Friday, October 14, 2011

Eye Tracking SERPs

Posted by Amanda Walsh

When I came across this article, Eye-Tracking Google SERPs - 5 Tales of Pizza, on the website SEOmoz this morning, I shared it with the Furia Rubel team. “SERPs” stands for search engine results pages. There has been a plethora of research done on the way a user’s eyes track over the page. The F-shaped pattern describes the shape that a user’s eyes make while they navigate a webpage. The first two hits that come up on a SERP are typically the most popular and the eye is drawn across the link and description and later skims the page in an F shape.

Laura Powers, Furia Rubel’s Vice President of Marketing, provided me with additional notes and resources regarding eye tracking online. All of the articles got me thinking more about this area of integrated communications.

This post should serve as a resource on how to write Web content based on the F-shaped pattern of viewers eyes on a website. A great post dating back to 2006 gives some great tips for writing Web copy that caters to this F-pattern. Many of the points are still relevant today.

• Users won't read your text thoroughly in a word-by-word way. Who has the time or attention span anymore? Rarely will a prospective client or customer read every single word on an entire webpage. Useit.com also notes that users spend 4.4 seconds for every extra 100 words on a page.

• The most important information must be in the first two paragraphs.With emphasis being on the first paragraph. As public relations professionals we’re used to writing succinctly to get our point across. This is vital especially when crafting Web copy because there is a small window of time to capture someone’s attention.

• Start subheads, paragraphs, and bullet points with information-carrying words. Visitors will notice these words while skimming down the left side of the page in the last part of the F-pattern.

In terms of Web design there are similar must do’s when catering to the F-pattern:
• Navigation at the top of the page works best – not vertical navigation
• Ad placement (for publishing sites or consumer / retail sites) works best in the upper right
• Small paragraphs encourage reading and headlines will draw the eyes first, so they should be descriptive, accurate and short

Some resources to learn more include:
http://www.e-junkie.info/2010/09/f-shaped-reading-pattern.html

http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/eye-tracking-studies-more-than-meets.html

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