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Instant Previews Bring Your Website to the Google Results Page

Posted on Wednesday, November 10th, 2010 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - Featured, News, SEM, SEO

Google continues to roll out new features to its search results page.  With their latest innovation, dubbed Google Instant Previews, Google is supplementing the standard text results with a snapshot image of the particular web page.  Their official video demonstrates how users can view the instant preview pages:

Depending on uptake, this new feature certainly has the potential to alter search behavior.  As others have pointed out, these instant previews end up covering the sponsored results on the right-hand rail, which could  negatively impact click-through rate on these ads.

According to Google’s blog post, early users of Instant Previews were 5% more likely to be “satisfied with the results they click.”  By including previews of the destination site in the search results page, Google hopes that users can “quickly compare results”, “pinpoint relevant content”, and “interact with the results page.”

From the marketer’s perspective, bringing destination content to the search results page provides new opportunities to capture the searcher’s attention and stand out on the page.  But for many existing sites with strong rankings, good on-page content, and a user-friendly design, Instant Previews also has the potential to do more harm than good.

Here are a few examples and key takeaways for marketers:

  • Meta descriptions matter.

    Including well optimized meta description tags on each of your web pages has always been considered an SEO best practice.   By leaving them out, Google will typically include the first instance of text on the page.  If you leave out your meta description, the Instant Preview will highlight the text Google has selected.  And in the process, end up hiding more of your page:

  • Re-directs are problematic. A search for [Hilton] brings up the Hilton Hotels corporate site as the first organic result.  The company is re-directing traffic from www.hilton.com to www1.hilton.com, which Google lists as the second result on the page.  From a SERP-domination standpoint, Hilton gets the benefit of having their corporate site show up as the top results on the page  (1 paid, 2 organic).  Unfortunately, the preview of www.hilton.com, makes it appear as if the site is in need of some serious room service:

  • Flash sites are also problematic. Under the category of SEO 101, developing a site completely in flash is probably not the best way to rank for your top keywords.  But many marketers will include flash elements on their site to engage their audience or demo a particular tool.  Unfortunately, flash elements are not included in the instant preview.  Not to pile on Hilton Hotels, but the preview of “Hilton Worldwide” looks fantastic… if I was searching for a vacation to the great unknown:

  • Even non-flash sites have their problems. I found a number of examples of flash elements that rendered as either a black box or a puzzle piece. I also came across some previews of sites that had implemented Javascript functions where the Google Preview showed a distorted view of the current page.  For example, Ion Interactive is the maker of the LiveBall platform — a great technology to support landing page optimization.  They also have a great looking corporate website.  But their homepage was built using jQuery libraries, so the Google Preview looks nothing like the actual page and could cause more than a little friction for the user:

As with any new feature, Google is working out the kinks and one has to assume that they will come up with a means to render these rich content sites more accurately.

Google will be rolling out Instant Previews in more than 40 languages over the coming days.  If you don’t see the magnifying glass in your search results, take an early preview.

What do you think about Instant Previews?  Will this have a meaningful impact on paid clicks?  Should marketers make immediate changes to their site design or content? Leave a comment and let us know.

About Alec Green

Alec serves as Mother Hen of The Search Agents, making sure contributors mind their P's and Q's and never write the seven words you can't say on television. He's been called a "social media hater" who longs for the days of door-to-door selling and advertising in the phone book.

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10 Responses to “Instant Previews Bring Your Website to the Google Results Page”

  1. David says:

    Thanks, this will likely result in a decrease in traffic on the right rail therefore making the top 3 positions in SEM even more important, likely causing price pressure upwards on those listings.

    • Alec Green says:

      I agree that Instant Previews could negatively impact clicks on paid ads if people actually use it. My unscientific study of “non-search geeks” found that no one even noticed the magnifying glass. And after I pointed it out and explained what it did, the typical reply was “wow, that’s really annoying.” So I’m not convinced it will gain much traction.
      Will also be interesting to see if Google rolls out a similar preview tool for paid ads.

  2. Tanya says:

    I think it also highlights the importance of connecting Consumer Experience with SEO. If those searching get to see your pages before they click, the way the pages look might make a huge difference to the click through rate.

  3. Matt Kain says:

    Ask.com used to have a preview function. Ask.com gives up on search this week, Google instant preview gets released… It may be a coincidence, but it does make me wonder if there was a patent in there which has been bought, surrendered or invalidated, clearing the path for this new feature…

  4. Dali Burgado says:

    Hi Alec,
    Great point on those 404 error pages. A clear signal to the user that they should not visit your site. Ditto on the flash. I bet more people will get the hint – definitely bad for SEO and usability lol.

  5. What a great blog article. Looking forward to reading more.Superb!

  6. Brian Carey says:

    Great, but it does seem the preview will show an icon in lieu of a Flash animation!

  7. Crissy Smith says:

    Hi, Is the RSS working?


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