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November 5, 2014

Google’s Golden Triangle is Replaced by the Vertical Slash

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Photo Credit: Carlos Luna via flickr

Much has been written about eye tracking studies and the importance position in the organic results plays, but with the advent of the Smartphone how readers view and react with organic results is drastically changing.

In 2005 an eye tracking study was published and widely shared on the Web. The pattern the test candidates repeated over and over as they scanned’s organic results became known as Google’s Golden Triangle. Named for the triangular shape repeated over and over with the test candidate’s eyes (typically starting at the top left in the first position of organic results, then moving down to the second position of the organic results and then to the far right to the top paid search results), this pattern shaped how SEO’s tried to position client websites in the SERPs.

Much has changed and the Golden Triangle has now been replaced by a Vertical Slash in a report recently done by the MOZ blog. The MOZ article writer, Rebecca Maynes, states that with the strong use of Smartphones, eye tracking has moved to a more vertical line and started to encompass a wider set of listings in a rapid scanning fashion.

However, with a vertical scan of the Google results page as the preferred method of viewing, the actual length of time the typical person takes reviewing the Google search results is now even shorter than previously recorded in 2005. Google has done much in the last year to counteract that trend.

So we’ve moved from a Golden Triangle to a Vertical Slash that actually is more like a slash and grab as your eye travels the page rapidly scanning for the information you want.

You should read Rebecca’s excellent article that is complete with images to get a better view of how eyes now travel Google in the search for the best search result.

The key takeaways are that with Google adding more information to the search results page like local listings, the carousel, and the knowledge graph, readers must search further down the results page to find what they want in a strong vertical fashion that encompasses much more than three site listings. And, in some cases readers are never even leaving the search page, but rather interacting with content in the form of the Google knowledge graph (info box that appears on the right with more details, questions and info on a topic) or using the carousel (a black strip of images typically shown for restaurants or hotels that point to Google+ local pages) to find out more about on their information topic.

Although this action of trying to keep a reader longer on the search results page is a boon for Google (as it will be able to serve more advertising), it is bad news for business owners who are hoping to use Google organic search results to drive traffic to their website. This means that your meta description tag and title tag have to now work even harder to try to grab attention quickly to get a click in to your website.

The Organic Search Results Page Has Now Become an Organic Result unto Itself

As Google works hard to keep users on the search results page longer in order to not lose relevance but also to have the opportunity to serve more advertising and make more money, it becomes harder for business owners to get searchers into their website to see their full range of services, products, and marketing information.

How is Google keeping searchers all to themselves?

The Knowledge Graph

Although you may not know the name of this feature, surely you have seen it in action when youknowledge_graph1 have done a search recently. The image at right is of one such knowledge graph boxes that pop up on a search I did recently on Pope Francis. Google chooses when to show this additional content that is gleaned from a variety of sources. In many cases, the information is supplied by Wikipedia or other relatively authoritative websites. One will not typically find content from business websites but rather news, Wikipedia, .org, Google images, or authoritative sites supplying the content found in the knowledge graph.

In some cases the knowledge graph may show results from your own Google+ contacts – another reason to start building your empire on Google+ to benefit your own business.

In many cases the reader simple gets the information they want from the knowledge graph and does not even leave for more information.

The Carousel

Just like you’ve seen the knowledge graph,knowledge_graph2 you’ve seen the Google Carousel as well. Typically this black background slide show pops up for restaurants and hotels when you query a specific location.

By interacting with the ribbon you can see images pulled from the business’ Google My Business page, get directions, read reviews and even click into their website. Typically Google will preferentially show the business’ Google My Business (aka Google Places page) in the top organic spot in the organic search results with a map and a knowledge graph on the right. The actual business website may or may not appear at all in the organic results in the first ten results.

The Quest for Organic Placement Just Got Harder

Based on all these features that Google is loading into the search results page, it is getting harder and harder for a business owner to appear in the organic results. Just another reason why so many businesses are now flooding into Google AdWords in an effort to appear on the first page of search results.

All these changes are great for Google, making their search engine results page becoming a destination into itself and making it much more difficult for a business to garner traffic organically.

If there is one important take away from this information it is that a Google My Business page is now key for your business in order to be competitive and to potentially appear in the “local” knowledge graph and in the carousel and location specific results. With Google showing fewer website results you’ve got to use Google’s own products to leverage your exposure for desktop and mobile searches.


Nancy McCord is the founder and President of McCord Web Services LLC which provides blog writing services, Twitter and Facebook status updates, and Google AdWords account set up and management. Since 2001, Nancy McCord has developed a reputation as an expert on Google AdWords and how to use social networking for business. You can visit Nancy and her firm at Connect with +Nancy McCord at Google+, @mccordweb on Twitter and on Facebook.