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 and for web usage. For other uses, the copyright statement, and must be listed.

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