Microsoft has just released the results of an internal eye tracking study that looked at the impact of snippet length. For more detail, visit Marina Garrison’s blog where she looks at the notable findings.
A few quick ones and some comments:
Snippet length doesn’t seem to impact people’s search strategies.
This makes sense to us. We found scanning for word patterns rather than actual reading. In fact, a longer snippet may actually detract from the user experience in certain scenarios, such as navigational search. It makes it more difficult to pick up information scent quickly. Remember, we’re on and off the search page as quickly as possible.
People scan 4 listings regardless
This is definitely aligned with the Rule of 3 (or 4) we found in our eye tracking study. We found, however, that this isn’t a hard and fast rule, but rather a pretty common tendency. It changes depending on whether top sponsored ads appeared, how closely aligned the top result was to intent and other factors. But in general, we would agree that most people tend to scan 3 or 4 listings before clicking on one.
Scenario Success Rates Dropped Dramatically as the “Best” Listing Moved Down the Page
No big surprise here. This was referred to in our first study as the “Google” Effect, and it comes from our being trained that best result should show up on top. I actually co-authored a paper with Dr. Bajaj and Dr. Wood at the University of Tulsa about this very topic. By the way, it was Dr. Bajaj that called it the “Google” Effect, not me, so please Yahoo and Microsoft, don’t beat me up on this one.
The report is available for download.