True, what grows organically tastes awesome, although with a few exceptions. The same logic applies in the search results when a user clicks a website that top the organic search engine result page (SERP). The argument needs no further verification that paid search, which is only one-third of the click through rate (CTR), is 50% less clicked upon than organic.
However, a study conducted by search engine marketing firms Enquiro and Eyetools has provided a lease of hope for online marketers, which confirms a higher CTR for the top three listings on organic results. The study elucidates the eye tracking behavior of users that scan the rest of the page in an F-pattern, looking laterally at the top results and then vertically, with fewer laterals scanning the further down the list they travel. This is what is called as ‘Golden Triangle’. Just like the famous Bermuda Triangle that traps wayward passengers, there is a “Golden Triangle" on Google that “traps" visitors’ eyeballs. Though the study is restricted to Google, it can be applied to other major search engines, such as, Yahoo!, MSN, Baidu, etc.
Results under the Golden Triangle, thus, get high probability of CTR due to cent percent visibility reason. Many advertisers set a higher bid for key phrases listed on the top above the organic results for F-factor. For example, if you search ‘cheap hotels in India’, you’ll find the paid listings of the sites above the organic results. Obviously, CTR of these listings will be higher than the right hand listings.
But does higher CTR ensure longer stay duration (LSD)?
The Triangle per se does not ensure LSD of the unique visitors on the site. To put it in another way, a good restaurant is one, which attempts to increase the appetite of people while serving the food. Similarly, a good site is one, which strives to raise curiosity among visitors to discover new or something interesting while supplementing necessary dose of information. The popularity and success of Web 2.0 sites, which thrive on user interactivity, corroborate the above argument of LSD with higher page views.
A good online marketer can’t ignore the psychological behavior of the searchers. Enquiro’s Gord Hotchkiss argues that searchers have a collection of words in their heads that are more than just the query terms they type into the search field, but that they will subconsciously scan for in the search results. Those terms will comprise additional related words that are relevant to why they are searching in the first place.
Eye traffic is important but what matters at the end is actual lead generation. In order to turn your searchers into regular visitors or buyers, you need to understand their semantic map. That is, try and think of user motivation and what other terms would be part of their search intent and include that in the page title and content of the page. A site optimized to rank under the Golden Triangle must meet the expectation of searchers. A search engine counts various factors while throwing the results, more important being the duration of the stay. One needs to try hard to turn scanning visitors into committed visitors for overall increase in the LSD and page views. A site fairly optimized to rank under the Triangle may be thrown out in the future even though it has higher CTR.
Here is my analysis for any website to rank under the Golden Triangle, which is summarized in the following equations. Ceteris paribus,
(1) If LSD>CTR, Expected future result in the Triangle
(2) If CTR> LSD, Uncertain future result in the triangle
(3) If CTR = LSD, consistency in the Triangle –An ideal site!
To me, the equation (1) leads to the equilibrium (equation 3) through multiplier effect –one through word of mouth and another through search engines, which may eventually lead to higher CTR. Quality (LSD) and not just quantity (CTR) matters for search engines, and this is true especially when the behavior of search engines is changing more towards semantic. In short, a site with relatively lower CTR but higher LSD may do better than a site with higher CTR and lower LSD.
Summing up with coauthors Mike Moran and Bill Hunt, who in their book “Search Engine Marketing Inc, ” exhort that chasing the algorithm with touted and torpid prose might win the battle but lose the war.
I'm Senior Product Executive at CyberMedia Online Ltd. http://www.ciol.com