Behind the Clicks: Deciphering User Behavior on Search Pages
When people type a query into a search engine, they don’t really think about the significance of results that appear or how they react to it. But behind those seemingly random listings lies a wealth of data and insights about user behavior.
From the number of clicks on each result to the areas of the page that are most frequently interacted with, every action reveals something about how people navigate through search pages.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the patterns and trends behind user clicks on search pages, and what they can teach us about how people interact with search results.
Understanding Search Page Layouts
A search page layout refers to the arrangement and organization of things like sponsored ads, websites, and other elements on the page.
The first thing you typically see on a search results page are sponsored ads. These ads are displayed at the top of the page and are paid for by the click by businesses who want to show up at the top.
However, contrary to what many believe, data has revealed that only between 8-12% of people actually click on sponsored ads. This means that mot people scroll past these ads and continue their search further down the page.
This is big because it shows that just because a result is at the top does not mean people will click on it. Many users know these spots are paid for and would rather look in the area of results where they know people had to compete to earn their spot.
Organic Search Results
Following the paid ads, users will see organic search results. These are the listings that appear based on the search engine’s evaluation of relevancy and quality. Organic search results can include web pages, blog posts, videos, images, and other content types.
Local Map Pack
The first area of organic search results is typically the map pack that shows three businesses local to the area. These search results are heavily weighted toward the location of the searcher based on GPS coordinates if the user is allowing their device to use location services.
Organic Website Results
The second area of organic results is where the websites show up. Usually, this area consists of the top 10 websites Google has deemed relevant enough to be here. This is where businesses have the most control over where they show up through search engine optimization because location is not nearly as much of a factor as it is in the map pack.
The First Page Gets 92% of Clicks
Here is a breakdown of where the 92% of clicks go that happen on the first page of search results. Only 8% of people go to page 2.
Why Click-Through-Rates Are Important
Click-through rates (CTRs) are a critical metric for understanding user behavior on search pages. When a user sees a list of search results, the CTR measures the percentage of people who click on a particular link. This data is very important for website owners, marketers, and SEO professionals because it tells them how well their content is resonating with users.
A high CTR indicates that a search result is relevant and enticing to users. It suggests that the title, meta description, and URL are effectively conveying the value of the page. On the other hand, a low CTR may signal that the search result is not meeting user expectations or that it is being overshadowed by other results.
Eye-Tracking Studies and Heat Maps
Eye-tracking studies and heat maps have been provided valuable insights into user behavior on search pages. These studies involve using advanced technology to track and record the eye movements of users as they navigate through search results. Heat maps, on the other hand, visualize the areas of the page that receive the most visual attention from users.
By analyzing eye-tracking data and heat maps, researchers have been able to identify the specific areas of search pages that users tend to focus on the most. For example, studies have consistently shown that users have a strong bias towards the top left corner of the page. This means that search results and other important elements in this area are more likely to receive attention and clicks.
The F-shaped pattern, on the other hand, describes how users typically scan search results in a horizontal movement. They read the first few words on each line and then move on to the next line. This scanning behavior reflects how users want to quickly evaluate the relevance and attractiveness of each search result before deciding which one to click on.
The Top Left "Golden Triangle"
The golden triangle pattern refers to the user’s visual attention being focused mostly on the top left corner of the search page. Numerous eye-tracking studies have shown that users tend to focus their attention on this particular area of the page. But why is that?
One reason could be the natural reading pattern for users in languages that read from left to right. In this case, the top left corner would be the first area of the page that users encounter, leading to their initial attention being drawn to this area. Another reason could be the placement of important elements, such as the search bar and logo, in the top left corner of many search engines. Users may have learned to associate this area with starting their search journey and therefore direct their attention there.
This “golden triangle” has significant implications for website owners and marketers. Placing important information, such as compelling headlines and relevant keywords, in this area can increase the chances of capturing users’ attention and generating clicks. It highlights the importance of optimizing content for visibility in the prime real estate of the top left corner.
Scanning vs. Reading Behavior
Scanning and reading behavior play a huge role in how users interact with search results. When it comes to search pages, users tend to scan rather than read every word. They quickly scan through the titles and snippets of each result, looking for keywords and information that catch their attention.
This scanning behavior is driven by the desire for efficiency and quick decision-making. Users want to evaluate the relevance and attractiveness of each result as efficiently as possible before deciding which one to click on. As a result, they often skim the search page in an F-shaped pattern, reading the first few words on each line and moving on to the next line.
SEO Tip - Place Your Most Important Keyword In The First Paragraph
Mobile Users Have A Sense Of Urgency
With the widespread use of smartphones, mobile search has become increasingly popular. Users now have instant access to search engines on their fingertips, allowing them to find information on the go. Mobile search behavior is characterized by shorter search queries and a higher sense of urgency. Users want quick, concise answers that they can easily digest on their mobile screens. As a result, website owners and marketers need to optimize their content to be mobile-friendly and provide immediate value to mobile users.
Voice Search Is More Conversational
Voice search, powered by virtual assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant, has also gained significant traction. Users can now simply speak their search queries instead of typing them. Voice search behavior is typically conversational, with users asking questions or making requests in a natural language format. Website owners and marketers need to optimize their content to match the conversational nature of voice search queries.