That linear SERP pattern still exists today, but it’s the exception rather than the rule. Today, we find that people’s attention is distributed on the page and that they process results more nonlinearly than before. We observed so much bouncing between various elements across the page that we can safely define a new SERP-processing gaze pattern — the pinball pattern.https://www.nngroup.com/articles/pinball-pattern-search-behavior/
In a pinball pattern, the user scans a results page in a highly nonlinear path, bouncing around between results and SERP features.
A traditional pinball machine arcade game (left) is a glass-covered cabinet using an angled play field with various bumpers, obstacles, and targets. The player uses flippers to shoot and bounce a metal ball around the play field, receiving points for hitting different targets. In a pinball pattern (right), the user’s gaze similarly “bounces” around between visual elements and keywords in a SERP.
Would be interesting to study the efforts of optimizing for #1 in Google SERPs for medium difficulty keywords vs. optimizing for CTR/attention in SERPs using rich results for high difficulty keywords. It is easy to earn rich results with markup, rich media, etc.