Eye tracking studies uncovered a “pinball pattern” in users’ gazes.
This results in the uncovering of a “pinball pattern” in eye movement. This eye-catching trend (pun intended) is one of many trends.
Figure 1: Three different “Rich Results” types displayed on a results page for a single query on Google.
Needless to say, features like these affect the way users respond to search results and influence what they click on — or if they click at all. Because different types of searches generate different layouts and types of displays, Nielsen Norman eye-tracking studies find that users need a moment to process the search engine results pages (SERP) before making a decision.
“Because search-results pages are now so inconsistent from query to query, users are often forced to assess the page before digging in and making a selection,” according to the report described in Search Engine Land. (Perficient Digital data finds this inconsistency to be a much bigger factor on mobile, noting that desktop results aren’t nearly as volatile.) This results in what the user experience company called a “pinball pattern” in eye movement.
Figure 2: Nielsen Norman Group’s eye tracking studies uncovered a “pinball pattern” in users’ gazes
The special, visually-rich displays are viewed by 74% of searchers, Nielsen Norman Group found. And they seem to be having a significant impact on click activity.
Back in 2006, the first search result (defined in this study as the first item appearing on the page, which means it could be an ad) attracted 51% of clicks. Now, only 28% of clicks go to the first result under the search box, the UX researchers found.
Whether the query contains a brand name or not seems to have a significant impact, though. According to Perficient Digital, the click-through-rate for the first result on branded queries averages 69%, whereas for non-branded queries the first result only achieves a 18% clickthrough rate.
This suggests that there’s more opportunity for marketers to attract clicks even if they aren’t in the very top spot, but between more aggressive monetization of results and zero-click searches, there’s just not as much room for organic listings to attract clicks. Consequently, there’s an increasing need for enterprise SEO tools that help marketers identify where their pages are showing up (especially in these special features) and identify opportunities for optimization.
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