The session on searcher behavior covered several different research efforts ranging from the Enquiro eye tracking study to the observational research performed by DigitalGrit to secondary data analysis by Atlas OnePoint. The session was moderated by Detlev Johnson of Position Technologies.
First up was Gord Hotchkiss of Enquiro who discussed the eye tracking study sponsored by Enquiro, Did-It and Eyetools on Google search results.
The study involved 48 participants that performed various search tasks using Google. Participant eye movements on the page were logged and overlaid over search results.
The Golden triangle:
Hotchkiss presented a screen capture of Google search results with an eye tracking overlay showing a triangle in the upper left corner representing the most clicked on areas. Predictably, the most often clicked areas were at the top left and formed a triangle shape.
Tracking fixations vs. scanning.
When top sponsors show up on Google, they do attract some users but ultimately, searches end up at the top of organic results.
Eye movement patterns fixate on an area, scan left to right and then either drop down to the next line or click through.
More detailed overlay eye scans show an “F” shape pattern where the user reads across left to right and drops down and repeats.
While it is apparently obvious that the higher ranking organic results get the most clicks, there were some interesting observations. Namely, users do not like paid ads. It’s also critical to optimize title tags for users as well as search engines for maximum click throughs.
Also presented was the notion of “semantic mapping”, meaning the idea in a searcher’s mind when they search. When users search, they start with a concept in mind but that concept also competes with related or secondary attributes.
Characteristics of search results that lead to improved click throughs:
Icons (actually, the area beside the icon)
Consumer reviews and comparisons
Hotchkiss also noted that search is a pull interaction not push – don’t look for brand lift through search.
In summary, you can best leverage the information from the eye tracking study by;
Understanding the scan behaviors of your target market
Know what the prime real estate is for your target
Understand how they scan a listing, what catches their eye
Next up was Jonathan Mendez, Director of eMarketing for Digital Grit who presented results of a study on searcher behavior.
Key aspects of their study:
– Research is observational
– Insights are strategic
Two types of user goals:
Defined – keyword based
Latent – true intent of the search
The user is limited by their ability to translate concepts in their mind into actual words. While the search phrase reveals results, click throughs appear to be driven by a match to the user’s latent goals, or “hidden keywords” as named by Mendez.
All looking for the same thing
Of the 43 keyword strings only 2 were repeated
Queries began broad and narrowed as users’ frustration with search results increased
Other observations from the study:
– Using “hidden” keywords (that represent user goals) increased click throughs.
– Users did not like ads
– Users were biased against ads, but users do click on the top sponsored links
Mendez touted the additional benefits of conducting primary research with customers because of the value in gaining actual search behavior insight.
The next speakers were from Atlas OnePoint – Alison Kane and Inga Johnson.
It’s important to accurately track, evaluate and measure campaign outcomes from a big picture, holistic perspective.
A study sponsored by Yahoo conducted by Comscore revealed an average of 13 searches prior to a purchase. Almost half of searchers clicked on an ad more than once before buying. Many times the advertiser name was used in the last search before the purchase.
Overall, branded terms can be effective as can lower converting phrases. Johnson cited an example where lower converting phrases were pulled resulting in a drop in performance. The indication was that the lower pulling ads positively affected click through rates on more popular ads.
Last up was Cam Balzer of Performics.
Search is getting more and more competitive. There are more players and bigger budgets. What do people do just before that last click?
A study with Comscore was cited involving a mix of 30 web sites. After each purchase, the researchers looked back 12 weeks at all search queries and found over half of buyers made their last search 2 or more weeks prior. The trouble is many marketers evaluate success based on a shorter time frame.
– Marketers need to increase cookie duration to accommodate latent conversions
– Many searchers start generic and in time, flip to brand
– Generic keywords can lead to brand association
For complete search marketing program evaluation, marketers need to look both at direct sales data as well as long term and peripheral results.