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Monday, January 9, 2006

DIY Tip: Top 5 Results from Searcher’s Viewing Tests

Posted by @ 5:38 pm

Considering all the effort we go through to establish high rankings and top placement through PPC (also called pay-per-click or paid search advertising), it’s great to know that someone has finally developed some understanding around how internet users view the search results. The effectiveness of top ranking alone doesn’t necessarily translate into high click-through and conversion.

MarketingSherpa have conducted a lab test to gain a greater understanding of search users’ viewing habits. The test revealed that most viewers read search results in a predictable fashion and amazingly, not necessarily as you would expect. These results are extremely useful when developing your search marketing campaign. Below are the top 5 results from their recent tests:

1. Very short attention span:
Well, this is probably not all that surprising to most of us. But just how short, is the real shock. According to the study, two thirds of the people tested looked at a particular result for 0.7secs – that’s right, not even a full second. So your listing needs to make an impression quickly.

2. Search Ad Copy is critical
The process of writing your search engine listing ad to grab the viewers attention and convert that to a click is the ultimate challenge. Whether you’re writing your organic listing description, or your PPC display ad, getting to the point in the most effective and convincing way is quite a challenge. It’s worth doing the research to get it right, as you only get one first impression, and at 0.7 secs – it’s fleeting.

3. Are paid listings better than organic?
The tests have confirmed that organic listings are more valuable than paid listings. As other research before, MarketingSherpa suggests that organic results (free listings) are more important and in fact get more viewership and clicks than pay-per-click listings. This is probably why they believe that spending on search engine optimization will come close to $1 billion in 2006.

4. More listings are better!
The tests discovered that more than one listing in the results improves the effectiveness of your campaign. This reinforces the value in getting your SEO right. The more times the viewer sees your listings, the higher the probability of click-through.

5. Is right hand side exposure better?
The short answer is no – well not really. The study discovered that people view different search engines in different ways, but people tend to ignore the results on the right hand side of the page, which is usually where sponsored (PPC listings) are displayed. The exception to the rule was on shopping engines, with more viewers deviating to the top right side results more than in traditional search engines. However, since pay-per-click advertisers only pay for actual clicks on their ads, the text ads on the right hand side are still an effective way of trying to capture searchers’ attention. If your organic listing shows up on the same search engine results page, you have the added benefit of displaying more than one listing, which appears to be beneficial (see point 4).

Well, as many of you plan your extensive 2006 search marketing campaigns, bear these important insights in mind. Thank you MarketingSherpa for running the tests and sharing the results, and thank you search engine users for being so predictable – it’s really just traditional consumer behavior in the cyber age!

For more info on the tests: visit

Rene LeMerle Rene is the marketing manager of - a global search engine marketing company. He also leads the marketing for - a web 2.0 style community for online and digital marketers. Rene has been in the industry since 1997 with much of that time spent helping businesses embrace the best of the internet and digital world.

View Rene LeMerle's profile

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