A while ago I blogged about the way that Google loves to make changes and tweaks to its algorithm and the style and layout of their search results, in a constant quest to improve results for users. It can be quite interesting to see what sort of changes Google is making and to try and work out how this might affect our clients. Although not all changes get a permanent place in the Google results, some do stick, so we need to understand how they might have an impact.
The way that Google changes its layout and format can actually have a bigger impact on your website than you might think. All sorts of things can turn up from changes in click-through rate, landing pages and time on site. For example, today we are seeing some sites where their products are being listed with bullet points in the Google listings. This could be a great way to show what products are on your site, but since there are no clickable links – it still means that a user is going to have to click on the Google search result before they can then use the site navigation to locate the product they are looking for.
This screenshot is from a search result for ‘hp touchpad’, a user searching for a specific product may not really be interested in other products available, but this result could encourage them to look at different products that are stocked once they arrive on your site.
Google is constantly trying to make their results more user-friendly. Recent alterations such as potentially getting rid of page 2 results or the new style ‘site links’, could actually have a big impact on click-through rates and the landing pages that visitors will get to.
The site links alterations have created a bigger space for brand search. Users could be more likely to click on genuine brands rather than clicking lower down in the search results, below the fold, where other spam sites are trying to piggy-back on traffic from brands. Of course, this is good for the brands, but you need to make sure that these site links are actually displaying some of your best and most important pages so that users can make a well informed choice of where they are going and what information they get.
For example, on the Branded3 site we want to encourage people to get in touch with us so we can help them with their SEO campaigns, and we want them to know about us and what we do. Therefore we make sure some of these pages are listed first in our site links. If you have other pages you don’t want users to see, such as log-in pages or corporate information, then you need to ensure that these types of pages are blocked in your webmaster tools.
When your company has a well-known brand name, it is important that you can get as much information to potential web users, having these sorts of details listed in Google is great. However, it is important that the listings which are under your brand image reflect the company profile in a positive way. Make sure that your on-page descriptions are user-friendly and describe concisely what the page is about, this way your site links will be useful for users. Make sure your products are marked-up well and the navigation is clear within your site, this way new visitors can easily arrive at the product pages after an initial click, and are more likely to shop, buy and use and ultimately they are going to want to return to your site and use it in the future.
Google is always going to be looking for ways to improve their results. As long as you keep on top of these changes and make improvements to your site to help the end user, then you should be able to make those clicks count and get more people visiting your site.
UPDATE: SEOmoz has a post on how to get Google to include some bullet points within your site listing. Mostly this revolves around adding some lists or tables within your webpages. Take a look at their advice at http://www.seomoz.org/blog/how-do-i-get-googles-bulleted-snippets