Do You Have Enough Images and Reviews Associated With Your Site?
Pretty pictures aren't just for show, and you shouldn't be faking reviews on Yelp to inflate your mentions the web. These things really matter to users. A recent study by a Canadian company, Mediative, sheds new light on how mobile users are viewing search engine results.
Mediative's latest study was conducted on the iPhone. In part, the company disclosed that:
"Every participant in the study was given the same scenario as in the previous Google Places study – an imaginary road trip with stops in Hamilton, London, Winnipeg and Edmonton, with the task of choosing a place for a friend to get a tattoo in each of those cities based on the Google Places search results. From the participants in the eye tracking part of our study, we recorded each individual session, and then compiled the sessions to create heat maps that represent aggregate gaze data and supplement the qualitative findings."
While users tend to scan web pages on a large computer screen from left to right, Mediative found that the small screen of the iPhone makes this more difficult. The result? Many users will actually scan from left to right, then top to bottom, breaking traditional eye and click behavior.
Specifically, users were found to scroll from top to bottom when search results were populated with images. Users also adopted a top-to-bottom scanning behavior when there were reviews available in the SERPs and they were easy to see.
Mediative found that:
"People typically start looking in the upper left part of the screen, scan from left to right, then move down to the next result, and scan from left to right again. However, given the small space of the iPhone screen, some people will have their attention pulled to the right to look at an image, and may continue a scan down to the next image, before resuming a left-to-right scan pattern. If they start scrolling down, then their gaze will stay on the left side until they hit a listing of interest. In the examples we used in this study, in almost every case it meant that they would scroll down until they hit a listing with a better than 3-star review."
This is incredible. Note that users tended to prefer images and reviews. Furthermore, users tended to prefer listings with at least a 3-star rating. This changes the search results landscape dramatically. You no longer need to be the top search result for mobile users. It's clear that, for at least iPhone users, users want to see "social signals" (i.e. reviews) before visiting a website and potentially making a purchase.
The top search position is no longer the most coveted place on a mobile device. If you're pushed down on the SERPs a bit, you can still remain competitive as long as you have at least four reviews and a 3-star rating. Of course, being in the top three positions with a 3-star rating and reviews would be best, but it's not the end of the world if you aren't.
If you don't have any reviews or images associated with your listing, Mediative found that you may be largely ignored by users. Not good. People look to images to see if the business is trustworthy. They then look to reviews to see what other people are saying about the company. If those two things check out, then you might get the user's business (assuming they are ready to buy).
Conclusion: If you're not making extensive use of images on your site, you should start. If you don't have any reviews about your place, start phoning up past clients and ask if they would like to say a few words about your company.