The Searcher s Click

The Searcher's Click

Now that we understand why searchers enter the queries they do, we need to learn what they do with the search results. We already learned that searchers have different needs motivating their search queries, but now we will see that searchers share certain behaviors when dealing with search results.

Just because your site ranks at the top of the results does not mean that searchers will view your page. You need to give them a reason to click.

Searchers see only a few things about your page on the search results page: the title, the snippet, and the URL. Your copy writer selects the title, and your Webmaster chooses the URL, but the search engine picks the snippet from your page based on the searcher's query. Take another look at Figure 4-1. Someone searching for "warner bros. records" is told in the title that it is the "official site," but the legal disclaimers might scare people away.

Let's take a deeper look at how searchers look at search results, why they click where they do, and what is happening when searchers do not click a result at all.

How Searchers Look at Results

People do not read pages when they use the Webthey scan them. So it is no surprise that Web searchers also scan a search results page, instead of starting in the upper-left corner and reading each word.

Searchers seem to use some common approaches when they scan, as revealed by eye-tracking analytics studies, in which test subjects' eye movements are tracked as they look at a computer screen. Figure 4-4 shows what a typical searcher actually looks at on a search results page.

Figure 4-4. What searchers see on the results page. Each dot shows where searchers' eyes track.

Source: Human-Computer Interaction Group at Cornell University

Eye movement studies (and other studies) disclose what searchers scan for:

  • Searchers "mentally divide" the page into sections and focus on the organic results area the most. Four out of five searchers ignore the sponsored links (paid listings).

  • Nearly all users look at the first two or three organic search results.

  • Searchers spend less time looking at organic results ranked below #3, and far less time scanning results that rank seventh or lower, possibly because these results require scrolling down on the page. Eighty-eight percent report scrolling down only when there is no relevant result in the top three.

  • Within each result, searchers spend 43 percent of the time viewing the snippet, followed by 30 percent reviewing the title.

If you did not realize it already, you can see that high rankings for search queries are the key to getting noticed. The first hurdle to being clicked by searchers is to get their attentionrank highly on the results page and have an eye-catching title and snippet. But after you get their attention, what makes them click your page?

Why Searchers Click Where They Do

Searchers click pages because they expect those pages will satisfy a need. So navigational searchers expect to land at the right site, information searchers expect to find their answer, and transactional searchers to take actionor at least get one step closer.

No matter what they do, one thing to keep in mind is that they do it fast. Most searchers choose the first promising link they see, and they do it in less than five seconds. They look at only the top two or three links, and they are most likely to click the first link. Searchers also seem to favor organic results over paid, clicking them 60 percent of the time.

But why does a searcher click one result rather than another? No matter what type of querynavigational, informational, or transactionalstudies show that searchers tend to click a result that contains the exact query words in its title and snippet. In addition, for informational and transactional queries, seeing trusted information sources and brand names (and reviews and comparison information) correlates with searcher clicks. For transactional searchers, showing a low price (along with promises of discounts or other offers) enhances clickthrough, especially when the searcher can buy online.

After you begin getting good search rankings for your pages, you will want to continue to learn about what motivates searchers to click on your page in the search results, but you also need to understand what stops them.

When Searchers Don't Click Results

Although search engines can often seem magical in the way they find the right page for a query, the truth is that about half of all searchers do not click a result on the first page of search results. What are they doing?

Are they usually moving to page two of the search results? No. About seven in ten searchers enter a new query when the top ten results are unappealing. In fact, many searchers plan to start with a broad query, making it more specific as they go. In addition, about one fourth of searchers go to a different search engine and use the same query.


Realtors have long provided tips to home sellers on enhancing "curb appeal"that certain something that makes a house enticing to a potential buyer. If you consistently enhance your titles and snippets, your pages will have the curb appeal you need to drive heavy clickthrough rates.

The most examined part of a search results page is the snippet, the two- to three-line page excerpt that search engines use to show where the query words were found on that page. Searchers spend 43 percent of their time looking at the snippet before deciding to click that link.

Typically, the search engines take the first full sentence of page text that contains the query words. It moves down the page pulling in additional clauses containing the query words until it reaches the maximum character limit. If a page does not contain the query words within a sentence (or at all), the search engine takes the content found in the HTML description tag. If you understand how this snippet is created, you can adjust your content so that the search engine will use the snippet you want, rather than something cobbled together as in Figure 4-1.

Above the snippet is the title, the underlined (usually blue) text taken from the HTML title tag from the page. The title normally garners 30 percent of the searcher's scanning time, or higher if the title contains the query words. Figure 4-4 shows that the searcher's eyes stopped on every bold occurrence of the query words. Figure 4-5 shows the overall percentages of how searchers spend their time.

Smart search marketers spruce up their pages to increase their appeal to searchers, so that their high rankings for search result in a high clickthrough rate, too. Chapter 12 shows you more tips on increasing curb appeal.

Figure 4-5. Seeing each search result. Searchers mainly focus on the title and the description snippet.

Source: Human-Computer Interaction Group at Cornell University

    Search Engine Marketing, Inc. Driving Search Traffic to Your Company's Web Site
    Search Engine Marketing, Inc.: Driving Search Traffic to Your Companys Web Site (2nd Edition)
    ISBN: 0136068685
    EAN: 2147483647
    Year: 2005
    Pages: 138 © 2008-2017.
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