Universal Search, Personalization and Eye Tracking

We’ve written before about the “concept” of universal search and eyetracking, along with the reasons why it’s important to pay attention to the various verticals that feed Universal Search results.  At PubCon this year, there was a great panel that featured Gord Hotchkiss, Bill Slawski, and Greg Boser and they went over the aspects of Universal Search and Personalization you cant afford to ignore.

Gord Hotchkiss talked about Universal and Personlized search along with eye-tracking and it’s effect on the search results He started with the natural way an eye tracked on a page WITHOUT Universal and Personalized results.  In essence, the eye makes a natural “F” scan of the page.  Here’s an example on a heat-mapped bit of search engine results:


F-Shaped Eye Tracking

Image from SearchEngineLand.com

So we can see the eye being drawn to the upper left corner and scanning to the right.  The user will then “Fence” the page of results.  Fencing happens when the searcher draws a line with their mind and really only pays attention to what is placed above that line.  In the first image above you can see that WITHOUT the image (universal) result – the fence is much lower on the page and more attention is paid to lower results.  Now add in the image and see where the fect is – and how much attention is concentrated even closer to the top of the page.  So what does this mean for you?  Well – you need to be aware of universal search – and the implications it has on the search results for your main keyword phrases.

If you’re not using news, images or video on your website and feeding that information to the places where it will be picked up and displayed, your competitors will be – and your “prime real estate” has shrunk – nearly in half – by the inclusion of those universal results and the fencing that occurs because of these results.

Eye tracking for Universal search that contains image results – how does the average user see that page – and what do they pay attention to?  Well – to be honest we went from “F” results to “E” results:


E-Eye Tracking


Image from SearchEngineLand.com

 SO these results are Universal and dominated by an image .  What happens is the page is “Chunked.”  The image draws the eye first – a quick look down – a quick look up – and then scanning to the right – in the shape of an “E.”


So what happens when Google is delivering a set of results for a query that they have deemed “personalized?”  Well – for all intents and purposes – the whole page is more relevant to what you’re looking for and therefore you’re going to use more of the page.  Here you can see on the left a lack of interest in all but about one result – the image isnt drawing the eye because it’s placed below the fold.  In the second image you can see the same results – but personalized based on previous queries and web browsing history that is reported to Google (you can opt-out of that if you like.)  Much MORE of the page is used and more of the individual results are scanned and considered.


Personalised Eye Tracking Results

Image from SearchEngineLand.com


So we’ve seen the heat mapping and eye tracking for Universal and Personalized Search and how different results and relevancy can skew the way a page is read and considered.  Lets look at what happens when both are put together:


Universal & Personalized Results

Image From SearchEngineLand.com


 WOW!  You can see here that a lot more results are being considered.  The image is pulling the eye – the E-Shaped eye tracking still applies in a sense, but the result right above the image seems to get the most heat – so maybe position#1 isnt best – maybe you should shoot for positions 2-6 and with luck a video or image from your site or Social Media campaign is added in for good measure (not your competitor.)

So what does this mean for travel websites?  Well lets look at the takeaways (numbered but not necessarily in order of importance – they’re ALL important):

  1. You MUST have your images indexed and displaying as results for keyword phrases relevant to your site.  IMage optimization is becoming more and more important and making sure you’re using relevant but optimal keyword phrases to name your photos is key.

  2. Video is the wave of the future – and not just videos on your website.  Right now Google and the other search engines cannot index video directly from your site – so you have to be able to upload that OPTIMIZED video to video search engines like MetaCafe and YouTube.  That means having them in the correct format, a good length (5 min max) and not so compressed and grainly they’re not viewable.  (Lots of good tips on getting started in video should be posted tomorrow or next day – stay tuned.)
  3. Dont obsess over position #1 – you’re going to get really good results if you’re #2-6 also.  There are some Marketers that think the #1 position is overrated and prone to invalid and irrelevant clicks (i.e. clickfraud and lookie-lous.)  Consider making your goal position #2 or #3.
  4. Get in as many verticals as you can.  Right now Local (Maps), Books, Images, News, and Video are being fed into the regular results.  It’s logical to assume that eventually more and more verticals will be included – make sure your marketing strategy contains the ability to be involved on all of those levels – not just #1-10 on the main page of Google.

Also – if you’d like to read more about heat mapping in search results – try these resources:

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