarketed a web marketing agency located in Los Angeles. He loves coffee, good design, and helping businesses improve their look and getting found on the Internet.