Google’s John Mueller answered a question about how many product listings on a page are recommended as optimal for ranking purposes.
John Mueller suggested that the best answer could be found in considering the question from a different angle.
The person asked the question on the Mastodon social website.
“@johnmu do you prefer an extensive product range (e.g. 30 products) on a page because offering many products is a ranking factor?
Or, would you prefer a smaller and more specific product range (e.g. 2 – 3 products) which contributes conversion more (less choice stress) in terms of E-E-A-T?”
John Mueller suggested that person asking the question should try answering the question from the perspective of usability.
“@beresterk That sounds like something I’d defer to usability-testing.”
Usability testing is a method for testing a product (or a webpage in this case) by allowing potential customers to interact with the webpage.
How Does Google Approach Usability Testing?
In a Google podcast about usability testing, Jenny Gove, a UX researcher at Google, offered these insights about the practice:
“Usability testing is like, for me, exposing the problems and exposing what works really well for users and understanding why.”
The host of the program, Mustafa Kurtuldu, Senior UX designer on Chrome (at the time), asked:
“How does someone start getting into doing research, like if they know next to nothing about it?”
“If you’re thinking about your product, as you’re sort of developing it at that stage of research, then it’s just great to get people using it for the tasks that you’re planning it for.
So even if that’s friends, family, even if that’s people in the office, it’s just great to get your product exposed to people like that so that you can watch what happens.
And in usability testing, we’re really looking for the problems people fall into and what works well for them and why it works well for them.
…you will see those things as they work through.
…And so you’ll be identifying your sort of most critical user journeys usually, and have them walk through that.
And often, it’s something like some language you use. We call that content, you know, the words you’ve got on the button or where you’ve positioned something, that just don’t make sense for most other people.”
She also suggested that friends and family testers may come with biases so it’s good at some point to test with people outside of those circles, to get a more unbiased result.
An excellent way to conduct usability testing on a website is through the use of the free Microsoft Clarity user behavior analytics tool.
The purpose of Microsoft Clarity is to show how people are interacting with a website, such as understanding how far users scroll before abandoning a webpage and other similar insights.
Microsoft published a blog post that shows how to debug website usability.
They offered three areas where Clarity helps improve usability and the user experience:
- Increase product discoverability
- Improve site navigation
- Building a responsive design
As an example, Clarity will show things like dead clicks which are an indication that users are getting hung up on a certain part of the page. Excessive scrolling is another indication of poor UX.
What Does Google Prefer?
Circling back to the question about how many products to use on a page, the subtext of Mueller’s answer could be to identify what number of products on a page is optimal for the user.
The essence of SEO is generally seen as optimizing a webpage for ranking purposes, which means identifying what Google prefers.
So the person asking the question responded to Mueller’s suggestion by doubling down on finding out Google’s preferences.
“@johnmu thanks for replying, appreciate it!
On behalf of conversion rate: yes!
In terms of ranking the SERP’s, what does Google prefer or what do you recommend?
Or does Google look to conversion rate in the end to decide which category page (shop) deserves a top spot in the rankings?
Am I already answering my own question?”
John Mueller responded:
“@beresterk I don’t think Google has a preference per-se.
It’s almost certain that things rank subtly differently, but that’s probably more anecdotal, and not by design.
Try it out.
I imagine the biggest effect is really on the user-side, which is more about your bottom line than anything else.”
Mueller wasn’t deflecting by advising the person to check out usability testing in order to better understand the ideal number of products to use on a webpage.
He confirmed that pages might rank differently depending on how many products are on the page, i.e. changes in the content.
But he suggested those changes are not by design, implying perhaps that it’s not a ranking signal type thing. It’s just Google responding to content.
It’s a good answer by Mueller because it’s a reminder that optimizing for Google isn’t always about how Google might respond to a change.
That may sound counterintuitive in the context of SEO but Google has a lot more signals that are related to the user experience now, such as the review system algorithm.
So it’s good to balance out the SEO by looking at a problem from the context of a user.
Read the Mastodon question and answer here:
Featured image by Shutterstock/Asier Romero