Google Carousel Eye-Tracking Study: The Big Winner is AdWords

In addition to the Local heat maps & CTR studies that I shared yesterday , Mediative also looked at the behaviors around the Carousel in their study: The Evolution of Google Search Results Pages and Their Effects on User Behaviour”.

As with the 7-pack information yesterday, there are limits to this study. The CTR are particularly suspect given the lack of a representative audience and the very small sample size. And the study doesn’t explore post Carousel click behaviors like calling.

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 1.46.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 1.46.41 PM

There are some interesting take aways in these results:

  • The highest performing Carousel Placements are those to the far right; not positions 1,2 or3
  • 11.1% of the clicks went to postions 4-7 on the Carousel while only 1.4% went to positions 1-3
  • 89% (ie almost all) participants fixated on the Carousel
  • Ads did particularly well a 136% increase in time spent looking at them and a 60% increase in clicks compared to other SERP results
  • Ads captured 21% of the clicks on the page
  • The top four organic results, all strong brands, did very well capturing 52% of the clicks

Obviously, if these results bear out, then Adwords is the big winner with the Carousel. Its bold presentation attracts eyeballs to the upper left but not the clicks which accrue to the ads. I think the likes of Yelp & TripAdvisor might need to be careful what they wish for in their European anti-trust crusade.

But all is not lost with the Carousel. Their ability to capture eyeballs (if not clicks) has significant branding implications. From their report:

Impressions vs. clicks

3 out of the 5 new elements covered in this study—Carousel, Knowledge Graph and Local Listings—don’t necessarily require the user to click on the listing/ placement to get the information they are looking for. Impression data should therefore be measured as a success metric. Given how much information can potentially be garnered about your business without a user having to leave the SERP, the listings have a similar effect in terms of brand awareness.

Please consider leaving a comment as your input will help me (& everyone else) better understand and learn about local.
Google Carousel Eye-Tracking Study: The Big Winner is AdWords by

6 thoughts on “Google Carousel Eye-Tracking Study: The Big Winner is AdWords”

  1. Morning Mike,

    I had a couple questions about what’s influencing what on your results. Hope that’s ok:
    1. According to the heat map, it looks like the majority of user time spent looking was on the sponsored links, but the highest CTR was still the organic listings. Do you think sponsorship listings had any impact the organic CTR?
    2. You mentioned the presence of a Carousel increased time spent looking at sponsored links by 136% and CTR of 60%. Did you happen to see any increase or decrease in time spent looking and/or CTR for organic listings from the presence of a Carousel?

  2. Thanks for sharing Mike 🙂 Although it looks to me like the fixation was more so on the top Ad rather than on the carousel. The #1 ad covers a lot of real estate, and it appears to be well put together for this type of search query.

  3. @Thom

    1. The highest CTR was still the organic listings, but it was lower than the average organic CTR we saw across the entire study.

    2. It does appear that the presence of the carousel is decreasing the time spent looking at and the CTR for the organic listings.

    Hope that helps!

    I will point out that this study was done with Canadian consumers in Feb/Mar of this year – the carousel would have been novel to many if not all of them.

    I’ll also mention that the “high” number of clicks on the right side of the carousel are actually on the right arrow – participants were interested in exploring more of the carousel, presumably because they were not familiar with it.

    If you want to see all of the CTR data, you can download the study.

  4. It would be interesting to see a more in-depth study of this nature. While measuring clicks is important, even more important in my opinion is comparing the conversion rates. People clicking on the side ads may have different intents than those clicking on organic or in-page ads.

  5. Great post Mike, any chance you’re working on updating this to reflect current changes?

    I’m studying psychology and doing a paper on attention span for commercial use with eye tracking.

    I would love if you could update this and perhaps with a more advanced look into eye tracking studies.

    These guys have done a great job but I’m missing something a bit more tangible.

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