Google eye-tracking study shows that males skip over results when viewing Google search page

July 1, 2009

Our latest study at NELL, carried out on behalf of Mulley Communications, analysed what users looked at when presented with the results page of a Google Search.

Entitled How do you Google? An Eye-tracking study investigating users search behaviour using Google Search, the report showed, among other things that females view results in a more linear manner than males..  a finding that is somewhat contrary to similar studies recently conducted in the US.

Twenty seven people, ranging in age and gender took part in the in this study, which used SMI Be-gaze eye-tracking technology. 

Heatmap video showing what users looked at on Google search page.  Aggreated across all users.

Other important findings show that users focused  on the top three results only, most of them ignored the sponsored link on the right-hand side of the results page and that many people use Google search instead of typing a website address into the browser.   Findings that have important implications for businesses who want to market and advertise on-line.

Speaking about the report, Damien Mulley from Mulley Communications commented: “This was the first time a survey of this type was done in Ireland. It shows that not only is getting found by search engines vital for business online but in order to get credible traffic to your website or service, you need to be found at the very top of results”.

Full report available from Mulley Communications
This research was funded by Enterprise Ireland under their Innovation Voucher Initiative

Main trends that emerged from the data:

  1. The first thing that 70% of users looked at in the results page was the first result presented.
  2.  However, users paid more attention relatively, to the highest ranking result rather than sponsored links at the top of the page.
  3. Most users ignored the sponsored link on right-hand side of the results page.
  4. The participants’ main attention was focused on the top three results only.
  5. The further down the result was presented on the page, the less likely the user was to look at it.
  6. If users did look beyond the first three results, then it is likely they would explore the bottom of the page also.
  7.  If the “solution” was not included in the top two results, users were more likely to fail finding it.
  8. Neither age nor prior interest had significant influence on search behaviour.
  9. Generally, gender did not have a big impact on search behaviour, though females viewed results in more linear manner than males.
  10. When asked to go to Bebo or YouTube, many users preferred using the Google Search engine to navigate to these websites rather than typing in the URL in the address bar.

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