Can you still remember the times when Google always published the search results in the same way? There were ads only on the side of the page, but the search results themselves were a simple listing, with no distractions like shopping ads, featured snippets, and more. During those times, the search results were perceived and read by the users relatively the same. Nearly 60 percent of Google users read the site from top to bottom. The main reason for this was that the person who reached the first place for the keyword had more than 50 percent of all page clicks on his site. The other places were hardly noticed, which did not always make it easy for the site owners.
But what about today? Depending on the search term, the SERPs are now very differently structured and mix many other elements under the actual search terms. For searches with a regional reference, the MyBusiness entries are very prominent, for other searches, the shopping ads are included, the image search results are displayed, or maps or knowledge panels attract attention. Do Google users still see the search results as they did a few years ago? No! It has changed fundamentally how users read the SERPs.
As was found in a Nielsen study, the reading behavior of the user today is similar to a pinball. The eyes no longer follow the results from top to bottom, but jump back and forth a lot more and perceive the individual elements of the page in different orders. This also ensures that the first place in the search results still plays a big role, but also the pages, which are in the places two to five, are now more frequently perceived and thus clicked. In numbers this means: 40 – 80 percent of the searchers perceive the first five search results and they have a 10-20 percent chance of being clicked.
So not only the search behavior of the users changes, but also the perception of the SERPs. This provides more opportunities for website owners, but also shows that you have to stay on top of the changes. Even a small change on Google can have a massive impact on clicks.