Eye Tracking Study Shows Importance Of Search Snippets

A new eye tracking study done in Spanish by Mari-Carmen Marcos and Cristina González-Caro at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona and published July 2010 (Spanish PDF over here) was translated by Ani López reveals some new insights into searcher behavior.

The study shows that the search snippet, often the meta description from the site, is an extremely important factor for searchers. The study included 58 people of both genders and wide age range and tested informational, navigational, transactional and multimedia types of searches. The searches were done on Google, Google Images, Yahoo and Yahoo Images with a total of 22 tasks per person.

Here is the outcome of the study:

SERPs fixations

As you can see, the snippet is fixated over more than the title or the URL. Meaning the searchers spent more time looking at the snippet than the title or URL of the search result. This may imply that having a nice snippet, which is sometimes pulled from your meta description, is critical in increasing the chances of someone clicking on your search listing, instead of your competitors.

The study is very interesting and it is translated and summarized at Dynamical.biz, so check it out.

Related Topics: Channel: Strategy | Stats: Search Behavior

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About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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  • http://www.search-usability.com/ Shari Thurow

    I think this eyetracking data, though interesting, can easily be misinterpreted. A snippet has more text in it than a title. Therefore, people will probably spend more time looking at a snippet merely due to allocation of screen real estate rather than genuine interest.

    That is a core problem with eyetracking studies – a study might tell you how people look at things, but not why they look at things.

    They might look at things because they are distracted from completing a task. And they might look at something due to genuine interest. Again, the “why” part is extremely important.

    I also hope that people do not overgeneralize the data from this study. People from different countries, and even from different regions of the same country, look at elements on web pages differently. Andy Atkins-Kruger knows exactly what I mean.

    Microsoft has done some incredible work on eyetracking, and their data does not match this data. It might be due to the fact that test participants were located in different geographic regions.

    I highly recommend to keep this in perspective. It is very easy to overgeneralize, and misinterpret, eyetracking data. In fact, many prominent usability professionals do not endorse eyetracking due to easy misinterpretation of data.

  • http://dynamical.biz/blog/ Ani Lopez

    Hi Shari:
    “snippet has more text in it than a title therefore, people will probably spend more time looking at a snippet” but title is got a different text colour and bigger size compensating it so these kind of studies are quite relevant to determine the importance of every element in SERPs.

    “a study might tell you how people look at things, but not why they look at things” yes, you are right, nothing tells you the real ‘why’ unless you have some mind-reader device, that’s why the study wants to go further adding intention (a better way to get closer to the ‘why’) as one more element in equation.

    “People from different countries/regions look at elements on web pages differently” Right, I know quite well what international SEO means and this is pretty obvious. if he’s got more info on that particular subject, me and the rest of the community would like to hear his say.
    This study was done in Spain, no idea, till we can compare to studies done in similar conditions, how different behaviour is going to be in other cultures/countries.

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