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SEO Heatmaps:  Information, Advertising and Eye-Tracking.

Humans have been viewing information in the same basic ways for hundreds of years. It’s a subconscious process that entails expending the most judicious use of time and effort to forage for information.

Because of how we Westerners read and write – left-to-right and top-to-bottom – the way we’ve evolved how we search for information mirrors the same sort of behavior.  And today we have eye-scanning research and mouse click studies that underscore the point.

In conducting online searches, where we land on information is known variously as the “area of greatest promise,” the “golden triangle,” or the “F-scan diagram.”

However you wish to name it, it generally looks like this on a Google search engine results page (SERP):


To see how the “area of greatest promise” exists, consider that most people look for information by scanning down the beginning of the first listings on a page … then continue viewing to the right if something seems to be a good match for our information needs, leading to a clickthrough if the match pans out.

This is why it’s so important for websites to appear within the top 5-7 organic listings on a SERP (or within the top 1-3 paid search results in the right-hand column of Google’s SERP).

In recent years, Google and other search engines have been offering enhancements to the traditional SERP, ranging from showing images across the top of the page to presenting geographic information, including maps.  To what degree is this changing the “conditioning” of people who are seeking out information today compared to before?

New eye-tracking and heat maps show that we’re evolving to looking at “chunks” of information first for clues as to the promising areas of results.

But then within those areas, we revert to the same “F-scan” behaviors, like this:


The same eye-tracking and heat map studies are showing that this two-step process is actually more time-efficient than before.

So while Google and other search engines may be “conditioning” us to change time-honored information-viewing habits, it’s equally true that people are “conditioning” Google to organize their SERPs in ways that are easiest and most beneficial to seeking and finding relevant information.

The bottom line?  It’s continuity among the chaos. And it proves yet again that the same “prime positioning” on the page favored for decades by advertisers and users alike – above the fold and to the left – continues to hold true today.




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