Google Heatmap confirms value of Local 10 Pack Listing

2-goldentriangleGoogle has released some results from their eye tracking studies at the Official Google Blog. The results confirm the value of having your listing show up in the Universal Local Results. 

From the entry:

Based on eye-tracking studies, we know that people tend to scan the search results in order. They start from the first result and continue down the list until they find a result they consider helpful and click it — or until they decide to refine their query. The heatmap below shows the activity of 34 usability study participants scanning a typical Google results page. The darker the pattern, the more time they spent looking at that part of the page. This pattern suggests that the order in which Google returned the results was successful; most users found what they were looking for among the first two results and they never needed to go further down the page.

When designing the user interface for Universal Search, the team wanted to incorporate thumbnail images to better represent certain kinds of results. For example, in the [how to tie a tie] example above, we have added thumbnails for Image and Video results. However, we were concerned that the thumbnail images might be distracting and disrupt the well-established order of result evaluation.

We ran a series of eye-tracking studies where we compared how users scan the search results pages with and without thumbnail images. Our studies showed that the thumbnails did not strongly affect the order of scanning the results and seemed to make it easier for the participants to find the result they wanted.

Google is confirming that the Universal results do not disrupt the typical scanning pattern of users and that even with thumbnails (and obviously other Universal results), users were able to find what they wanted at the top of the page.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Heatmap confirms value of Local 10 Pack Listing by

17 thoughts on “Google Heatmap confirms value of Local 10 Pack Listing”

  1. Heat map or not it is obvious we look at the top first but do we click there? In the case of local 10 packs at the top we scan through that and then skip down to the organic results. . As Stephen Espinosa points out a #1 organic listing gets 1.6X more traffic over #1 local 10 pack listing. (I seem to keep referring back to this in a number of blogs lately).

    Just this past week I had a potential client on the phone and we were discussing various things. When we talked about how local 10 pack listings work he simply said, “yeah, I never click on those”.

    So the question is, why does the best piece of real estate on Google SERPS not perform as well as we would expect it to? I have a number of assumptions on that matter but it would make a great study if you could survey a bunch of average web surfers for their opinions.

  2. Hey, check this. I just went to see if the heatmap guys at Enquiro did any studies into this, particularly the local results, and they have a whitepaper about it here

    Heatmaps of SERPS with local results show many people skip right over the local and head further down to the top organic listings, at a significant cost to the top Paid listings above the local 10 pack.

    Interesting. they talk about visual barriers breaking the normal flow but I think it also comes down to users perceived quality of 10 pack listings.

  3. Well there could be a number of explanations for Steve’s results…but the obvious one is that most people stop searching and just call…without access to Google’s eyetracking studies or someone elses it is hard to tell what they actually do…

    I am not sure that a survey would provide the same answer as an eye tracking study but it would be of interest.

    The only other proof we have is that Google has left them there…either Google thinks that users are getting what they want or there are other more compelling reasons for them to leave them there…


  4. Notice how the local listings are an overlooked area of the page and how the scanning is pushed around this page element when users were intent on research

    This quote from the whitepaper would explain some of it…(I haven’t read the whole thing yet)…obviously searcher intent is critical and if Google shows the 10 Pack when it isn’t wanted the results will definitely favor Steve’s conclusion.


  5. I think there are quality issues with local listings. There are still lots of unclaimed listings that provide little information. So users who have experienced that one too many times may shy away from local results.

    But I’ve certainly seen improvements. Over the past year I’ve noticed a rise in the number of 10 pack listings that link direct to the business’ website. Google might be keeping the 10 pack there for long term goals of cementing its usefulness as more get used to it and quality of listings slowly improve.

    In a universal search environment there is more variety to choose from and it satisfies a wider range of user intent. This certainly builds trust in Google as a whole and helps to increase their market share in search. But it might come at a cost at the individual PPC ad level for a particular keyword and diluting things a bit for each individual result (paid, local, organic).

  6. Here is another relevant snippet from the research:

    In fact, the presence of local search is enough to push the anchor point to just below the local listings, when user intent is research (looking for reviews and comparison pricing). The result is an up to 50% drop in relative fixations on the top sponsored listings and a 30% drop for top organic listings. However,the biggest impact maybe in click-thrus, where clicks on top sponsored listings dropped by 60% and clicks on top organic listings dropped by35%.

    This doesn’ t mean that local listings don’t work. They do–for certain intents.

    This doesn’t mean local listings do not make the total SERP more relevant, because they do–for certain intents.

    It does mean however that this variation in the landscape of the SERP does alter the natural scan pattern of a user. If user intent is research, that intent pushes the anchor point below the local listings at the behest of fixations on the top sponsored listings. In nutshell, it causes a much deeper scan of the page. If you are advertising at a premium in the top sponsored position, consider that local results may be pulling users’ eyes away from your ad.

    This seems to confirm your idea of “dilution” of certain individual results but as they point out it comes down to user intent…if you are in “recovery” mode the 10 pack is incredibly useful…if in “discovery” mode perhaps less so due to accuracy issues and if you are in “research” mode you may skip it all together…

    Would love to see Google’s eyescan with a 10 Pack up…I wonder they mean when they say that it “alter the natural scan pattern of a user”? What is natural perhaps is just a given contextual response…ie if the user behaved differently when shown one set of results than another why would one be more “natural”?

  7. I can’t help feeling that the 10 pack is still new enough that people just don’t know what it is and they skip on to what they are comfortable with…the organic-looking part of the Universal results.

    Stever’s conversation with the guy who ‘never clicks on those things’ echoes conversations I have had with small business owners. I think unfamiliarity has got to be a contributing factor to the lack of use of the 10-pack.

  8. this is groundbreaking, all the SEO work for sites does not come close when optimizing for local, it looks like now you need to fight in the local zone to get the attention…

  9. User intent plays a role sure, bit it’s not everything.

    In relation to the One box vs. Organic I’m not sure how much “intent” actually makes the difference there. For a website that comes up #1 for local and organic, on that main broad service/location keyword phrase, I don’t see how there is different intent that would lead more to click the organic link vs. the 10 pack (is same keyword after all).

    Seems to me maybe the optimized title tag link plus description snippet of an organic result would make up for most of the difference. Provides much more initial info to a user before they decide which result to click.

    Heat map then reflects this as people want to scan titles and description of first few organic results below 10 pack.

    10 pack actually provides little info to make a decision with. A list of 10 business names and 10 spots on the map is all it really amounts to.

  10. Stever

    My sense is that we have way too little information (perhaps my headline is overzealous) to make conclusions on the little research we have…

    If we go back thru the two recent reports (google’s & Enquirio), neither truly addresses the question at hand: What does a searcher typically do when confronted with a Universal Local Result?

    We know from Steve that in his study that there were more clicks on the organic…we don’t know about phone calls…or visits…

    We know from Enquirio that in a certain type of search users look at the top of the 10 pack but may skip down and not see highly placed ads…

    We know from Google that the thumbnails did not “significantly” alter the order of scanning.

    The one conclusion we certainly can draw is be in both places (top of local and top of organic) if at all possible. We can probably also safely postulate that if you can’t be in both places be in one…. as high as you can..

    Beyond that we don’t really have enough information to draw too many conclusions about user behaviors…I would love to see Google’s work specifically as it related to the the various Universal Local results and see how it affected scanning and clicking and calling behaviors….


  11. What this doesn’t show is what having an image next to text does to the results. It’s well known among adsense publishers that having an image next to your ads increases the click through rate. Does the same thing happen for the 10-pack? Hard to say until someone does the research, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this was the case.

  12. @David Westerbrook, I think what the heatmap data is showing is that the images create a barrier because they are not expected, they are different from the norm in that most the time when you do a search in Google you just get pure organic results. Images and Maps in universal search only appear for certain types of queries.

    On a website, with adsense ads, people are scanning over the whole page as they try to figure out what that site is about. Images are one of the things that pop out and draw the eye’s attention. So that works in that context (new visitors on a new site).

    Google SERPs are not a new discovery for most users. Pretty sure they’ve done a search or two. So the break from the usual, images in search results, has the opposite effect of images next to PPC ads when exploring a new site for first time as there is no built in expectation, just yet.

  13. 10 pack actually provides little info to make a decision with. A list of 10 business names and 10 spots on the map is all it really amounts to.

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