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Eye-Tracking Study: Everybody Looks At Organic Listings, But Most Ignore Paid Ads On Right

Interesting new data about searcher behavior from a recent User Centric eye-tracking study: Whether using Google or Bing, all 24 participants looked at the organic search results for their queries, but between 70% and 80% ignored the paid ads on the right side of the page.


User Centric studied the search behavior of 24 “experienced users” of both Google and Bing, all between 18 and 54 years old. They were asked to do eight searches — four on Google (with Google Instant turned off) and the other four on Bing.

The results? Here’s a table version of the diagram above.

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If these findings are correct, it's easy to put the ads on the left side and organic results on the right side. It might be even more efficient to randomly swap left / right, as interactive web pages are likely to create higher CTR than static pages.

Even better, add a small icon next to each paid ad: the search engine could automatically harvest the icon on the landing page. Social networks - Facebook, Ning, LinkedIn - have done that for quite some time: extracting an image (on the landing page) and attaching it to every link that you post.

That is the typical behaviuor one would expect from experienced users, indeed they know in advance where to find results and what is ads.

An experienced user learns that the links in the corpus are less biased that the Ads and thus,I the probability of finding what he is looking for is higher.

I expect that swapping left and right won't change too much, after the users learn it. If the ads are randomly swapped the user will probably have an initial exploratory phase to decide what is search results and what is ads, than he will concentrate on the search results.

We should remember that human are supposed to be sentient and to adapt to the environment.

They also like fancy icons ;)

Adding icons and pictures can improve the appetibility of some Ads.

Thanks for sharing. This is nice to know but with my experience if you're in a really competitive industry, you don't always get the best possible return for your ad spend on the top left ads. Definitely, top organic lisitngs are to go after but unfortunately not the same with ads. Many times, your competition will recklessly try to out-bid you and think that they're doing the best thing. What they do end up doing is raising your CPC and lowering your ROAS unnecessarily. Wonder what folks out there are doing to deal with that. Not to mention that it might actually work out for many but it's important to keep a close eye on the ROI, not just chase for top rankings.


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