AT SMX Advanced in June, someone asked about eyetracking for personalized results. Gord Hotchkiss took on the challenge, and today writes about Enquiro’s new eyetracking studies on Google Universal Search results pages, revealing a new scanning pattern in personalized search results.
Historically, we’ve seen the “Golden Triangle” or the F-shaped scanning pattern, which shows that users focus their gaze on the upper left hand side of the page, trailing off to the right and bottom of the page.
However, with personalized results, these studies found a more E-shaped eyetracking pattern. Universal results kept users’ attention further down and across the page. Where non personalize results tended to have one or two areas of attention across the page, personalized results showed more interest across the page three, four or even more times, as well as more interest further down the page.
Somewhat surprisingly, images in search results did not hold users’ attention very long. Gord explains that “We can determine relevance fairly quickly and if an image proves to be irrelevant, we quickly move on.”
However, personalized search results in the mockups did hold attention longer:
First, we gave participants a chance to find out more about Apple’s iPhone. We didn’t restrict their online browsing, but we did track which sites they went to and which searches they did. Then, we used this information to mock up a search results page, for a second session, where we asked them to pick up where they left off in the first session and continue to find out more about the iPhone. We showed personalized results in organic positions 3, 4 and 5, tailored to where we felt the participant was in their cycle. The rest of the results were actual Google results.
It was interesting to compare interactions in organic positions 3, 4 and 5, our test positions for the personalized results, in our personalized mock ups and the non personalized sessions. These personalized results, even though we didn’t move them up into the top two organic positions, performed remarkably well.
The performance of personalized results in the test versions was notably better than non-personalized results:
Overall, their personalized search mockups showed marked increase in time spent on site, click-throughs and fixations of attention on the page.
For the full personalized search eyetracking whitepaper, visit Enquiro. It features interviews with leading search engines experts and employees, including Ask’s Michael Ferguson—but what I’d like to see next is eyetracking on Ask 3D!