Search Engine Optimisation

Studies Reveal that the Layout and Elements on SERP Determine User Navigation Behaviour

The impact of the SERP changes on user navigation behaviour and what does it mean for the SEO experts.

The Google SERP is constantly evolving, and today for any search query, SERP includes several features like – featured snippets, Q & As, rich answers, product carousels, video carousels, top stories and many more. There’s no fixed format. It depends on several factors like – the device used, the search query and intent of the user and more.

The assortment of results plays a crucial role in determining user behaviour – how they navigate the search results.

Here, in this post, we walk you through the results of two new studies that determine the impact of the SERP changes on searcher behaviour.

Study #1:

A recent study by the Nielsen Norman Group reveals vital insights about how the various elements on the SERP impact user behaviour. The study presents results derived by analyzing over 471 user search queries. It was conducted for three years, starting from 2017 to 2019.

Here are the key highlights of the study:

  • 74% of searchers looked at featured snippets, product carousels, video carousels, Q&As and other rich-search results.
  • The layout of the SERP determines which links get clicks and whether organic results gain visibility. Additionally, the positioning of visually rich elements like product carousels etcetera, determine whether organic results get clicks or not.

Image via NNGroup

  • Consider the above SERP page result for the query, “best refrigerator to buy.” Participants of the eye-ball tracking survey first directed their attention to the various rich results like – sponsored shopping cards, featured snippet, sponsored results before they even looked at the first organic result.
  • A few years back, the gaze of searchers followed a linear pattern, as search results were arranged sequentially and contained only one type of results. However, today, the gaze pattern is non-linear as the user’s gaze is influenced by the various visual elements present in the SERP. The Norman study team has dubbed this phenomenon as the Pinball pattern.

Image via NNGroup

  • Since the results page varies significantly from one query to another, users are forced to assess the entire page, instead of just clicking on the first result as they used to do a few years earlier.
  • While images drew in the attention of a large number of searchers, other elements that gave quick answers like – knowledge panels, featured snippets are increasingly clicked on by a majority of searchers.
  • While the SERP has increased in complexity, surprisingly, the time taken for a searcher to take action remains relatively quick at just 5.7 seconds.
  • One significant difference between search behaviours in 2006 and today is that in 2019, the first result on the SERP received only 28% of clicks. In contrast, this number was 51% in 2006. The study also found that though the first three results received more than half (56%) of all clicks. The results in lower positions also received a higher proportion of clicks compared to a few years ago.
  • Below the fold clicks – The study found that for simple fact-finding queries, only 5% of clicks occurred below the fold. On the other hand, for complex research-oriented queries, 20% of clicks were below the fold. It suggests that businesses that publish in-depth content can attract higher clicks, even if they rank down the SERP.
  • Searchers went past the first page only for 2% of all queries.

Study #2:

Another independent analysis by Yext revealed that actions on local business listings like – making a call, asking for directions – have increased to 17% from 10% last year. This study suggests that users are getting quicker at finding what they are looking for from the results page. They are spending lesser time searching and more time engaging with local businesses.

The Key Takeaways – What do these results mean for SEO experts and marketers?

The results from the two studies mentioned above indicate that newer features of SERP like rich answers, snippets, video carousels, local business listings, matter just as much or even more than organic search results.

Marketers need to work on revising their content and SEO strategies by keeping these trends in mind. Optimizing for these strategies will help businesses reach out to their audiences, even as traffic from organic results fall.

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