New Years Wish: That Google Would Publish Usability Research

by Chris Silver Smith

Google sits upon a simply huge amount of usability data, and I think it could benefit a lot of webmasters if they were to publish it. My New Years Wish is that they might begin to periodically release some of the tantalizing tidbits they may have.

Google frequently will recommend best practices to webmasters, based upon their internal research, particularly in cases where that information might be mutually helpful to websites and endusers. For instance, Google’s Browser Size is a very handy tool which shows you graphically what percentages of online users are likely to be able to see areas on your webpage when they initially land upon it, without scrolling.

Computer Mouse, Mousepad & Hand

Here’s a small handful of usability-related stats I’d like to see them publish:

  • Does Google Suggest help improve spelling of searchers?
  • Did introduction of Google Suggest increase or decrease the numbers of searches?
  • Does addition of the date to the listing snippet improve CTR evenly, or do entries with older dates get clicked upon less?
  • What are the clickthrough rates of domain names by numbers of characters in the domain name?
  • What are the clickthrough rates for page titles by numbers of characters in them?
  • For Google Place Search results pages, is there a higher CTR for listings matched to the map, or for the non-local listings?
  • What’s the CTR of URLs which include query keyword phrases versus those which do not?
  • What’s the CTR of Meta Description text in snippets which include keyword phrases versus those which do not?
  • What’s the CTR of local listings under Google Place Search for query phrases which include the city name versus those which do not? For instance, what percentage of clicks go to local listings matched to the map for queries like “pizza” versus “miami pizza”?
  • What’s the CTR of listings which have rich snippet treatment versus those which do not?
  • What percentage of search results pages are scrolled by searchers versus not scrolled at all?
  • What are the top 100 most popular search phrases which display local results?
  • What is the CTR for listings which include graphic icons versus those which do not?
  • Also, what is the CTR for images displayed under Universal Search versus regular text listings?
  • What percentage of searchers click into the 2nd and 3rd pages of SERPs?
  • For listings which include in-page anchor links, what percentage of the listing’s overall CTR goes to those in-page anchor links versus the main page URL?
  • What’s the bounceback rate for searchers on smartphones when visiting pages which are mobile-optimized, versus pages which are not mobile friendly?
  • For locally-oriented searches, how many local listing websites or Place pages are clicked upon before the searcher session typically ends?
  • Do website URLs with the “WWW” in domain names typically receive more clickthroughs than URLs of domains without the “WWW”?
  • What percentage of searchers are clicking-through to Google Instant results, versus those who eschew it for completing their keyword phrase searches?
  • What are the percentages of search phrases with one word, two words, three words, four words, five words, six words, seven words, etc?

I’ve really just scratched the surface here. If you have favorite usability questions that Google might know answers to, post them in the comments below.

(Also, for an example of why Google’s usability research work should be of interest to online marketers, see my piece, “Google’s Usability Fixation Reveals Local Ranking Factors.”)

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