I’ve blogged before about google eye tracking studies, which are a great help in understanding site usabilty and also user responses to search engine results.
Here’s another great piece of research from think eyetracking
The study compares two sets of results – one from 2005, and one from 2008:
As seen in the heatmap above, fixations are studded around the top 5 results and the majority of clicks are upon the top 3 results (discounting the sponsored link). The sponsored link was actually not well attended to due to the fact that searchers are now familiar with advertiser placement within Google. The 2008 heatmap supports the recent trend observed by Cornell University (Their study found that the top 3 Google results get 79% of all clicks) and by AOL (Findings were that 63% of clicks were concentrated upon the top three search results).
Furthermore when asked afterwards what they would normally do when they couldn’t find their desired search result on the first page of Google, 87% respondents replied that they would modify the search terms or refine the search by category. 97% of people tested answered that Google was the search engine they most commonly used and out of those people, 87% stated they wouldn’t bother using anything else.
Personally I think ths has a lot to do with users getting used to finding then getting to the information they need from Google.
And it shows (again) that you need to rank high to get seen…