During the launch of Google Coffeine, Google search results page changed many times so did our eye tracking in universal search.
Before launching the universal search system (which blends listings from its news, video, images, local and book search engines among those it gathers from crawling web pages) the way we used to track search (our reading pattern) resembled an F shape and had the following three components:
Then they would move down the page a bit and then read across in a second horizontal movement that would typically cover a shorter area than the previous movement. This additional element forms the F’s lower bar
Finally, users would scan the left hand side of the content in a vertical eye movement
There seem to be two fairly obvious reasons why Google started changing its page layout and all searching system(s).
First, it was obviously the willingness to provide more accurate information for the user.
The second however was to increase the amount of time we spend on screening the paid search.
As we can see, the F pattern was not particularly friendly for PPC as audience automatically didn’t pay any attention to the right side column of the Google page and that obviously had influence on the amount of clicks and automatically on Google’s profit.
After launching Bing by Microsoft, Google started losing in PPC battle. Sponsored links on the right hand side of the search page attracted more attention on Bing (42% of participants per search) than they did on Google (25% of participants per search). Another difference between Bing and Google involved related searches. Bing’s related searches (shown on the left) had a much higher visibility than Google’s (below the organic search results), attracting the attention of 31% of participants per search. Google’s related searches attracted the attention of only 5% of participants per search.
All the above was definitely the reason why Google started the biggest system changes in its history. After launching universal search in 2008, the heatmaps and eye tracking started changing quite drastically:
However the results were still not satisfactory. Users were more likely to dig deeper into their queries as the options were ready and available and easy to use, but again PPC results were completely not visible for the audience.
Now, with the, apparently, final version of Google search results page is ready – was its launching really profitable for Google? Again, from the heatmap and research, it looks like the new layout is still not the best deal for the PPC listings. Just nothing new there:
Obviously, Google is already preparing an alternative for their sponsored links. They are creating a drop down menu on the top, just above the natural search results. It is going to be more personalized, also more local business related searches will become available for the user (including additional map and listings from Google Places)…
Would it help Google to increase their profit from PPC ads? Will this actually help the final user to find the best results? I guess we are going to find out very soon…