SERPs, heat maps and teamwork

In case you missed it, Richard Frost wrote a fantastic piece over on the main site last week about what would happen if Google swapped paid and natural results on their SERPs. The idea is that the company could generate more revenue if it were to swap its right and left hand columns, based on the fact that roughly 35 per cent of clicks go through PPC listings, contributing around £15.6 billion income. The article asks what would happen should the switch take place, with some interesting results.

The idea for Richard's piece came out of a conversation with our lead developer Adrian Mursec, who'd played around with the concept on the way back from a meeting. I'm proud of the way our staff are able to talk through ideas with each other and turn them into such engaging content.

The new article harks back to a blog I wrote last year about the effectiveness of the then newly launched Bing in drawing attention to its sponsored listings by tweaking its layout in comparison to Google (see the image on the right). That piece showed that by having its paid results closer to the main body of natural listings, Bing was better at drawing users' eyes over to the right hand column – almost twice as good as Google, in fact.

The use of heat maps in tracking user behaviour is something which I find fascinating – the idea that we can literally see what visitors see; keep a record of the things on our websites which they find most interesting. Is the news feed too close to the fold? Is anyone looking at it? Are more people drawn to the non-clickable image at the top left; and if so, should we turn it in to a link? Asking questions such as these – and arriving at the answers via A/B testing – is a vital part of improving conversion rates.

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