Recently, a series of studies was published that focused on eye and click tracking for local listings within Google Places – studies that uncovered some helpful insights into location-based marketing. With a group of 12 participants for eye tracking and another 90 for click monitoring, researchers set up a scavenger-type study. Using Google Places, participants were asked to find tattoo shops in several different predetermined Canadian cities. From there, researchers studied how long participants’ eyes stayed on local search listings and which ads they clicked.

Knowing exactly how consumers view your local listing within Google Places is important for location-based marketing. In the eye movement tracking study, they found the ‘F’ scanning strategy also applied to Google Places searches. This is the scanning pattern viewers’ eyes immediately follow when looking at search results. The viewers’ eyes start at the top left, move to top right, and back below the left, leaving an imaginary triangle or ‘F’ shape. Having an ad in this sacred area is the best way to get high CTRs (click-through rates). Though this user-experience testing did find that to be true, the findings led researchers to another insight; when businesses with lower ratings have additional content, like star ratings, reviews or added text, they have longer targeted eye time and higher clicks. We can learn two things about location-based marketing from this study:

1.) If you have a top SEO result on Google Maps but less additional content, you may be bypassed by lower results with more information

2.) If you have a lower SEO ranked listing, you can still capture attention by listing additional information

Interestingly, the research didn’t stop there. Using the original study scenario, researchers investigated eye patterns with different screen sizes. Using a PC screen and an iPhone, they found users’ eye movements and clicks reacted to the two screens differently. As expected, users looking at the PC screen followed the ‘F’ model. The iPhone eye pattern was quite different, though. Rather than scanning left to right, the user’s attention immediately moves to the right because of displayed images. And rather than going back to the left and scrolling down, most will stay on the right side and scroll down until they find a listing that interests them. The interest level was mainly based on the social signals added, like ratings, reviews or added information. So yet again, the attention grabber in both studies was immediately correlated to the additional information added to the listing.

This presents an opportunity for businesses with websites that are not listed in the top SEO search results. If they are proactive about adding positive reviews, they can be just as effective at location-based marketing as these top results. This creates an even greater opportunity for mobile device interaction. As we are entering the Mobile Age, it is wise to start defining your online presence. Having an attractive and click-desirable ad is a great way to start.

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