December 05, 2005
Blog Entry

Eyetracking Testing Comes of Age: Recommended for Web, Search & Email Marketing Campaigns

SUMMARY: No summary available.
By Anne Holland, President 

Back in the 1970s the catalog industry ran eyetracking tests to discover what people's eyes did when they "read" a catalog. The results startled many: eyes skim diagonally across a page in a Z-like motion looking for items of interest, rather than reading "in order."

While fascinating, not many of these tests were conducted partly because the equipment was clunky. Consumers had to wear a big metal headset with wires sticking out around their head, so it was hard for marketers to believe the results closely mirrored reality.

In November 2004, I was thrilled to discover eyetracking technology has been updated for the Web age. It's now super easy for participants; no headset at all. Folks just sit in front of what looks like a regular computer monitor and act like they would normally online -- looking at Web pages, scrolling (or not) and clicking.

The resulting colorful "heatmaps" tell you how people's eyes really see the Web and how that makes them click.

I was so wowed by the potential data that we wound up conducting eyetracking studies throughout 2005 and included the resulting heatmaps in three MarketingSherpa research reports:

- Landing page eyetracking for our Landing Page Handbook - Search marketing eyetracking for our Search Benchmark Guide - Email campaign eyetracking for our Email Marketing Benchmark Guide (See link below for sample.)

Along the way I discovered eyetracking has three key benefits:

#1. Because the way human's eyes are "hardwired," a very few participants can give you data that applies across much bigger groups. So, the cost of doing eyetracking studies is minimal, as you only have to recruit a few participants per design iteration.

#2. You can run eyetracking tests on mock-up Web pages (or search engine results pages, or email creative). The participants don't need to know it's not a "real" site, as long as the HTML page they see looks real. This is great for testing design ideas before you build out an entire site or campaign.

#3. Eyetracking allows for multivariate testing. This means you can test extremely different creatives against each other to determine a winner. (This was tough for me, with my A/B testing background, to get my head around at first.)

We used a firm called Eyetools Inc. to conduct our tests because they were the only ones I'd heard of, but there are several other good ones out there now. Plus, some interactive agencies, such as Enquiro, are now buying the software so they can conduct tests in-house.

If you've done any eyetracking, or you plan to, please do let me know how it turns out and what you learned. I'm extremely interested in covering this topic in future issues -- so you may find yourself the subject of a MarketingSherpa Case Study!

Here's that link to a test result -- it's on page 6 of this PDF:

By the way - if you're interested in any of the Sherpa research reports I mentioned above, they're all available at or call (877) 895-1717.

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