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Google’s Eye Tracking Software

by Beth Divine 13 Aug 2018

Anyone who uses Google as their go-to search engine (and is there anyone in the Western world who uses the internet a lot who doesn’t use Google?) will know that it sometimes seems like Google can actually read your mind.

I’m not referring here to the fact that you are chatting to a friend one day about the new parka that you got from the Parka Store, and then the next time you go on Facebook – bam, you’re surrounded by ads for the Parka Store. That is a result of permissions that you gave, whether knowingly or not, when clicking on third party apps and links within Facebook. Quite often Facebook warns against giving permissions to these external links, but many people ignored the warnings, assuming that because they’d accessed it through Facebook, Facebook was somehow going to keep protecting them… This is the real reason that Mark Zuckerberg found himself in front of the Senate recently, not because he’d sold our data, but because we gave it away…

Anyway, what I’m referring to is the way that you can always find what you’re looking for on the page of a Google site. It seems to ‘know’ where you are going to look for the product list, for the overview, and even for the help section and FAQs.

In a way, it does know. Google have invested hours and hours of research: mostly devoted to finding out where your eyes go automatically when looking at a webpage or search result. They did this so they could work out where to place information on the page, in order to, firstly, help their customers find exactly what they are looking for, and, secondly, so that they can work out the most effective place to put advertisements.

The result was the discovery or naming of the Golden Triangle. The Golden Triangle starts at the top of the page, usually with the URL and the top of the page, descending on the left-hand-side of the page. Therefore, Google placed advertising at the top, just underneath the search bar, and to the right of it.

Interestingly, of late, the golden triangle has morphed a little, changing in response to the way users have adjusted the way they look at the screen. Nowadays, the Golden Triangle is more like the Golden Strip, encompassing the left-hand-side, now revealing that we sweep our gaze down the entire page – but still on the left! These modifications in the Golden Triangle can loosely be said to avoid the advertising slots that Google’s initial research said were in prime place. Obviously, people became accustomed to skipping the very top lines as they were saved for sponsored links, and we began to avoid the right-hand side as that was where advertising was placed.

No doubt, this will lead to a subtle tweaking of the layout of the page – moving adverts to a more favourable position and watching until the population once again adjusts their way of looking at a page.

Does any of this research and tweaking make a difference? Well, yes, it does. Google’s customers were known to be happier with their searches being able to find a desirable or preferred link within 14 or 15 seconds after the implementation of the Golden Triangle. Now, even with the adjustments occurring over time, customers are reporting searches being completed in as short as 9 seconds – an improvement that will keep people turning the Google, and eschewing the competition as slow and clunky, without really knowing why they think this.