Mediative recently conducted a study of how users interact with SERPs. The digital marketing firm wanted to see how people’s behavior when using Google has changed in the past 10 years. The information comes courtesy of eye-tracking software that followed where users looked when completing specific search tasks, and there are some very interesting takeaways:
1. It’s no longer (all) about being number one
We’ve said it before, but focusing an entire plan on showing up first in Google is no longer as important. Whereas people in 2005 devoted more than half of their attention to the first result, that number has dropped dramatically. In fact, showing up anywhere above the fourth entry on a SERP is about as valuable in 2014 as the first spot was in 2005.
Suggested course of action: Don’t go all-in on a single keyword or topic. Diversify content within a niche or across a larger category to achieve maximum visibility.
2. Users spend less time sifting through search results
In 2005, the average searcher spent about two seconds going through search results. Today, she averages 1.17 seconds. As web users become more experienced (and results pages become more sophisticated), people don’t waste as much time looking for what they need.
Suggested course of action: Don’t count on readers to take in every word you write. Be upfront about what content contains in headlines and meta descriptions. With the understanding that not every reader will finish an article (or even skim through it entirely), we strive to include the main takeaways in the first couple of paragraphs.
3. Knowledge Graph results have to be relevant
Google is constantly refining its Knowledge Graph, offering new innovations like quick answer boxes some webmasters fear steal traffic and clicks. However, Mediative found people only click on these dynamic and eye-catching results if they’re relevant. If not, they’re all but ignored and actually see fewer clicks than non-Knowledge Graph entries much further down the page.
Suggested course of action: Trust users will know what they’re looking for. Just because something is prominent in Google’s estimation, it doesn’t always mean every searcher will click on it. Pick a content strategy and stick to your guns.
The most important sentiment to bring away from this research is that while the Knowledge Graph, No. 1 result or eye-catching entry will help grab user attention, relevance is still key. There are only so many tricks SEOs can use to make sure their content marketing gains visibility, and ultimately, the evolving search results page is still designed to give users relevant content.