If you listen to the tech set, you might think that real-time is one of
the most important areas search engines should be focusing on. The
search engines themselves do too.

Google, Bing
and Yahoo have all done deals with Twitter to acquire
real-time data. But what do consumers think? According to digital marketing agency OneUpWeb, real-time is real disappointing.

The agency conducted a 44-person eye-tracking study to find out what users think of Google’s real-time results, which are now included in many of Google’s SERPs. The result: only 55% of the participants were able to “easily find” the real-time results. And once found, they generally didn’t like what they saw. Only 25.9% of the participants classified as “consumers” liked the real-time results while 47% of participants classified as “information foragers” liked them. All told, a majority of the participants either didn’t like or were indifferent to the real-time results.

Two findings of note:

  • Nearly three quarters of study participants had never heard of ‘real-time‘ prior to the study.
  • The vast majority of study participants clicked on the first link that interested them, evidencing the fact that relevance is key no matter where a result is sourced from.

Obviously, the market is still young and it would be premature to write off real-time search. That said, OneUpWeb’s study does call into question some of the hype that has been built up around it. Clearly, consumers are still largely unfamiliar with real-time search and right now, they’re not being given a lot of reason to get interested. That’s likely due to the fact that the real-time results are arguably far less relevant than traditional results (on average). Additionally, SERP clutter probably doesn’t help either.

The implications of all this for SEOs, of course, are obvious: real-time results may provide an additional opportunity to get into the SERPs, but it doesn’t mean that clicks will follow. It will be interesting to see if and how Google and other search engines try to improve real-time results. It appears they’ll need to if they want to see the real-time data they’re paying for turn into real ROI.