Real-time Search Better for News Than Products

The major search engines and many upstarts are doing their best to innovate to make search quicker, in part by incorporating Twitter’s full “firehose” of results. Google (s GOOG), in addition to being the biggest search engine on the planet, has the deepest and longest integration of the Twitter firehose, showing tweets and other real-time updates on its main search results page for three months now.

Eye-tracking on this Google search for Etsy showed that users may not look low enough on the page to see real-time results.

Though you can’t find something until it exists, so real-time search is a bit of an oxymoron. An eye-tracking report from OneUpWeb posted by Kara Swisher today rightfully compares the challenge of finding information that’s both relevant and new to Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle. But the study did find that users are already responding to real-time results, especially when they’re seeking out news. Those seeking products, on the other hand, clicked less and found real-time results less useful.
OneUpWeb found Google searchers seeking current news and information clicked on real-time results 30 percent of the time, while users seeking products clicked 20 percent of the time. It also noticed a bias for Google to display real-time results (when it does, which isn’t for every search) lower for consumer goods than for information, which probably had an effect on whether people looked at them or not.
However, the study also found it took participants more than 10 seconds to fixate their gaze on real-time results — which means they may not even make use of them, given the previously reported average time on a search results page before clicking off is within 10 seconds.
News seekers were willing to spend more time on a page than consumers, allowing their eyes to rest on the real-time results page during OneUpWeb’s observation. I’d say that suggests they may actually be getting the information they’re seeking without clicking through.
OneUpWeb also found by surveying participants that news seekers said they liked real-time results more; 47 percent of that group gave real time the thumbs up, compared to just a quarter of those asked to search for products. But more participants from both categories said they were indifferent to real-time results.
None of these measures make real-time results a runaway success, but I’d say they’re actually pretty positive for a change to a product like Google search that’s so often used in our daily lives, and a feature released only this past December.
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Report: The Real-Time Enterprise