09.11.2010 ionadas local News, ionadas local Research, Local SEO 19 Comments

Research: Google Places Heatmaps

For the last few months, ionadas local and Sentient Services have been engaged in research in the local SEO space. The survey uses heat mapping to reveal how the reader’s eye typically tracks geographically-based search result content, giving web developers and advertisers valuable insights into creating page layouts optimized to attract and retain viewers’ attention.

Google Places Heatmap

It was to be the first published survey of eye tracking patterns as applied to local search techniques. We planned to publish the research under a Creative Common Attribution 3.0 license.

Twelve days ago, however, Google released Google Place Search, and completely changed the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) for local queries. One could argue that this invalidates our hard work.

“No so fast!” I retort in my best Lee Korso voice.

There are currently multiple page types for local queries. One of them draws much of its structure from the old 7-pack. It’s reasonable to assume that many of our findings apply to this new SERP as well.

And our most surprising finding certainly still applies. The conventional wisdom has been that the map itself should be one of the greatest draws on the page. Our research found that the map actually receives very little attention. Most people hardly notice its presence at all.

If anything, this should be even more the case with the new SERPs. Google has moved the map to the right, where paid advertising usually languishes. Most users have spent the last fifteen years learning to ignore that part of the page. I believe it is unlikely to be noticed now.

So, even with the changes, we’re publishing our research report and the heatmaps:

This research and this report are © 2010, ionadas local LLC and Sentient Services, LP.

They are being published under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, allowing businesses, organizations and individuals to download, use and reproduce the data in their own promotional and research efforts providing proper attribution is made.

Proper attribution means listing the above copyright statement and including links to www.ionadas.com and www.sentientservices.com for web usage. For other uses, the copyright statement, www.ionadas.com and www.sentientservices.com must be listed.

Any of the above conditions can be waived if you get permission from ionadas local LLC.

Written by Brian Combs on November 9th, 2010 at 7:00 am.

19 Responses to “Research: Google Places Heatmaps”

  1. [...] has shifted the typical Places layout from the 7-Pack to the blended organo-local results, these 7-Pack heatmaps and research from ionadas local still hold a lot of value. This snippet is of particular [...]

  2. Rocky says:

    That’s very interesting. I’d be interested in know the technology used to generate the heat maps. You only mention in the article that their eye, mouse, and click movements were tracked.

  3. Brian Combs says:

    We used the Tobii Eye Tracking Hardware. The study was managed by the team at Sentient Services.

  4. [...] can read more about the heatmap study and download bigger images along with the company’s report. And cross your fingers that maybe [...]

  5. [...] can read more about the heatmap study and download bigger images along with the company’s report. And cross your fingers that maybe [...]

  6. [...] Here’s a link to the full blog post. [...]

  7. [...] can read more about the heatmap study and download bigger images along with the company’s report. And cross your fingers that maybe [...]

  8. [...] a link to the source and the full blog post. No Responses to “Visualize Google [...]

  9. [...] can read more about the heatmap study and download bigger images along with the company’s report. And cross your fingers that maybe [...]

  10. [...] Here’s a link to the full blog post. [...]

  11. [...] powinni również przeanalizować wyniki badania Eye Tracking dla wyników wyszukiwania z informacjami lokalnymi. Wprawdzie Google dokonało w między czasie zmian, jednak wnioski wypracowane na bazie badania są [...]

  12. [...] has shifted the typical Places layout from the 7-Pack to the blended organo-local results, these 7-Pack heatmaps and research from ionadas local still hold a lot of value. This snippet is of particular [...]

  13. [...] zum kompletten Blog Artikel von [...]

  14. [...] moved the map to the right side of the search results. Incidentally, Combs and ionadas recently conducted a heat map study on local results and found that the map itself draws very little attention. It doesn’t [...]

  15. Nico Brooks says:

    Thank you for making these available – very helpful for a presentation I’m doing.
    One comment regarding, “Our research found that the map actually receives very little attention. Most people hardly notice its presence at all.”
    I saw a presentation by Gord Hotchkiss a couple of years ago where he went in to some detail on how searchers scan images on the SERP. He pointed out that the heap map makes it look like searchers hardly look at images at all, but in fact their eye flicks to the image and immediately to the right, having processed the image much more quickly than text. I wonder if that is what is happening here with the map?

  16. Brian Combs says:

    I think that’s very possible. The map gets some attention, but not much. I think we use it as a visual clue as to the general content of the page. There doesn’t seem to be enough attention given to it to interpret any actual data from within the map, however.

  17. Nico Brooks says:

    Here is a post from Gord that explains his findings better than I could: http://searchengineland.com/eye-tracking-on-universal-and-personalized-search-12233 – a key concept he talks about is “information scent”, which is basically the idea that as we forage for information we look for clues that will lead to fulfilling our information need. From Gord’s findings, we can evaluate the scent of an image much more quickly than text. So it seems there is an underlying question of how much time we spend looking for scent, and how much time we spend actually absorbing information.
    In any case, looking forward to reading through your research paper tonight, and glad to have come across your blog!

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