Eye Tracking from Search to Recall

There have recently been a couple eye tracking studies in the news. Jakob Nielson did a study on the effects of clean content organization:

What if you could engage users in a story for about half the time, yet have them remember about 34 percent more of the content? That’s exactly what one test showed. Spending less than two hours rewriting and reformatting a story about New York City restaurants really paid off according to this study.

Gord Hotchkiss recently posted about how people scan search results.

We scan three to four listings at a time, which are temporarily loaded into our memory slots. From that first group of three to four listings we make a determination if any of them are relevant to the query we just launched. About 50% of the time, we make our selection from those first three or four listings and we click on one of them. If we don't find what were looking for in this first can, then we continue to scan down the page, slicing off our second consideration set of three to four listings, again loading them into our memory slots so we can compare them and make our choice.

As the business model for creating content erodes, and web entrepreneurs get better at recycling content, those who get the presentation and formatting from the search results right on through to site structure and article display will win marketshare as destination sites:

While many people want their website to be #1 (or even settle for first page) for their keywords, very few websites actually deserve it. The concept of Destination Marketing is about making your website better than the sum of its parts by combining strong SEO and strong on- and off-page marketing without compromising any of it. If your website is just another site doing the same thing that hundreds of others are and you provide no unique offerings, simply put, you don't deserve to be #1. Period.

Update: Poynter did research showing that when people pay attention online they pay more attention than they pay to similar offline pieces. Here is a video about their eye tracking study.

Published: March 26, 2007 by Aaron Wall in publishing & media


March 26, 2007 - 10:39am

Its been discussed and pretty much concluded that around the 3rd and 4th spot in the PPC list is the place to be. This article also confirms this.

What excites me is combining this with Google's new PPA. Its not really clear to me yet what can and can't be done with Google PPA, and right now PPA is not for search. But...

I've made a post (click on my name) about replacing PPC with PPA, and I think it means you can manipulate your position very easily.

Makes this eye tracking stuff worth remembering (and possibly worth more time investigating), and also makes me think that Google will have some restrictions on what you can and can't do with PPA (if it ever makes it to search).

March 26, 2007 - 10:56am

Those discussions and conclusions are also inaccurate then. Sure that might be the right spot for many markets, but many are still fairly undiscoverd, and others will need to overspend short term to gain traction and test their profit elasticity vs position.

With PPA they will still keep it bidding against PPC to keep the marketplace fresh and dynamic in nature (not to mention that some companies do not want to share their conversion data directly with Google).

And on content sites there will largely be a winner take all effect on PPA where people who underbid (or even underprice their products) are unable to compete with more efficient market leaders.

March 28, 2007 - 8:47pm

those who get the presentation and formatting from the search results right on through to site structure and article display will win marketshare as destination sites:

Aaron, what are your thoughts on the Miller study and the rule of 3 that Gord referenced? Looking at many of the pro bloggers out there, I get the feeling that many don't buy into those theories.

March 28, 2007 - 9:19pm

I think most people do not give SERP presentation enough attention. Maybe the theories are not perfect, but they are still well worth considering.

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