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Tracking the behaviour of web searchers

A report published by Enquiro in Canada in 2005 adds a more detailed level of analysis to the research conducted by Eyetools that used eye-tracking software to identify 'hotspots' on a page of Google search engine results.

The study, across 300 sessions, identified the way that searchers viewed the page of results once it was displayed, represented as a 'golden triangle'. In fact, the shape tended to represent an F pattern with the eye travelling from the top left (organic and paid results) to top right (paid results) and then down the results on the left (organic results).

This study provides more in-depth findings that indicate that searchers tend to react differently to natural listings compared to the sponsored results. It describes the process of 'semantic mapping' which implies that many searchers will look for the best match in the results between a search listing and their concept of what the most appropriate result will be.

In such cases, a searcher will respond to those results, regardless of position, that match their concept most effectively. Therefore the eye-tracking sees users jump around the page looking for direct matches, as well as having peripheral vision to scan all the information on a page.

The study analyses other factors that influence search behaviour, such as emboldened terms, demographic differences, and a user's confidence in the results between listings they are seeing for the first time against ones they have seen previously. To read more about this report and to view some sample pages, or to buy the report, please click here.

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