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Eyetracking in Search Results

Motivation In How We Search

Reading a very old MOZ post on eye tracking studies regarding pizza searches, I felt like I was seeing some conclusions that got glossed over or left out.

Much of the eye tracking opinion surrounded the visuals on the page and what appears draw the human eye by how it contrasts to the page itself. Items like maps, local places pointers and video thumbnails always enjoy much of that attention on the eye tracking heat maps.

In the research on the image about “how to make pizza”, one comment eluded to “who doesn’t like a thumbnail with a picture of delicious pizza”. I think this is true that we unconsciously look at what is tasty, but I think this misses half the point.

Looking is not the same as needing it, looking, clicking and buying. Studying the eye tracking results of a group requires that they are in the same emotional state as our target consumer.

What was lacking from this particular study was first click interaction and more importantly the true human motivation that is lost when in a research setting. These views can be somewhat skewed by the simple fact that the subjects were not actually hungry or in the mood for pizza.

Also, there is the lost the medium that a motivated searcher would be hoping for.

The search of “how to make a pizza” is going to be looking for the easiest lesson or fastest means to an end, which is video. People learn in a visual manner so they are seeking a representation of a visual lesson. The thumbnail itself or the image in the thumbnail are half the story, the promise of a video format is the other half.

Another takeaway was the effectiveness of the google places map icons next to the 7 pack of local results. Someone very astutely pointed out that this is getting extra attention by the simple fact that it takes more time to absorb the information. The map with the icons and the associated icons require a person to evaluate the location as they are looking for the nearest one.

Lastly is the sitelinks example, which shows a hot spot on the top left sitelink under the top paid listing. The top listing and the top left placed sitelink got the most attention. A commenter brought the conclusion that people are scanning left to right, but scanning implies looking quickly.

Again the content of the sitelink itself was psychologically the phrase that the person wanted to see and it was attracting the first glance repeatedly of every person performing the search. It is also an internet trigger word. A word like deals would be universally motivating to anyone that uses the internet.

The sitelinks were as follows:

  • Deals
  • Contact Us
  • Create Account
  • Nutrition
  • Pizza, Pizza Toppings and Crust
  • Wings

And the sitelink that popped off the page was Deals. As Steve Krug said in Don’t Make Me Think; “What they actually do most of the time (if we’re lucky) is glance at each new page, scan some of the text, and click on the first link that catches their interest or vaguely resembles the thing they’re looking for.”

A statement that emphasizes the fact that motivation drives people to look at the first word on the page that looks like a link and matches their motivation. A study like this needs to use subjects with honest motivation to get honest results on the behavior of customers at that same moment of motivation.

See the original MOZ post here.

About author

Todd Kron

of Sellaholics is a veteran of Analytics, PPC, Display, video, UX, conversion optimization, affiliate programs, web design and web programming since 2002. My background includes affiliate sales to 6 figures, director of a web design agency, and currently the digital manager for a leading energy company located in Huntersville, NC. From search to sale 1000 different ways is my background. Sellaholics is a Google Partner Agency.

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