Google Eye-Tracking Study Highlights Impact of Local/Places Results

SEOmoz just released the results of a pretty cool eye-tracking study and a few of the results are surprising. Google’s different SERPs formats seem to have varying effects on users and those using video and local search listings will find these results promising.

A few of the results actually suggest that if you’re targeting a query with local connotations, you may be better off skipping those coveted top 3 organic spots and shooting for the local listings. To be clear, the study was small and examined just eight subjects shown five SERPs each. It would be very useful to see the results of a larger, broader study, given the promising outcome of this one for blended search results.

Another point readers need to be clear on – this study measured eye movements, not clicks or mouse activity.

SEOmoz used Mirametrix’s S2 Eye Tracker, told the subject the search term, and let them check out each depersonalized, Chicago based full-screen SERP. The subject data was then aggregated and used to create heat maps to show which areas of the page they migrated to.

7-Pack Shows Lots of Love for Local/Places Results

The first SERP listed your typical text results all the way down the page, with integrated Local/Places results and two maps on the right. People viewed this in a modified F shape, honing in on the top three or four results and the maps, so this one was pretty much what you would expect.


The second SERP was for the term “pizza” and showed three organic results at the top, followed by a 7-pack of Local/Places results, which got most of the action. You can see that the top 3 and the map got a little bit of lovin’, but if you’re in Chicago and hoping to rank for pizza, you want to be in that 7-pack, not necessarily in one of the top three spots.

Video and Shopping Results Show Images Worth a Closer Look

Next up, a search for “how to make a pizza” because it brought up video results as No. 2 and No. 3. This isn’t exactly surprising either, because pictures break up the plain text and you would expect the thumbnail to draw some attention against Google’s minimalist layout.

No. 2, the video result, seems to have outperformed even the top organic result, as least as far as drawing the reader’s eye to it. The PPC ad on the right did alright, but nothing beyond No. 5 got any attention to speak of.


For the fourth SERP, a search for “pizza cutters” brought up related searches at the top and shopping results in the fourth position. The related searches didn’t draw much attention, even though they’re right on top, and the top organic listings still did fairly well considering there are images below.

Considering the difference between the way these thumbs and the ones for videos were treated, I have to wonder if the related searches pushing the images farther down the page, coupled with the fact that they’re clustered together, takes away some of their power. It would be interesting to see how different image types and arrangements draw clicks as well as eye movement.

Expanded Sitelinks - Not So Hot


This might just say something about the fact that the average person searching “Pizza Hut” is really just hungry and not doing a research project... I think the results could have been very different for a non-food product. It might actually be interesting to see a study on the impact of expanded sitelinks in different industries or categories.

Anyway, the “Pizza Hut” SERP had a PPC ad on top, a map on the right, and the Pizza Hut corporate site in the top organic spot with six expanded sitelinks. That listing didn’t get much attention. Just below it, there’s a location-finder result for “Pizza Hut locations in Chicago” that shows three Pizza Hut addresses. Surprisingly (to me) this didn’t get much love, either.

Below that, though, you see the Places listings for local Pizza Huts, and that’s the hot spot for the entire page, which looks really good for local listings since it’s about halfway down the page. This might actually be below the fold on some computers, so I don’t know that it would do as well in those cases.

Check out the entire study at SEOmoz, and hopefully this topic gets a further look! We’ve seen some interesting and sometimes surprising eye-tracking studies, including the one we did last year with Explido WebMarketing, which compared results across search engines, and our hit or miss evaluation of the new Google SERP when it came out last May.

Let us know in the comments if you’ve seen any unexpected or interesting results in your own organic or paid campaigns with different listings formats.