You’re familiar with visual heat maps, right?
Jakob Nielsen has an interesting post about the F-Shape:
“Eyetracking visualizations show that users often read Web pages in an F-shaped pattern: two horizontal stripes followed by a vertical stripe”.
If there is one crucial thing to know about web design as it relates to marketing, it is this: visitors scan. They won’t read all your text, unless they’re very interested in what you’ve got to say. Most people aren’t, especially those arriving from a SERP for the first time. They just want their question answered.
Jakob goes one step further and shows how people scan. Briefly, users tend to scan across the top, then scan again across the paragraph below, then down the left hand side, forming an “F”. If you want to move the user to intended action, then you’d be wise to consider these heat maps when placing critical page elements.
Of interest to search marketers is the heat map on a SERP. Notice how the top row, including the top Adwords ad, receives a lot of viewer attention. Following on from my post the other day, sometimes it can be more cost effective to advertise than to do seo, depending on the cost of running the adword listing. This is especially true in non-competitive areas, and in the regions.
The reverse may be true if the advertising rates are too high, or if your time cost is low.