Eye Tracking Usability and Neuromarketing Research to Improve Web Design at SES San Francisco

Anne F. Kennedy, SES Advisory Board, International Search Strategist, Beyond Ink USA


Shari Thurow, Founder & SEO Director, Omni Marketing Interactive.

Eye tracking usability informs you of where a visitor is focusing their attention on your site.   With this information, you can improve your site layout and design to enhance visitors’ online experiences. People’s online objectives and interactions may be navigational, informational, or transactional.  Effective search engine marketing relies on understanding these user objectives and ensuring relevancy to continuously evolving search engine algorithms and parameters.  Eye tracking is based on the mind-eye hypothesis which holds that what a person is seeing and what that person is thinking is typically the same.   It can help us determine:

  • What online visitors are looking at (site navigation elements, top-level text, search fields, image captions)
  • What online visitors are not looking at (anything that looks like an ad)
  • How people visually and mentally separate information
  • The sequence in which people look at creative, content, and media on the page

Directly connected to eye tracking, neuromarketing is the integration of psychology and the user experience.  Eye tracking and neuromarketing considerations can help define user behavior while increasing conversion rates and the overall effectiveness of your website when combined with SEO strategies.  With regards to user behavior, people follow an “information scent” when online.   It’s a term that describes how people evaluate their options online when they’re looking for information. When presented with a list of choices (search or navigation), users tend to select the option that gives them the most relevant suggestion (or strongest “scent”) that it will bring the information they seek closer to them.

You can improve eye tracking on your site by:

Example Website Heat Map

Example Website Heat Map

  • Ensuring your site does not look like an ad in any way
  • Using effective yet simple graphics
  • Review “heat maps” and understand where and why people are looking on sites
  • Not making your site excessively detailed or cluttered – keep it easy to navigate and interpret
    • Do not use stock images whenever possible – if people think it’s fake, they will ignore it
  • Incorporate “magnetic features” through imagery
    • Images of smiling/approachable people who are looking into the camera – these types of images start to build trust
  • Don’t put text on/over an image – if you do, it starts to look too similar to an ad
  • Don’t put important call to actions below the fold
  • Remember that visitor attention is primarily focused on site navigation

In conclusion:

  • Understand your visitors’ goals and motivations
  • Make sure information scent matches user behaviors
  • Continuously review the appearance of your search listings
    • Are the effective?
  • In order accurately interpret eye tracking data, you must understand the “how” and “why”
  • Work with highly reputable eye tracking usability partners/firms
  • Keep eye tracking and neuromarketing data in perspective – use it as a complementary tool in your SEO kit

Contributed by Sue Gordon, Milestone Internet Marketing, Inc.

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