The good, the bad, and the random: an eye-tracking study of ad quality in web search
Georg Buscher; Susan T. Dumais; Edward Cutrell
In: SIGIR '10: Proceedings of the 33rd international ACM SIGIR conference on research and development in information retrieval. ACM SIGIR Conference on Information Retrieval (SIGIR-10), 33rd international ACM SIGIR conference on research and development in information retrieval, July 19-23, Geneva, Switzerland, Pages 42-49, ISBN 978-1-4503-0153-4, ACM Press, 2010.
We investigate how people interact with Web search engine result pages using eye-tracking. While previous research has focused on the visual attention devoted to the 10 organic search results, this paper examines other components of contemporary search engines, such as ads and related searches. We systematically varied the type of task (informational or navigational), the quality of the ads (relevant or irrelevant to the query), and the sequence in which ads of different quality were presented. We measured the effects of these variables on the distribution of visual attention and on task performance. Our results show significant effects of each variable. The amount of visual attention that people devote to organic results depends on both task type and ad quality. The amount of visual attention that people devote to ads depends on their quality, but not the type of task. Interestingly, the sequence and predictability of ad quality is also an important factor in determining how much people attend to ads. When the quality of ads varied randomly from task to task, people paid little attention to the ads, even when they were good. These results further our understanding of how attention devoted to search results is influenced by other page elements, and how previous search experiences influence how people attend to the current page.