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Getting top internet visibility – primarily on the search engine results pages (SERPs) can make a huge difference in the exposure and visibility your organization receives. Over the years, though, some changes in how readers interact with the presentation of results, is causing some significant re-thinking of what online strategies work the best.

Since 2005, Google in particular has changed how it presents search results. It isn’t all that surprising then that users have changed how they interact with them. Mediative – a user research organization – recently published a study showing that, through an eye movement analysis, getting to #1 on Google organic results may not be the ultimate objective anymore.

2005 Google 'Heat Map'
2005 “heat map” showing the parts of the Google Results Page that attracted the most attention

Twelve years ago, studies showed results listed in the top positions on Google attracted most of the attention and therefore most of the clicks and visitors. An analysis of reader attention in 2005 produced a “heat map” showing where readers focused most of their attention.

A similar study in 2014 found that eye attention and reader activity appears to be much more vertically distributed and now give more attention to local and paid advertising results.

What does this mean?

Mobile display seems to inspire readers to be less adverse to scrolling down this page, particularly on devices that have a smaller screen display. As readers are more comfortable scrolling, there is an opportunity for lower-placed search results to still attract website visitors. Of course it is always better to be higher up on the search engine results but this gives some hope to those that are up against major competitors and opens up other strategies to compete for visibility.

2014 Google 'Heat Map'
2014 heat map showing how attention is now focused vertically on the Google Results Page with readers looking at paid, local and organic results

Impressions Matter!

It seems clear from this study that readers may be consuming more of the information presented on the search engine results page. Any impression or display of a link to your company website, can earn a visitor, but now these impressions take multiple forms, including organic search results, pay per click (PPC), local listings, carousel and knowledge graph results. Coordinating strategies to maximize visibility across these different display systems can greatly improve the visibility your organization receives.

What is the Best SEO and Visibility Strategy?

In the end, there is no single best SEO strategy. If the objective is ‘visibility’ and visitors, a broad-based internet marketing approach offers some good opportunities. The elements of such an approach include:

  • Continuously creating good quality content and promoting it – particularly using social media
  • Establishing complete local profiles, including Google+ and other local list systems
    • Claim your local listings
    • Ask for local reviews as the presence of review establishes credibility and attracts readers
  • Building sound SEO basics within the website, including good keyword strategy, URL construction and meta data
    • Users will seek out organic results – even if they have to scroll
    • Including schema mark up helps! The Mediative study claims that 33% of the top Google results contain this information!
  • Using pay per click in strategic situations increases traffic and visibility
    • PPC is useful for both branded and non-branded search
  • Making use of all offline channels such as email outreach can influence traffic and placement

Reader Retention:

It does no good to execute these strategies and invest in a PPC campaign only to have readers drop off your website once they’ve clicked in. Good reader retention and content consumption rates encourage search engines to present your content more prominently. Extra attention to messaging and content/site construction usually pays off.

Improving one’s online visibility now requires a broad-based communication strategy that coordinates content creation with activity on multiple platforms.

If you are willing to provide your contact information, you can download the entire Mediative report.

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