SEO: Beyond Text

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by: Roger Dooley

It’s always fun when two of my interests, neuromarketing and SEO (search engine optimization), intersect, and a new study from One to One Interactive’s OTOInsights has brought the disparate fields together with a new study, Implications of User Engagement with Search Result Pages. This research examined the effects of “universal” search results (which include images and video results) vs. the traditional text-only SERPs. The findings showed that the universal SERPs were, in fact, more emotionally engaging, creating significant implications for both SEO and SEM practices:

SERPs which include Universal Search results reinforce eyeballs to stay focused on the first page’s top paid and natural search results

– The advent of Universal Search demands that companies optimize not only their text, but also their media (images, videos, etc)
– Image and video results may anchor users to stay at the top of the SERP
– Images and videos will begin to impact what users will click on first in a SERP
[From Implications of User Engagement with Search Result Pages (summary).]

The second insight claimed by the researchers is,

The inclusion of Universal Search results increase emotional engagement during interactions with a SERP

– Users will get an ‘instant gratification’ from images – perhaps more so from branded images
– Higher engagement with Universal results may stop users from exploring the rest of the SERP

The researchers recorded “biophysical signals” as well as eye and click tracking data (part of the “Quantemo neuromarketing research system”) to analyze. In addition, two written surveys were collected as part of the effort to measure emotional engagement. (More info can be found in the white paper.)

From an SEO standpoint, this underscores the need to think beyond page text content when it comes to on-site optimization. When I spoke to top SEO practitioners at the last Pubcon, many thought that Google was already beginning to weight media like video as a positive ranking factor. (The implied logic is that a page which delivers a richer user experience is likely a more satisfying result.)

If we combine the idea that on-page media is a positive ranking factor with the insights from the OTOInsights research that universal results are more engaging and more likely to draw clicks, it’s clearly time for search engine optimizers and marketers to start thinking outside the box – the text box, that is.

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