At Best, Half of Searchers Read Sponsored Ads, Researchers Say

Jeff Berg
SAN FRANCISCO — A new study on the eye movements of Google searchers reveals that 100 percent of surfers look at the top three results and that only 50 percent of viewers look at the No. 1 sponsored result.

Conducted as a joint project by search marketing firms Enquiro and Did-it and eye-tracking firm Eyetools, the study tracked the eye movement of test subjects through five different search scenarios and found what the researchers are now calling a “golden triangle.”

“We see a marked difference in how people say they search and what they actually do,” said Enquiro’s Gord Hotchkiss. “Previous research had indicated that people were considered searchers and spent some time before choosing a link. The past few studies we’ve done, this one included, shows that there’s a huge importance placed on where the eyeballs end up on the page. Clicks happen pretty quickly.”

The research found that, for organic search results, viewers tended to drop off after the third result, falling to only 85 percent, then 60 percent at the fifth result. The sixth and seventh places, which usually require searchers to scroll down the page, had constant readership at 50 percent and ranks eight and nine only drew 30 percent of readers. The 10th result was read by only 20 percent of searchers.

For sponsored results, readership began at 50 percent for the first listing, and then dropped ten percent for each result until the fifth rank, and held constant at 10 percent through eighth.

“On the sponsored search side, data indicates that it is the clear branding and visibility advantage offered by gaining top positions, especially Google’s top sponsored links,” said Kevin Lee of Did-It.