Heat maps: The Golden Triangle

Posted on February 24, 2012


From Squidoo.com

Heat maps can tell us the viewing habits of Internet users, and when it comes to search engines, they can be especially telling of how people interact with search results.

As you can see from the above picture, the above heat map shows what many industry professionals refer to as “The Golden Triangle,” and understanding this can teach us journalists how to approach search engines.

Quickly, there are two take-aways that are pretty straight forward:

  1. You need to be at the top. Close isn’t good enough, and there is a big difference in between the third and fifth listed result, not to mention the difference between first and tenth. SEO is an all-out game.
  2. Organic beats paid results. Overwhelmingly, more search engine users will be drawn to the organic results than the paid results that are listed on the side.

But more extensive studies give us more to examine with search results. A 2005 study by search marketing firms Ensqurio and Did-it.com examined the overall visibility behind search results, and it showed that the top three search results received 100 percent visibility. The next results, however, fall off from there. The fourth result received 85 percent, falling steadily until the 10th results, which received 20 percent visibility. The Golden Triangle is also referred to as “F-shaped heat maps” because of how top-heavy the heat maps tend to be.

But visibility isn’t everything with search results – clicks are. The Internet Marketing Blog E-Strategy took a look at the click-through rates depending on search result ranking, and the results showed that the drop-off begins from the very top.  The first result had 18.20 percent click-through rate, while the second result was at 10.05 percent. The third result was at 7.22 percent, while the fourth result was only at 4.81 percent.

The reality is that people won’t go through search results pages until they find what they want. Rather, search engine users will continually retry different searches, relying on the top three or four results to find what they are looking for. If not, they will turn to a different search phrase.