Eye-Tracking Will Be The New Click-Throughs

Part of the Internet economy is built upon the “click-through” or CTR (Click Through Rate.)  The CTR attempts to measure customer interest in a particular product.  If a person finds the banner ad interesting enough, they will select it and be sent to that site, hopefully to purchase a product (or Conversion Rate.)  Thus the effect of the advertising can be measured and billed.

Even the layout of a site can affect the conversion rate.  Or in the case of Bing, Microsoft’s new search engine, the color blue can be worth $80 million in additional usage.  Website optimization rearranges the layout to achieve fung shui for dollars.  What is measured can be improved.

These products, like Google’s search engine, are worth more than just the product itself.  And they get first crack at the wealth of information flowing through their servers.  Using the misspelled words on Google search, they created the most robust spell-checker on the planet, in every conceivable language.

Using the information of what you click, they can run experiments to see what works best.  Collaborative filtering makes recommendations to users based on what other users like.  The data exhaust of websites can be as valuable as the product itself.

As augmented reality products use eye-tracking to achieve a realistic virtual overlay like in the recent GM augmented windshield, they are getting more information than just how to align the graphics.  Eye-tracking adds a new dimension to the data exhaust.  As any professional poker player will tell you, the eyes are the window to the soul, and to the tell.  Someone holding pocket kings might look down at their chips the moment they see their cards in anticipation of seeing a bigger pile later.  Players wear glasses for a reason.  The eyes can give away important information.

Studies on select groups of people using eye-tracking have given broad generalizations (read the before-mentioned link for more details):

1.Headlines draw eyes before pictures.

2. People scan the first couple words of a headline.

3. People scan the left side of a list of headlines.

4. Your headline must grab attention in less than 1 second.

5. Smaller type promotes closer reading.

6. Navigation at the top of the page works best.

7. Short paragraphs encourage reading.

8. Introductory paragraphs enjoy high readership.

9. Ad placement in the top and left positions works best.

10. People notice ads placed close to popular content.

11. People read text ads more than graphic ads.

12. Multimedia works better than text for unfamiliar or conceptual information.

Imagine what can be learned when the eye-tracking is always on and always sending data back to the home servers.  Contextual filtering will “pigeon-hole” you into a type of viewer and give you a website more suited to your style of reading.  Web design will customize based on your changing eye sight.  Older viewers that linger over the words will get larger fonts so reading isn’t so strained.  Colorful pictures will attract younger viewers so advertisements will be changed to align with them.

And that GM Augmented Windshield?  If their sensors can identify advertising along the side of the road in the form of signs and billboards, then can they collect the data on what works and what doesn’t and sell that to ad agencies.

Like I said, the data exhaust can be more valuable than the data itself.  And eye-tracking will prove to be more valuable because its an unconscious reaction.  Just be careful where you’re looking.