It’s interesting how many of Google’s expanded listings have become even more useful than the home page behind the link.
For example, take these two examples. One is the Google listing for Grub & Ellis. The second is the Grub & Ellis home page you get when you click the search result link.
The Google listing
The actual home page
I find the expanded Google listing more useful. It cuts right to what I want to know 95% of the time.
And it’s not just this example site — I’ve found the expanded Google listings more useful than just about any home page I’ve visited lately. What does that say about the state of web design?
Mauruson 12 Nov 09
The google links often save a step, that’s why they are useful. I don’t think it says anything about the design of the website
Rickon 12 Nov 09
Websites, like grocery stores, are not designed for the purpose of giving people quick and convenient access to the things they need the most. Rather, they are (often) purposefully designed to increase the amount of time a visitor spends on the site.
Additionally, sites have evolved from mere information portals for people who largely knew what they were looking for to fancier yellow page ads for people who don’t know what they’re looking for. Perhaps greater emphasis on functionality for the repeat visitor would help.
The upper left corner of the SVN site is a good example. I can’t figure out how to contact you or log in to my basecamp account, but I know how great you think your products are…
Jeff Mackeyon 12 Nov 09
Just proves that a properly coded site optimized for search engines makes all the difference in the world for search results.
Jasonon 12 Nov 09
I agree the expanded listings (i.e., sitelinks) can be nice, but I think it’s worth noting that not everyone gets them. According to Google’s “Webmaster Central”, Google automatically generates the links based on their own internal criteria.
So while it’d be nice to be able offer a more streamlined version of your site’s nav in Google’s search results, that may not be an option if Google doesn’t deem it so. So for many folks, they’ve no option but to “settle” for their homepage as opposed to Google’s sitelinks/expanded listing.
Which, of course, ties into your final point that that only increases the need for a focus on site usability.
Hankon 12 Nov 09
Does anyone know what HTML markup you need to have on your frontpage for Google to automating display these sublink (e.g. “Property Listings”, “Market Research”, etc).
I notice 37signals has these sublinks listed as well on the google search
Robby Russellon 12 Nov 09
We do a lot of analytics tracking/measuring and have noticed that there have been a lot more people using these over the past few months than individual results that come up.
See our listing here for example: http://rubyurl.com/bRmg
Google will do it’s best to decide what to show up here, but they do allow you to remove specific links that you don’t want showing up in these links. This can be found in the Google Webmaster Tools.
BradMon 13 Nov 09
Actually this afternoon, I wanted to find this Accounting software package. But I could NOT remember the name. So I searched Google for Accounting, knowing their AD would come up. 2 Refreshes (Search Button) and WHAM. There it was.
I didn’t even look at the Google results (I did later out of curiousity and they didn’t come up.). I just looked at the Ads on the top / right.
Matton 13 Nov 09
I often use sitelinks as opposed to the actual site. I don’t mean just for the convenience of it appearing where you already are; I mean going back to Google to use the sitelinks. It does say a lot for the usability of a website.
I agree with the analogy of the grocery store. It’s a bad road to take for a website, though. I’ve never walked out of a grocery store because I couldn’t find ice cream, because the next store is a bus trip away. That scarcity means I’ll look a little harder for it. It’s two clicks to get ice cream from another website, though.
Isaac Weinhausenon 13 Nov 09
@Jeff: So true. UX designers should also consider the experience outside the site. I love our wholistic discipline! -isaacw
Tanner Christensenon 13 Nov 09
Is it a problem of some sort of disconnect between the designers/copywriters and the marketers/SEO perhaps?
andycampon 13 Nov 09
It says that Google is really delivering a quality service that allows you to skip right to the content that interests you.
Paulon 13 Nov 09
Funny timing on this post, as I was thinking the same thing this morning with regards to Google’s foray into music.
You’ve visited band sites, right? 100% inconsistent. Some are Flash, some aren’t. Some have 30 second clips, some don’t. Some have great photography, some have PR bio crap, some are totally made by the artists. In other words: it varies.
It seems to me that Google saw that variation as a barrier to getting at the information – in this case, music files. Oh, the artist site and Wikipedia entries are still in the results… if you want that. But I’d imagine that Google found this was the #1 thing people wanted to actually check out on a site, and just went ahead and implemented it seamlessly.
Same principal with your example here. Do I want to, say, contact Grubb & Ellis or do I want to try to figure out how to get around their site? The former of course.
As Rick points out, though, this kills the idea of a site’s stickiness.
James Kirkon 13 Nov 09
I have a great idea. Let’s all go back to gopher and veronica.
David Crandallon 13 Nov 09
I think all too often design is viewed as a thing in and of itself, much like a traditional piece of art such as a painting or poetry. Unfortunately, while design does require artistic skill, it is not the main player when visiting a site.
When I visit a site, unless I am specifically looking for design, it’s actually fairly low on my priorities; I’m after a specific piece of information or service. As someone who has been on both sides (the client AND the designer) I know that there is always a struggle in goal of the final product. Unfortunately both sides all too often forget the actual audience.
Google gets it right in that they do not forget the audience. I’ve actually gone to sites that Google has had expanded links for that I otherwise would not have visited. In that respect, Google is actually assisting the site.
I think it might be a red flag that we need to step back from all the bells and whistles and make sure that they aid the audience, not confuse them. (Not saying to do away with them…just make sure they have a point.)
Lukeon 13 Nov 09
Speaking of links – it would be great if 37signals developed a small stand-alone online bookmarks service. What do you guys use? Thanks
Andy Irvineon 13 Nov 09
The links in googles expanded list are usually far more scannable than the menu system on the site.In the example this is definitely the case.
You get an immediate overview of the companies services on google but takes a bit more digging if you use the home page of the actual site.
Usually the google links are far less ambiguous, less marketing fluff focused. Which helps.
Bill Riceon 13 Nov 09
I am not sure it completely indicts the web design process. After all if you showed up to a home page that was nothing but a well organized list of links, leading to more detail, you would probably bounce because it looks less credible/capable.
However, I do think it defines an important design element for conversion. When your customer is ready to get down to business—finding that brief descriptive list is money. Oh and by the way, that design feature will help guide Google in creating a more relevant search listing for you too.
Robin Hoodon 13 Nov 09
One of the best posts here in awhile. Great observation.
Rupert Rawnsleyon 13 Nov 09
I know that Google creates these blocks, but does anybody know how to encourage it to happen for your site?
I notice that only popular sites get them, and my guess is that it is done manually by some backroom elves. They probably tweak an automatically generated version from the sitemap.
Toddon 13 Nov 09
Its interesting because Google knows you want something specifically from that company, so they give you the links. If you Google comercial real estate advisor, the Grubb & Ellis listing doesn’t have all the links.
Mehdion 13 Nov 09
it says “Less is more” or “KISS” keep it simple stupid :D
is it the right answer ?
Lelandon 13 Nov 09
John Battelle made a similar observation three years ago in The Search. It is a great read.
Are you trying to say something other than “Google is your homepage?”
Osman Durmushon 13 Nov 09
they are completely different,
we all expect to see the actual web site after type the URK on address bar,
after you type the web address and it appears like a google listing page, you may close the site, because it seems domain parking website,
i guess if you switch the design Google alike design, your website’s bounce rate can be increased,
on the other hand, if web trends go to Google alike design it works, otherwise most probably it will fail..
Matton 13 Nov 09
I see your point from an aesthetic perspective, but one might could argue that it says a lot about the state of web design in that Google was able to accurately, and in a programmatic fashion, figure out all the important information from the site to provide you with that highly relevant expanded listing.
Jay Owenon 13 Nov 09
I think if all we are doing is seaking specific information – yes, that is what Google does. But many web sites are geared toward more than just providing immediate information on a specific question.
They are designed to sell a product or service or explain something to an individual they didn’t know or didn’t know they were looking for. So in that sense, no, Google is not always a better designer.
izdelava spletnih stranion 13 Nov 09
definetly google, some sites are to d… caotic
Daniel Iceon 13 Nov 09
You know you are the expert when you can take someone else’s product and represent it better than they can.
Nickon 13 Nov 09
What I find amazing about using Google instead of going directly to a company website is that often times a company will not list their address on their website, but the address can be looked up by searching for that company in Google Maps.
Ramon 13 Nov 09
Why dont companies align their metadata content with whats on the page. For most parts the metadata is a more realistic representation of the content on the page – so why not just say it!!!
Ryan Loomison 13 Nov 09
Excellent post and great timing.
The expanded links work so well because of the context. I only see them when I’ve searched for a site or service. The expanded links focus efficiently focus my search. I find expanded links very helpful, and I think they can coexist with visual, branded designs.
Having said that, I do think expanded links (and to a much greater degree, wonder wheel) are a wake up call for designers to create clean and user-friendly navigation. It is no longer a ‘feature’...it has become a requirement.
Alexandre Tavares Sergioon 13 Nov 09
When you see sites at minimalistic design you think that Google feature is not useless but just an upgrade at the way you can navigate trough pages.
Otherwise, if you find a site that is full of images, external links, java scripts, forms and other craps like that at front page, this feature is the fastest way to get what you need.
Derrek Pearsonon 13 Nov 09
I don’t think it’s one versus the other. I think they each serve a different purpose because they have different goals. Google’s links are an extension of their search tools. Helping you find what you are looking for is the primary goal.
A website’s goal isn’t always the same as Google’s. Helping people find what they are looking for might be one of the goals, but it isn’t the only goal. Sometimes the goal is to convince you that you want x when you thought you wanted y. That takes a different approach.
joaoon 13 Nov 09
Its very easy to understand the point of this blog post however the main goal of google is to offer the best links possible to its audience, and it would be out of order in some cases to have the sitemap as home page!
This google feature is a reward for those who take seo seriously or have tons of traffic and the main point of it is to offer users some options within the website they were looking for, but this does not replace any good design or good seo.
Lastly, you may have the links on google but your website sucks and therefor most people will leave your site as quickly as google displayed the original links.
Conclusion for me is this links are a reward which i don’t live by and you should focus on your website message b4 taking this as an ultimate goal.
all the best
Christian, Baymard Instituteon 13 Nov 09
Most Google searches is oriented at people finding answers for their questions. The problem with most corporate web design is that it is oriented around the marketing people in charge that wants something that “looks great” or “something new”. And the web agency needs true guts to tell these corporate folks what they want isn’t what their users want. Sorry to say but most agencies (understandably) don’t have this kind of guts.
Pieson 13 Nov 09
Very true. Keep in mind, however, that this entry reads much better in Google Reader.
Michael Lockeon 14 Nov 09
This is an interesting post. I’ve actually noticed the same thing with some of my Google searches. But more often than not, I do notice the navigation links, my instincts want to click on one of them, but then I end of always going to the site anyway for an overall peripheral view. My intuition is that I may be missing some information that’s not displayed on the Google search result. But very interesting issue. I’m sure with major highly visited brands (myspace.com, AOL, yahoo, etc.), the Google nav results are more than enough. People visiting those top brands tend to know what they want most of the time.Michael Locke
ML Web Consulting
Jason Landeron 14 Nov 09
so true. google is your home page.
melkristianon 14 Nov 09
I would think that Google has the data to support what links they include on those expanded listings.
This is just another reason why people should see and understand what the website users do and/or search for.
ипотпалon 15 Nov 09
I think links is useful and I use them in many cases
Todd Miechielson 16 Nov 09
these days you never know where people are entering your site. the consumer (visitor) is in control. Give them what they want, as quick as you can, make sure you brand/value proposition is clearly stated on each page. Essentially any page could be your home page.
andjuleson 16 Nov 09
usability is one thing; brand identity another.
Grubb & Ellis’ site designers didn’t infuse the home page with a sense of personality/why-I-might-like-them. That’s their failure, and part of why Google links are more useful, in this case. Google is 100% info/usability, 0% personality/identity. If that’s all we needed, we’d all be driving Toyota Camry’s (gaaawwd, no).
funuon 16 Nov 09
Great post. This post takes it even farther: http://tinyurl.com/yjpsrrd
Duran Incion 16 Nov 09
I think that Google is trying to increase the user experience and trying to provide the most direct way for users to access the info they want. It would be lovely for Google if the users could actually browse the content of the site right on the Google search results pages. :)
Believe it or not, that’s what it’s coming down to. With the introduction of social search, personalized search and all that Google is doing, they have maximized ad revenue.
I would love to know what the next Google trick will be.
Mark Savageon 17 Nov 09
I think its a bit unfair to use the expanded links as an example of better usuability than the actual website. I think both google and the website offer very different services, as many people here have noted. Without getting into the specifics of the Grub & Ellis design and how they could improve, website’s in general (should) try to showcase their business and offer a well thought out user experience, google is just pulling back the the higest rated links / sections on their site.
That being said, using your google listings as part of your site’s overall usability analysis can certainly help highlight some weaknesses in your design and tweak (user driven) priorities. But lets just say it again; does design need to be functional – absolutely, but balance is essential.
Bernadette St. Johnon 18 Nov 09
I agree the Google links are helpful in getting you where you need to be within a site. But, last week I Googled a restaurant and clicked on the Get Directions link in the Google listing rather than going to the website. It put me a few miles down the road. I guess that’s what the “Is this accurate” link is for.
izdelava spletnih stranion 18 Nov 09
Jup, same thing happened to me. But i think for our country is not so accurate so thats why it was bad info.
Steve R.on 18 Nov 09
I think this reflects a war of perspectives. Corporations have things they want (eyeballs, focus on a particular message, whatever) that they prioritize when designing their pages. Google does not care, but rather looks for information most users want. The impact could be good or bad – for the G&E page, someone using the Google links instead of the page misses all the expensive copywriting and design. To me, this is a good thing.
Kyle Faberon 19 Nov 09
definitely says a lot about the state of web design lately.
it’s a matter of getting back to the basics. a matter of education, and if you’re an agency [as compared to an internal web team], then it’s a matter of “balls”, if you will. balls to sometimes stand up to a client and inform them of the grave and utterly stupid mistake they are making by choosing certain graphical and structural paths. paths that do not make sense, and look [regardless of perspective] horrid.
ultimately, we are in a new generation of design, and those that don’t get it together and bring their clients up to speed informatively as well as in regards to what is, and is not, good design, will fall out of the playing arena – on a larger scale, at least.
that’s my rant about design.
my rant about the actual topic of google’s additional links is that yes, while they are trying to provide additional ways to easily get to where you want to go, they only provide it on the first-ranking website. have they even reviewed the actual websites before providing this?! their ranking systems are spammed anyway, and so if they are looking to improve quality, half the websites out there that are ranked first are crap, and trying to improve something that has failed already isn’t going to do anything. just because they are old sites and have established a huge link profile over time doesn’t mean anything. and i think the google links would be better suited for sites that already have decent usability.
This discussion is closed.