Search engine results page (SERP) interaction

Once a query has been typed and matched to a search engines’ index results are presented on a SERP. What way do we interact with a SERP?

Organic vs paid search

Organic results are naturally ranked websites whereas paid search (PPC) bids instantly for specific keywords for sponsored link ranking. It is impossible to generalise what results we look at because several studies have found that our attention is evenly distributed for organic results whereas other studies suggest most of us look at the first three results. Click through rates, however, show that 85.7% of clicks occur on page one so being in the top ten of any SERP is important regardless of what position a website ranks.

One study, in 2005, found that the concept of sponsored links is not well known because only 38% know the difference between sponsored (paid search) and organic links. Our ability to see and distinguish SERP components differs enormously. This also means that user interaction with a SERP also varies.

One study found that the number of people who click on sponsored links was between 10% to 23% of all clicks. It is clear PPC is still an effective system.

Snippets on the SERP

Most web search engines actually use similar components to construct a result’s page. They usually include a: title tag, description (or page content), and an URL.

SERP for Gerald Murphy.

SERP for Gerald Murphy.

In recent years web search engines have blended SERPs mixing news and images, for example, with textual websites for informational, navigational and transactional queries. This is beneficial to every searcher because a range of suitable materials are returned, thus likely to be used, to fully investigate a query.

SERP interaction

  • There is a lot of debate about where we look. Some studies suggest the top four results whereas others say #1 to #10 are evenly distributed.
  • Approximately a third of one study did not know the difference between sponsored (PPC) and organic links. This suggests that depending upon the user PPC links could appear to be trustworthy and completely match long tailed search queries when in fact they only match bided keywords.
  • Over 80% of all clicks occur from position one to ten.

Are people satisfied when searching?

Search engines are highly popular and searchers give positive feedback on their use of them, for instance, feeling in control of their search and most find information on what they are looking for. This shows that web search engines are becoming better at ranking relevant results but also the design and user interface of a SERP allows for happy and content searchers.

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References

  1. Cutrell, E. & Guam, Z. (2007) What are you looking for? An eye-tracking study of information usage in web search. Proceedings CHI. pp. 407 — 416
  2. Downet, D. Dumais, S. Liebling, D. and Horvitz, E. (2008) Understanding the relationship between searchers’ queries and information goals. Proceeding CIKM. pp. 449 — 458
  3. Granka, L.A. Joachims, T. and Gay, G. (2004) Eye-tracking analysis of user behaviour in WWW search. Proceedings SIGIR. pp. 478 — 479.
  4. Fallows, D. (2005) Search engine users. Pew Research Center. [Online] [Accessed on 25th August 2013] http://is.gd/K3KB3o
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