Eye Tracking Study Shows Sponsored Ads Attract Social Media Searchers

A new eye tracking study from Oneupweb shows that search is a core element of social media sites. They did studies on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, arguably three of the most popular social networking sites right now.

The study is especially relevant when you consider that search queries on Facebook grew 5% in May of 2009.

Search marketers will want to take note: Despite the prevailing idea that social media ads are worthless, the Oneupweb study found that 65% of participants engaged with sponsored ads within the first 10 seconds of their search.

Participants in the study were asked to navigate the social networks as they normally would. Check out where the red spots are, indicating heavy attention areas. The search box on all three sites is red. (Note that the images for Facebook and Twitter show live feed pages, which users see once they’ve already signed in.)

Facebook – search box is in the top right corner

Twitter – search box is on the right sidebar, a quarter of the way down.

YouTube – search box is at the top, just left of center

The participants were then asked to conduct some search tasks. Twitter was not included since the objective was to compare organic to sponsored ads and Twitter does not have sponsored ads (hello, monetization opportunity!).

Here’s what happened when they arrived on search results for Pepsi on Facebook. Notice that the first result and the sponsored ad gets attention while the other results are left in the dust.


Here’s a search for Pepsi on YouTube. Notice how the top 6 organic results get attention while the first sponsored ad gets attention, with the second sponsored ad sneaking in there as well.


Oneupweb also determined areas of interest (AOI) within the eye tracking data.

Notice how the sponsored ad gets the primary AOI in the search for Pepsi on both Facebook and YouTube.



What do you think of this eye tracking study? Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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