Eye Tracking Study: Users Ignore Real Time Results

A new eye tracking study shows that Google users are ignoring real time search results including tweets found in the search pages.

There are no firm rules on when or where real time results appear in Google but the following are general observations:    

  • Only topics that have a “real-time” component will have this feature. That is, a certain volume of online activity is required to trigger the real-time feature.
  • The real-time results widget may appear anywhere on the results page. In some cases, the real-time results may be at the very top or bottom, but more than likely, the real-time results will be found midway down the page.
  • A time stamp accompanies all real-time results. For example, “seconds ago” would appear next to the most recently ranked result.
  • The results may be scrolling when there is a high volume of real-time activity. There is an option to pause the scrolling feed next to the “latest results” heading

The study was designed to answer the following 3 questions:

  • Does the average internet user recognize and understand real-time results?
  • Are consumers finding and clicking on real-time results?
  • What are the consumers saying about real-time results?
Tracking the scan path of user doing on search on Google. Beginning at the 27th fixation during this particular recording, the gaze plot shows a user re-fixating (regressing) to the top results (gaze 27 to 28) before working down to the scrolling real-time results. The circles show areas of fixation and the size of the circle is in relation to the length of the fixation (the larger the circle the longer the fixation). The lines are the rapid movements (saccades) between fixations. A fixation is counted when a gaze is positioned for at least 100 ms. (Recording time: 19.50 seconds).

The summary of the findings can be found below:

  • Consumer intent drives first fixations: the consumer group averaged 9 seconds to the first fixation on real-time results, where as the information foragers took a full 14 seconds.
  • The consumer group had 10% fewer clicks on the real-time results than their information foraging counterparts.
  • Inattentional blindness is a phenomenon found to afflict the
    task-drive consumers—they don’t see what they aren’t looking for.
  • Only a quarter of the participants were familiar with the real-time component prior to the study.
  • Only 55% of the participants could easily find the real-time results.

Not great news for Twitter who was reportedly paid $15 by Google and $10 Mil. by Bing last year to index and display their Tweets in the SERPS.   On the other hand, Google also has something to lose in this, without real time search results in it’s SERPS users will go elsewhere to search for real time news.

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Omar Kattan is Chief Strategy Officer at Sandstorm Digital, the MENA region's first specialist content marketing agency headquartered in Dubai. His experience includes 10 years in traditional marketing and advertising in the Middle East and a further 10 years at two of the largest media agencies in the UK. Follow Omar on Twitter for updates on the latest in digital, branding, advertising and marketing.

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