I read Jakob Nielsen’s latest Usability Alertbox posting. He reports on a Cornell study in which the top two results on Google were interchanged (#1 became listed as #2 and #2 listed as the first). As you might expect, the most people always clicked on the first results listing. So when interchanged, users still clicked the top listing (#2 in Google’s ranking scheme). But not as many.
That was the surprising part of the study to me. You can read the statistical details, but the top listing received 8% fewer clicks after the interchange. This means that people do read the listings before clicking. Even though most click the top listing, it is important to us as website developers to get the details right. The microcontent, as Nielsen calls it. These are things like the page title, the meta description data, and other elements that search engines use (or sometimes use).
It’s critically important to be listed #1, at the top of the results listings. But it’s also important to get page details correct like Title, Description, and have a meaningful URL.