Visited Google.com lately? If so, you might have spotted something a little different about Big G’s home page.
Remember back in September when I blogged about Google increasing the size of the search box? Well it turns out that Google have been experimenting quite a bit with the layout and design of their home page, playing around with different versions of it, visible only to a handful of guinea pigs in their control group and users of a few select data-centers.
A major feature of the home page testing (and one that exists in the final launched version) is a fade-in effect where the content on the page “fades in” over a few seconds. I had noticed the fade-effect a couple of times during October and wondered if it was a glitch. TechCrunch noticed too and blogged about it quickly.
With the testing period over, Google officially launched their new home page across all datacenters and most regional Googles this month. When the page first loads, it shows only the Google logo, buttons and the search box. The remaining links appear only once the user moves the mouse over the page.
Google’s VP of Search Products Marissa Mayer says this design provides a focus on site usability:
“For the vast majority of people who come to the Google homepage, they are coming in order to search, and this clean, minimalist approach gives them just what they are looking for first and foremost. For those users who are interested in using a different application like Gmail, Google Image Search or our advertising programs, the additional links on the homepage only reveal themselves when the user moves the mouse.”
Google hopes that the minimalist page will soon become second nature to users and encourage them to use the home page features more efficiently.
A new addition in Webmaster Tools this week sees Google becoming your own personal usability and accessibility consultant.
Site Performance, an experimental feature added to the Webmaster Tools console courtesy of Google Labs, provides detailed information about your site’s load time and gives suggestions for speeding it up. It includes a chart of your site performance data over time, which can help determine latency triggers.
As explained in Google’s official blog post about it, the Site Performance console includes examples of specific pages and their actual page load times, plus Page Speed suggestions that can help reduce latency.
I was pretty shocked when I logged into Webmaster Tools today to find my blog pages take an average of 6 seconds to load. Google states that this is slower than 83% of sites! The Example Pages and Page Speed Suggestions revealed the culprit was a banner ad that was not optimized and a couple of extra DNA fetches on some pages so I was able to fix the issues pretty quickly.
The load time data is apparently sourced from aggregated information by users of the Google Toolbar but it’s important to remember that it’s all averaged. A specific user may experience your site faster or slower than the average depending on their location and network conditions.
As a Labs tool, Site Performance is still under development and Google are seeking feedback on it via the Webmaster Tools Forum.
I work on the www.wordtravels.com website. Can the cluttered homepage negatively affect its overall page rank? What are your thoughts?
In general terms, the fact that a page is “cluttered” would not necessarily have a direct impact on your rankings, but from a usability perspective a complex or “busy” home page can be confusing, and is likely to affect your conversion rate (the percentage of people that sign up to your service or make an enquiry).
If your site visitors find it difficult to find the information they are looking for, they are more likely to leave the site without taking an action, so it is important that the info you provide on your home page is clear and easy to use – and funnels your visitors to the areas of the site that will be of specific interest to them – and it is there that you can start to provide detailed (and relevant) information.
One issue related to a “cluttered home page” that could affect your rankings, may actually be the inclusion of too much content. What you say ?? How could there possibly be too much content ?? You have no doubt heard the SEO mantra – “Content is King” – well this is certainly true as far as I am concerned – but it doesn’t mean that you should put all your content on the one page.
Optimising your web site should involve choosing one or a very small number of keyword phrases to optimise for each page, by including relevant content for those specific phrases only. Trying to squeeze all your target keyword phrases on the one page (probably resulting in a cluttered page), will not only be confusing to users – but is also likely to be confusing to Search Engines. If a search engine cannot clearly identify the “purpose” of your page, because it contains too many conflicting keyword phrases for example, then it is not likely to give the page good rankings for many (or any) of those keyword phrases.
I’ve had a quick look at your site – and whilst it is certainly “busy”, it is relatively easy for a visitor to find a specific area they may be interested in. Of more concern to me is the sheer number of links on your home page. Google doesn’t like pages with lots of links (largely because users tend not to like them either). Google has suggested a maximum of approx 100 links per page. A quick count of the links on your home page shows that you currently have over 600 – which is likely to raise some questions with Google (and not in a good way).
Hope that helps…
Ireckon Web Marketing
I had a big discussion last night with my husband and my son-in-law who has done some work on my husband’s web site.
Jason (my son-in-law) has used WordPress for the site. There are currently about 79 pages on the site. In our conversation I was pretty adamant that I wanted to be able to SEO all the pages. I don’t want to rely on WordPress and it’s blog meta tags to get ranked.
Shouldn’t we be better served by a web building program than a blog program like WordPress? I understand that WordPress has an all singing all dancing SEO plug in but is that really the best option?
I know that you use WordPress for your blog. And it seems the right thing to do. But do you also use it for your main site? Any advice you may give me would be most appreciated.
Thanks so much.
Actually, sites built with WordPress are perfect for SEO purposes. We are actually thinking of switching our Search Engine College site over to WordPress because of the SEO benefits including deep indexing, cross linking, tagging, filenaming and various SEO plugins that pretty much make other CMS packages obsolete.
You and your son in law should have no trouble optimizing your husband’s WordPress site and hopefully achieving some good ranks and traffic as a result. There are a number of fantastic SEO plugins for WordPress and people are raving about how SEO friendly the WordPress Thesis theme is so you might want to check it out.
You might also want to my review my favorite WordPress plugins. Add to that list the SEO Smart Links plugin and you should be set.
Like to learn more about SEO? Download my free SEO lesson. No catch!
Over the years I’ve received a few questions on this blog or at conferences about search engine friendly Content Management Systems (CMS). Is there such a thing? What are the best ones?
Before the days of WordPress, there were really only a couple of CMS options that provided the flexibility for search engine optimization. But now there are SEO friendly CMS systems popping up everywhere.
But before you decide on a CMS for your site, there are still some crucial aspects you need to consider.
Stephan Spencer has written a helpful article to this effect called How to Choose Content Management Systems for SEO. He breaks down CMS features into the following categories:
Then he explains why the various CMS features meet those categories and how they impact SEO.