Video Snippets Vs. Author Images – Which Have Higher Click Through Rates?

Matt reached out to me last week with interesting data on the relative value of video snippets vs author photos in search results. This work compliments the research done on lawyer author photos and how consumers find a specialty lawyer last year. The research has implications for local as we have have seen pinned results in the wild that include them. Obviously the relative merits there have not yet been tested.

About the authors: This survey and corresponding write-up were
executed by SEO strategists Matt Green (@MChuckGreen) and John Van Bockern (@JohnEVanBockern) from Ethical SEO Consulting.

**********

The Reeves Law Group has invested heavily in video creation for their website, and have seen a measurable rise in conversation rates as a result. Although the videos have a positive effect on users once they are on the site, the stakeholders at the firm were skeptical that the presence of video snippets in search results would in fact have a similarly positive impact on click though rates (so, actually getting the user onto the site). Accordingly, they commissioned our team to answer this question:

What is the true impact of video snippets on click through rates in searches for specialty lawyers?

Answering this question would allow the firm to make an informed decision on whether or not to implement structured mark-up on their site (which causes the video snippets to be displayed along-side their listings in search results) rather than simply assuming the snippets would have a positive effect, possibly to the determent of CTR’s. Our assumption was that they would increase click through rates, in a similar way that authorship images have.

To that end, we conducted a survey with the intention of discerning the sway that video snippets hold over users searching for local specialty lawyers. The results from the test that we conducted through Usability Hub, which provided an effective survey interface, rendered a glimpse into the impact of these snippets in the highly competitive specialty lawyer market.

The Survey

We wanted to maintain the look and feel of a Google search result page as much as possible in the test, and then let the familiar process of searching guide the survey taker to make their own choice. This way, the design enabled us to keep as close as possible to the look of a search results page in order to most accurately represent click through rates. There were three separate images presented to a total of 300 respondents.

Any media snippet used was placed in the third search result, and only in the third search result, in order to discern the impact of a media rich snippet as compared to a standard, non-media search result.

First, a survey taker was given a brief introduction to the test:

Next, the question appeared that prompted the survey taker to click. (The question remained the same for each of the three separate search results images that we provided):

You need to find a car accident lawyer in New York. You Google search “New York Car Accident Lawyer”. Which result do you click first?

Then, the top four results of a Google search page appeared. The first set of 100 respondents saw results that included no media snippet and looked like this:

People who participated in this survey clicked on the image in the following way as indicated by the heat map below that recounts the concentrations of clicks:

As you can see, in this, our control test, the findings are as one would expect. The most likely result to be chosen: the first result. Proving again the efficacy of ranking at the top of search results.

The second set of 100 different respondents were given the same introduction to the click test, and also prompted by the same question, but the image they received contained an authorship snippet in the third search result:

The authorship snippet redistributed the clicks on this image as shown here in the heat map indicating the clicks on the image:

The breakdown of the data shows the positive value of having an authorship image in search results of a specialty lawyer search:

Before we made any actionable conclusions, we collected the data from the third set of 100 respondents who participated after being introduced and prompted in the same manner as the two previous tests, but were then shown this image:

The respondents clicked on this image in a manner telling of the efficacy of placing a video in the snippet:

The data collected from the participation of this survey prompts some questions. Why was there the highest number of clicks on the fourth result of all three tests on the page with the video snippet? Why is there not a similar increased amount of clicks on the third result as seen with the authorship snippet?

What does it all mean!?

The benefit of authorship in lawyer specific search results cannot be denied. Whether you attribute its effectiveness to the eye-catching ability of the media rich snippet, or that someone searching for legal representation in this specific instance wants to know a little more about the face of that representation is irrelevant. Either possible cause resulted in differing click through percentages.

Media-rich snippets in results generally do have a positive effect on click through rates, but there is more benefit to using an authorship snippet rather than a video snippet in the personal injury lawyer vertical.

The results of this survey indicate that the presence of video snippets is much less effective in driving clicks in specialty lawyer searches than the simple authorship snippet. Why is this the case? Here is our take:

Searchers are getting more sophisticated. The internet is full of distractions, useless information, and time wasters, and they are developing an intuition for filtering through the noise. Now more true than ever, people are not going to click on a video result if they don’t believe it will provide them with the information they want, how they want it.

Providing relevancy has never been so valuable. People demand information as quickly as possible, and there is just not much more you are going convey in a picture of a personal injury lawyer, than you would in a video. The accolades that such a lawyer can boast are much more efficiently conveyed textually. People can skim text for their personally relevant keywords in less time than it would take to watch (and pay attention to!) a whole video made by a personal injury lawyer. Typical personality based catchy-phrase television commercials are useful for personal injury lawyers on that medium, but not online. Relevant, on-site ease of use aides retention, and that prowess has indicators in search results. People searching know that now. Position yourself accordingly.

What to take away:

Authorship snippets have a greater positive impact on CTR’s for specialty lawyer searches than video snippets.

Video snippets have a greater positive impact on CTR’s for specialty lawyer searches than having no media snippet, but less of a positive impact than authorship snippets

View the raw data here.

Variables to consider:

The Usability Hub interface, although very useful for this experiment, presents some limiting factors as well. The people taking these surveys are using this interface to conduct their own surveys. That means they may be more web savvy than the typical user, and that characteristic should be noted.

The survey also relies on the image of a search result , and is not an actual search result. Although, it may be as close as viably possible for data collection, it is not actually a search by a potential client.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Video Snippets Vs. Author Images - Which Have Higher Click Through Rates? by

40 thoughts on “Video Snippets Vs. Author Images – Which Have Higher Click Through Rates?”

  1. Great stuff Mike. I’d like to see this exact same study for non-legal specific, but legal relevant queries. For example, instead of new york car accident lawyer, maybe car accident insurance claim denied. Or compensation from car accident.

  2. Thank you for presenting the data in a non-hyperbolic and studious manner and limiting your claims to very defensible data points. That’s the kind of data-analysis and scientific approach we need to promulgate over the eye-catching headline of “Video Snippets fail, Authorship markup win!” etc.

  3. @Gyi — Oooo nice thinking! Let me know if you’d like to collaborate on that. I would suspect that on informational queries like what you mentioned a video snippet may succeed at increasing CTR’s at a greater rate than in our trial where the query is almost transactional.

    @Jeremy – thanks, we really do think the data speaks for itself here – no hyperbole needed :)

  4. This is fantastic resaerch – we are heavily targeting google author markup and believe that for law, where people buy people, it’s an incredibly powerful tool.

  5. @Matt – Happy to. Let me know how I can help. Off the top of my noggin I know that “lack of oxygen at birth” might be a good candidate.

  6. I love this post. It would be interesting to see the same test done in other markets, perhaps those that benefit from strong visuals. The attorney niche is pretty dry. I probably wouldn’t care to watch a promo from a law office, but I may want to see one from say a travel destination site.

  7. @Dino yea, we were definitely laser focused on the specialty attorney niche. I have no doubt that in other verticals/query types you would see different, if not drastically different, results.

  8. Mike –

    This is exactly the kind of testing we need in local. In my opinion we have loads of conjectures and soft hypotheses but not a lot of hard data with well constructed experiments like this.

    This is an interesting testing model you have stumbled into with testing on behalf of Reeves. Kind of a win win win. I have to believe there are many businesses in our space that want to know the answers to these ?’s (like Reeves) and have the funds to do so (ahem, some law groups). There are certainly a lot of questions we’d all be curious to have tested. I wonder if there are any opportunities to co-op these sorts of tests with local businesses – surveys with your blog audience to determine what tests to run then searching any businesses that might be interested in helping with the cost to run them through your team or another local digital team.

    Would be interesting but maybe just my local digital marketing dream world I sometimes wander off to during the day :)

    PS makes sense that this result is the case and why Google is pushing authorship mark up. Would imagine they looked at this exact type of data before the big authorship push.

  9. I found it interesting that #2′s click thru rate stayed relatively even in the 3 tests: 23.3%, 23.7% & 25.5%.

    It would appear that *any* image in the serps takes a significant # of clicks away from the #1 spot. To me, that would indicate that the user’s eye is drawn away & they settle on a different spot.

    I tend to agree with Matt & John on their 2 takeaways and comments on the 4th spot getting a higher ctr on the video snippet test. The large image draws attention away from #1 and those users then decide they prefer the #4 listing to watching a video.

    Note that the 4th listing’s title is the closest to an exact match of the query plus they have the same match in their text snippet. Could that explain part of the boosted ctr for this query? The video snippet might get a better ctr if the #4 listing wasn’t as well matched to the query.

  10. @Ross – astute observation regarding the title on the 3rd (video) result. The ability to match the user’s query is certainly influential. Although, the 3rd result on the authorship test result did have the same title, a still stole a lot of clicks. Perhaps the CTR on that one would have been even higher if title were more relevant.

  11. Great study! I’d be curious to see how the results would be be swapping out the images in various verticals. I’m willing to bet that a better meta description next to the video thumbnail would increase CTR too… ie “In this quick video, we reveal 7 easy steps to increasing the amount of money you would….” or something similar. What do you think?

  12. @Matt
    Agreed. I think it can make a difference… plus I feel like I’ve heard the “match the query” mantra via AdWords about a million times.

  13. Interesting post and great insights! The personal injury lawyer space is highly competitive in organic (lots sketchy link building), and paid is competitive too for that matter (cpc’s north of $80). I have seen the video snippets and often wondered if they were more effective to go after versus authorship. So good to know. Ironic that the 4th listing received incrementally more clicks than the third listing which had the video snippet.

  14. Great post & interesting survey @Matt & @John. I’ve often wondered about the effectiveness of video rich snippets for certain queries but never took the plunge to go and actually test the theory! I would be interested in seeing a few more multivariate tests such as both authorship and video snippets appearing in the same results, video appearing as first result etc. for other search queries but this survey is obviously very conclusive as it is.

    Thanks for sharing

  15. @Jacob

    I have thought long and hard about ways to test user behaviors without having access to Google’s or Bing”s internal data… it is a sticky problem.

    This methodology has lots of promise but there are several caveats that we need to think about when assessing these results.

    1)Sample make up – as Matt and John pointed out this is not a sample US adult internet population but rather a self selected audience of advanced users.
    2)Sample size – 100 is a large enough sample IF we can eliminate other issues with the sample (ie make up) but it would be preferable to have a larger sample size.
    3)Does the methodology act as a proxy for measuring real user behaviors. It would be worth some time to put 100 people in a room and test real behaviors vs the behaviors the authors can track via this method to see if it accurately predicts behaviors.

    These methodology points are not in any way meant to diminish or minimize this research which opens up a whole new avenue of study at a reasonable cost. The results though need to be viewed within the constraints imposed by the methodology.

  16. @Mike – Amen. We we actually considered using Google Surveys as that platform would have solved the problems of limited respondents and sample bias (at least to some extent). It turned out that their platform is extremely limited when it came to using images in surveys, and so Usability Hub became our best option, particularly within our budget constraints. I would love to see someone get 100 people together and run the same test.

  17. Fascinating research guys! I’m far more excited by the fact that you’ve shown, in a very concrete way, that rich snippets of any variety can disrupt the natural SERP click distribution.

    While there is a certain assumption that people will follow-through on their intent, I think it’s a fairly solid one to make which is supported by anecdotal evidence from numerous other sources.

    One wonders what would happen if, say, the second result didn’t have a snippet but 1, 3, 4 and 5 did?

    As to the difference between Authorship and Video snippets, I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. Video has the potential for higher friction (I have to watch this thing for how long?) and may be viewed as less trustworthy at a glance.

    I’m inclined to think it’s more the former and is also due to the fact that the search was text based so the expectation may still be text at this point in time (in certain verticals and query spaces.)

  18. Thanks AJ! Despite the limitations we’ve pointed out, Usability Hub turned out to be a really effective (and affordable) way to perform this research. And yes, the possibilities as far as testing combinations of Serp layouts are endless! In the example you mentioned, I can hardly even begin to guess how the distribution would look. There is plenty more to be explored.

  19. Interesting and very helpful. Thanks for doing the work on this. And I’m in agreement, the video snippet implies a commitment I’m not willing to make (ie watching) since I wasn’t searching for videos.

  20. @Matt

    Yes Google Surveys, because it is fit into only slightly more space than an ad, has very limited layout options. While it can measure consumer sentiment it does not do a very good job of measuring their behaviors.

    Although I have often thought that you could bring 100 or 200 people into a room, scrape Google results and track actual responses… it would be interesting to do that in conjunction with Usability Hub and compare responses.

  21. Mike,

    I noticed this week that some Author’s photos are showing up even in the Google Local SERPS, but I cant figure out how they are getting it to do this. Here is a link to show you what I am referring to: Atlanta Car Accident Attorney.

    As you can see, the Author’s photos are showing up for the first two Google local SERPs. I’ve searched online for an answer as well and can’t seem to find one. I can get mine to show up for regular SERPs, but not the local SERPs, as you can see from the link above as we are first page for both Google Local and regular SERPs for those key words. Obvioulsy based on the study’s above, this is something that I would like to figure out. Any suggestions on how this is accomplished?

    Thanks
    RSC

  22. @R Shannon

    Author photos have been showing in “blended” results since last year about this time.

    In any given blended pack results the first results (it could be anywhere from 1 to 7) are created by blending web content with the local results. To achieve this result you need to have both a high ranking web site AND a high ranking Maps listing for the search term. It helps to be in the first one or two for both.

  23. @Shannon

    I’ve been trying to figure this one out myself. I noticed the first listing with a photo has neither a publisher mark up nor authorship mark up in the source code for the home page. Both listings link to their Google profiles. Both have blogs, but neither Google+ pages link to the blog. They both link to the home page and there are no snippets of the blogs on the home page.

    On the other hand, in the second listing, I found both publisher and authorship mark ups.

    Furthermore, the first listing with an image has 20 reviews with a high review score, but the second listing has no reviews.

    As far as I can tell, there seems to be no clear reason why Google chose to show those two listings in local search results other than what Mike suggested. A strong website (both have good PR and domain age) and a strong local profile. Who knows about all the other factors such as social signals, links and other activity. The best I can suggest is to keep promoting your site and listing. Maybe others have better advice.

  24. @ Dino

    Are you seeing different personalized SERPs for Atlanta Car Accident Attorney?

    On the top 2 results with author photos, both Christopher Simon & Evan Kaine link to their websites under “Contributor to:” in their G+ profiles. And both have links from home to their G+ profiles with rel=author.

    So it appears they’ve setup authorship correctly.

  25. @Ross

    I didn’t see the authorship mark up for the second one, but now that I tested the urls in the rich snippet tool, I see that both are set up correctly.

    However, without going through every listing for Atlanta Car Accident Attorney, my question is, “Are they the only two that are linked properly?”

    I think Shannon’s question, as I understood it was:

    If a handful of listings are linked to their websites under Contributor to in their G+ profiles and all have links from home to their G+ profiles with rel=author, why does Google choose to highlight only these two?

    I find it interesting because I have the same question for several clients as well; authorship set up correctly, verified in Rich Snippets tool, strong local profile, strong organic presence and so forth. So why does Google choose not to highlight them, but highlight others that don’t seem to be as strong? Would be interested to know if anyone else is experiencing this problem (if it’s just me, it wouldn’t be the first time :-).

    Regards,
    Dino

    PS. I apologize to everyone for pushing this thread into a different direction from the OP, but I think Shannon brings up a good question.

  26. @Dino

    Perhaps you didn’t understand my earlier response. The two results with author photos are the only two blended results in the search result. Google only shows author as a condition of a web search result and in local it thus requires that the web and map result blend. All the of the lower pinned results are “pure” map results NOT blended results. Thus to get an author photo it is necessary to have a blended result which occurs when you have a highly placed (as in the first web search results) web page AND a highly placed maps listing.

    I can demonstrate this affect quite easily just not in the context of the blog.

  27. @Mike

    That makes sense. I suppose the problem I was having was not distinguishing between blended and pure maps results. I thought blended just happened, but if I understand you correctly, the local results we see are not all blended. Some are still pure maps results, correct?

    Blended, then, just doesn’t happen because an owner claims their listing and adds their site to “Contributor to,” in their profile. Both the local profile and website need to rank high in search. If this is the case, then yes, I misunderstood your first response.

    Sometimes if I bang my head against the wall enough times, this stuff will sink in.

  28. I, for one, was very surprised at the results. The first 2 search results were as expected:

    Search Result 1 (All Text) #1 beats #2 which beats #3 which beats #4

    Search Result 2 (Authorship in #3 beating out #2, but not #1) Understandable.

    But Search Result 3 (Video in #3) Results #1, #2 and #4 all receiving a higher % of Click Thrus at #3′s expense (and especially #4 almost doubling!) was absolutely shocking to me.

    This is probably due to all the data we have of youTube being the world’s 2nd largest SE by a long shot (more than Bing, Yahoo, AOL & Ask combined).

    Maybe it’s just that noone wants to watch a Lawyer talk :-) due to (insert lawyer joke here)

    I think the results would be Very Different if someone ACTUALLY NEEDED an Accident Lawyer ASAP. They would likely want to watch a few videos and become familiar with them before meeting (or maybe that’s just my viewpoint) That’s why we test, right?

  29. This is good research and nice to see some solid facts.
    As others have commented, it would be good to see similar information for another vertical.

    I would be interested in consumer level search for technology products. In this space I would think that video snippets would have a bigger impact as they fit with the target audience and the videos themselves should be more interesting.

  30. @dino
    Google only blends at the start for any listing that is ranked high in both web and local… once it runs out of those it pushes the high ranking web results down in the SERPS and “backfills” with pure Local results. So depending on the niche there might be only 1 blended result but if more competitive there might be 7.

  31. @matt & @john

    Can you share the CTR for #3 & #4 positions on the control? That’s not shown on the pie chart. I’d like to reference your research in a presentation and that data would be helpful
    Thanks!

  32. Wow, this study it’s one of the most interesting seened lately!
    It is very specific and targeted, very documented data offered.
    I understand that in this domain there are no clicks on 5th to 10th positions?
    It would be helpul a similar research for different domains of activities, but congrats for this one, it is a “trends setter”, you gave me some ideeas about CTR! Thanks for sharing and wait for more intersting materials!

  33. Very cool. I’ll be saving this for later. I love how the heatmap makes it very clear.

    I don’t suppose they also compared authorship to video on the same screen? Not that it matters, but I’m a data junkie.

  34. Maybe if the video image featured a smiling person, like the authorship image, the results in the third test would be different. People may have been drawn down to the video, but not responded well to the video still.

  35. @Mike 8:53 am

    You could use a custom search engine to test the behavior of say… 100-200 participants with minimal instruction on finding an attorney in x category. There is a post on that on SEOMoz a while back, I’ll see if I can dig it up.

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