Review of Gord Hotchkiss's Enquiro Eye Tracking Report II: Google, MSN and Yahoo! Compared

I recently read Gord Hotchkiss's second eye tracking study, and it rocks. It is quite meaty in nature, and well worth a read for any serious search marketer. It costs $149, but is a great value if you are a lover of search or a professional search marketer.

On to a few interesting highlights ...

  • Google is perceived to have better relevancy than other search engines, and is able to help concentrate attention at the top of the search results due to being primarily branded as a search site (instead of a portal), starting from a clean page full of white space, better use of real estate (by doing things like showing fewer ads on non-commercial queries, or showing them less prominently), better SERP formatting (including whitespace and perhaps even formatting using the phi ratio), and better ad targeting.

  • On average for Google and Yahoo the ads are viewed as more relevant than the organic results.
  • Interaction with search results is quick (roughly 10 seconds). We scan for information scent rather than fully analyzing, with a bias toward a semantic map that matches our goals.
  • Many top ranked search results guide toward a specific bias (say shopping) even when that makes them somewhat irrelevant for the user intent based on the search query. For generic queries we are biased toward research. Brand specific queries are more commonly biased toward purchasing. This biased intent may be fully decided before we even enter a query, and make us prone to ignore or specifically look for certain sites, or types of sites. Using strong emotional words (such as scam) or words that indicate research purposes (such as compare or reviews) may evoke a better CTR.
  • There is a direct connection to the thalmus to the amygdala which allows the amygdala to emotionally react to a sensory impulse before the neocortex can evaluate the input, thus when the neocortex does logically evaluate something you may already have that emotional bias worked into the equation, and thus try to justify it as being right...I think this was also mentioned in Blink, but is an interesting point.
  • The psychological noise of portal pages and the sensationalism associated with traditional headline news may erode emotional confidence when searching from a portal page, as compared to Google, which may be viewed as a way to escape the real world and do what you want.
  • We like to scan things in groups of 3s.
  • When text is placed inside an image it is easy to ignore it due to the feeling of images as low value or low information spaces likely with noise.
  • Google AdWords discounting for click relevancy ends up creating a self reinforcing market where the top ads are the best in many markets, especially in competitive marketplaces with high search volumes. Low volume keywords easier for bids to organize position...higher volume keywords primarily driven by ad CTR.

Those were just a few points from an information dense report which was refreshingly well put together. And in a market where so many people talk about getting top rankings it is great to see someone writing about how people interact with search results, and how to leverage them for their full value.

Gord has his head wrapped around search. When Greg Boser recently called out Did It

I also didn’t really consider David’s comments newsworthy. After all, he certainly isn’t the first PPC zealot to write a shitty article telling the world that SEO consultants were a high-risk waste of precious marketing dollars, or that organic SEO is as simple as hiring a monkey and giving them the URL to Google’s webmaster guidelines.

Gord added further context to the debate by talking about search from the perspective of the searcher, which is a topic oddly lacking in nature in discussions in our industry, given how much we talk about rumors of everything else.

Published: January 22, 2007 by Aaron Wall in seo tips


January 22, 2007 - 11:45pm

Thanks for this excellent summary. I'd already noticed the trend you describe in your fourth point--I have some clients that receive tens of thousands of visitors and only a couple dozen conversions last year from their more generic keyword landing pages. It's great to get some research-backed confirmation! Hopefully I'll be able to convince them to pursue some less "researchy" keywords, especially with this info!

January 23, 2007 - 12:24am

The solution could be one of two things

  • prune those keywords from your list
  • build pages that target the research experience

The site which is known as a good resource to research tends to rank well in the organic search results too.

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