We know that the number of features such as knowledge areas, images, local packages, and other items in search results has increased in recent years, which has had a significant impact on SEO strategies. A new study will now show to what extent the introduction and variation of these characteristics changes the behavior of the searchers.
If features of the Search Engine Results Page (SERP), such as: For example, a sponsored product carousel, a video carousel, a feature snippet, or other rich results found on a search results page were viewed by the user in 74% of cases, according to the Nielsen Norman Group study. The visual weighting of SERP features affects the user's perspective. Since the number of features can vary from query to query, the gaze pattern is nonlinear, as the study also found.
The results were derived from an analysis of 471 requests from participants in eye-tracking and usability test studies conducted between 2017 and 2019.
How SERP features affect user behavior and actions. If search result results appear on the results page, such as: As presented snippets, they were, according to the study, viewed in 74% of cases by the user.
"Images have definitely attracted attention – they are visually attractive and have helped users quickly check whether the results fit the topic they are looking for," said Kate Moran, author of the analysis and senior user experience specialist the Nielsen Norman Group Land of the search engine. "But elements that gave quick answers also received a lot of attention – snippets, knowledge panels and people also asked."
Interestingly, this added complexity and variation of search results pages does not seem to keep users from taking action relatively quickly. The participants only needed 5.7 seconds on average to click on their first selection.
A separate analysis from Yext revealed that consumer searches for local business listings – directions, clicks to call businesses – have grown by a larger percentage (17%) in last year's search than impressions from business listings (10%). ). "[This suggests that] Customers find what they want faster," the Yext analysis concluded. "Whether searchers learn to use more specific queries, or search engines understand those queries better, customers spend less time searching and more time engaging with businesses."
The pinball pattern. The value of the top spot on a search results page is based on the idea that users search the lists one at a time. Because the modern results page can contain different types of results, ads, and interactive elements in addition to traditional organic listings, users will nonlinearly focus on these different elements. The Nielsen Norman Group has called this phenomenon a "pinball pattern".
The pinball pattern describes the path of the user's gaze as it moves between items on the search results page.
"Because search results pages are now so inconsistent from query to query, users are often forced to rate the page before they get familiar with it and make a selection," the report said.
Each query can contain many search functions, from rich answers to carousels and everything in between. This compilation of information plays an important role in shifting the user's attention over the page. "This means that the layout of a SERP can determine which links are visible and which ones are clicked on." In addition, the position of visually compelling elements could affect the visibility of nearby organic results, the report said.
(Click to enlarge.) An action that shows a participant's gaze upon the search for the "best refrigerator to buy". The attendee turned his attention to the sponsored shopping cards, the sponsored results, the featured snippet, and the People So Ask field before we look at the first organic result.
Which results are displayed and clicked? One striking difference in 2006 search behavior over today is the click on the first result on the page. In 2019, the first result (defined as the first item that appears under the search box, which means it could be an ad) received 28% of the clicks. This represents 51% of the clicks that led to the first result in 2006.
While the study acknowledges the increase in zero-click searches, there's a bit more publishing and clicks on ads and listings later in the page than in the past. Nevertheless, ads and features like instant answers are much more common nowadays than in 2006. This should be taken into account when interpreting this data.
The study found that the first three positions received more than half (59%) of the clicks, with lower positions receiving a slightly higher percentage of clicks than in 2006.
Instances were also observed where users continued to search the results page while waiting for a clicked result to load. Some users returned to the search results to select another entry they had previously seen if their first choice did not resolve their search.
Below the fold value varies. Only 5% of selections in navigation and information queries were below the fold (the list of entries that appeared after the user scrolled to see more results). For more complex research tasks, 20% of the selections were below the fold.
This suggests that companies publishing inbound content may still be able to get clicks, even if they are lower in the SERP.
However, for 2% of queries, users only ventured beyond the first page of results.
Why should we care. If this study accurately reflects how the general public navigates the search results, companies have a clear incentive to optimize search capabilities. The top organic dot is only one of many factors that can increase your visibility in the search results.
According to a study by Perficient Digital, traditional "Blue Link" organic listings have sold first-class SERP real estate to ads and extensive responses whose mobile results have more than doubled since last year. Consumer Actions in Google My Business Entries, another kind of rich results, get more clicks than last year. The trend towards more search features has significantly impacted user behavior. Most Google searches now stop without clicking on other content, leaving publishers less organic traffic. These search items are displayed more, not less.
Marketers should formulate their strategies taking these trends into account. By optimizing the features that make the most sense for your business, a technique that SparkToro's Rand Fishkin referred to as "On-SERP SEO" last week in its SMX keynote, brands can still find ways to do theirs Target audience via the search results.
About the Author
George Nguyen is Associate Editor at Third Door Media. His background is content marketing, journalism and storytelling.