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What attracts people’s attention when presented with Google Places local search results?

Posted on April 4th, by Sean P. Fullerton in Blog. 1 Comment

What attracts people’s attention when presented with Google Places local search results?

What attracts people’s attention when presented with Google Places local search results?

I stumbled across an excellent post by SEOMoz who were given the opportunity by Mirametrix to use their state of the art eye-tracking technology to study how and where users’ eyes are drawn to on typical search result pages.  This technology follows the user’s eyes and creates an image similar to a heat map of the areas on the page where the user’s eyes are focused on most. 

They used a couple of variations of a typical search query for pizza (with location settings enabled on their browser) which bring up both blended and “pure” local results. 

Let’s take a look at how they got on…

Example 1: Blended Results

Eye Tracking serpsThe “blended” local results. This query (best pizza in Chicago) returns a complete list of “blended” search results. This is a very common SERP for a food/restaurant based local query and one we see very often here in Ireland.

It’s worth noting that, as you might expect, most activity occurs around the top of the page and the first couple of listings although people still look down at the lower ranked search results and the correlating map on the right hand side.

I wonder if this is due to the number of good reviews the lower ranked listings have, or simply to find a pizza shop that is a bit closer to them geographically, or both? 

Example 2: “Pure” Local Results

Eye Tracking Local Search ResultsThe “pure” local results. This is where it gets interesting! This query “pizza” returns a few natural or organic listings at the top of the page, followed by the “pure” local results or in this case a “7 box” then followed again by the organic listings.

What strikes me immediately about this visual is that people are quite obviously drawn straight towards the local Google Places listings and bypass even the higher ranked organic listings which are sitting above them on the page.

Notice also how less people seem to be even looking at the map in these results. I don’t have any real idea why this might be, apart from maybe because the business location and contact info for these seven businesses is a lot closer together and can be compared without straying too far up and down the page.

I don’t know to be honest, I’m merely speculating, but for whatever reason, searchers are immediately drawn to the Google Places search results.

Example 3: Site-links Results

Eye tracking local search results 3Expanded site links V Local search results. This time, the guys at SEOMoz used the search term “Pizza Hut” which triggered the new site-links result which sometimes appears when Google believes that listing is the single most relevant for that specific search query. In this case the search phrase was Pizza Hut so, naturally, Pizza Hut’s own official website gets awarded site-link status at the top of the page.

Here we notice that the users are a bit more drawn to the dominant organic listing at the top of the page but the resounding majority of focus is given to the three “pure” local listings or “3 box” that sits roughly half way down the page. This is amazing data and if you’re a local business owner, you need to take note! 


From a local search marketing perspective, one of the most important findings is that the Google Places listings are having a huge impact on user behaviour. Even when the results appear further down on the page the user is drawn to them before the higher listed organic search results.

Anyone with a local business needs to be aware of how their business is appearing in the search results and make sure your Google Places page is on that front page. It is not as simple as having a number one ranking any more. Your listing needs to have that “visually interesting” factor that draws the user towards your business.

Thanks to Dr. Pete from SEOMoz for his original data and the guys at Mirametrix for providing him with the opportunity!

Want to learn more about the Google Places ranking factors or need help improving your Google Places SEO?

SEO & Local Online Marketing Consultant 

SEO, local search marketing consultant & search geek from Donegal, Ireland. Love gadgets, keeping up to date with Google's algorithm changes & all things internet.

One response to “What attracts people’s attention when presented with Google Places local search results?”

  1. […] Although we live in small towns where word of mouth and long-standing reputations are still large influences in the decision making process, people still go online to source more information about the local products and services that are available to them. The harsh fact of the matter is that if your competitor has invested in developing a good online presence, are competitive price-wise and have user generated reviews or testimonials clearly visible, there is every likelihood that customer will be attracted elsewhere. […]

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