Feb 24 2009
Google’s User Experience Research team released an eye-tracking study to determine whether incorporating aspects of Universal Search like images and video into the search engine results page (SERP) affects the way users scan the page.
Google concluded that when thumbnail images are in the results it seemed to “make results with thumbnails easy to notice when users wanted them.” In other words searchers who were trying to find an image, even if they didn’t specify that in their search query found relevant information more readily since the images were included right in first SERP they see. More importantly they found that even if a searcher wasn’t looking for an image the thumbnails being included in the SERP actually helped them find more relevant information by focusing their eyes on the most relevant information. Google found that the searcher quickly skipped over the images if they weren’t looking for them and still found most relevant result even if it appeared below the images on the SERP.
This was obviously a successful result for Google because it shows that including more diversity in their SERPs through Universal Search creates a higher quality user experience and helps Google to better accomplish their primary goal: Help people find relevant information.
This is an important conclusion for marketers and businesses to keep in mind because this will only mean that we will begin to see more and more thumbnail images on SERPs along with other Google products like Google News. You can no longer just focus on optimizing your pages and text for certain keywords. To best exploit Universal Search results you must also focus on optimizing your images and videos.
The article also includes a heatmap of the activity of the searcher’s eyes. The darker the pattern the more time the searcher spent looking at that section of the SERP. The heatmap again just proves again how unbelievably powerful it is to be at the top of the results for your most important keywords. I do wish however that Google would have shown how paid ads being included on the SERP effected how the user views the page.
Take a look at the study and see for yourself.