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Google Instant Preview Tips and Tricks
Wednesday, December 08, 2010
As you may be aware, Google has been busy this year. From infrastructure changes to algorithm updates to a total revamp of their search results pages. A recent change that you may have noticed is Google's Instant Preview. While this is not really innovative, ASK has had their ASK binoculars feature for a few years, Google Instant Preview is a pretty substantial change for Google's search results page.  Launched in early November, Google Instant Preview allows users to get a glimpse into a site prior to clicking through to that site.

Here is how Google Instant Preview appears for Marketing Jive:

Clicking on the magnifying glass to the right of the title will present a preview of Marketing Jive.  This may have an impact on whether or not users will continue to click through helping the user determine if the site is relevant to their search query.  This could have a dramatic impact on certain sites and whether a first time visitor potentially visits your site or one of your competitor's sites.  As a result you might want to take a look at the aesthetics of your website.

Google Instant Preview Tips

Here are a couple of tips to ensure that Google Instant Preview does not work against you.
  1. Ensure you have a visually appealing header - the use of color can be a good thing as you want your site to stand out a little and draw the attention of users who may be using the Google Instant Preview feature.  A conspicuous and visually appealing header can be very beneficial for optimal Google Instant Preview effect.
  2. Avoid using a lot of Flash on your site pages - While Google can index content within Flash files, it is still not ideal and Google has a harder time with Flash than with regular HTML.
  3. Plan your site design - Considering a website redesign?  Ensure that you carefully plan the look and feel of your pages and your overall site design.  Not just for Google and the search engines, but more importantly for the user.  Test out a couple of variation to see which design is more engaging.  Be smart with your usage of graphics, charts, and other visual aids as they ca be used to grab a searcher's attention.
  4. On-Page Elements and On-Page SEO becomes even more important - with Google Instant Preview, Google is forcing the user to potentially look at a site before clicking on it.  Now more than ever, people will be using on-page information to decide on whether it is relevant to their needs.  For example more attention to information that is found in the title and header tags, navigation elements, and in images may be used to determine the value of a page, it’s relevance, and whether or not it’s worthy of an actual click.
  5. Simplify your design - make it easy for users to find the information that they are looking for.  Content silos and clear navigation paths become even more important.
  6. Ensure your site has a modern look - pages that look like they are (or even worse actually are) from 1996 will not cut it anymore.  They just will not be appealing to many users regardless of how great your information, messaging or content might be. 
  7. Color Me Bad or Color Me Good? Use a fitting color scheme, and do not always trust your web design firm.  People react to different visual signals and colors.  Again keep it simple and try not to confuse your site visitors by overdoing it with your color schema.
  8. Leverage you page real estate wisely - avoid making your pages too busy.  Ensure that your important content is in the prime areas of your site pages, above the fold and is easily identified.
  9. White Space is your friend - the use of white space can help direct you site visitors' focus to your important content.  Remember regardless of the visual appearance, your site must be relevant to the searcher and to your site visitor.
  10. Content is King - ha thought you were finished hearing this phrase?  Your content is ultimately the reason people will have either a poor or successful experience on your site.  You become an authority in the minds of Google and your site visitors with well written and useful content.  Content will also be your best asset when it comes to SEO and when it comes to Google Instant Preview.  How you present this content now becomes even more important.

Looking for a few more tips on Google Instant Preview?  Google was nice enough to share a few tips of their own.

Google Instant Preview Tips from Google

In order to get the best advantage of Google’s Instant Previews, Google suggests the following:
  • Keep your pages clearly laid out and structured, with a minimum of distractions or extraneous content. This is always good advice, since it improves the experience for visitors as the simplicity and clarity of your site will be apparent via Instant Previews.
  • Try to avoid interstitial pages, ad pop-ups, or other elements that interfere with your content. In some cases, these distracting elements may be picked up in the preview of your page, making the screenshots less attractive.
  • Many pages have their previews generated as part of our regular crawl process. Occasionally, we will generate screenshots on the fly when a user needs it, and in these situations we will retrieve information from Web pages using a new "Google Web Preview" user-agent.
  • Instant Previews does not change our search algorithm or ranking in any way. It's the same results, in the same order. There is also no change to how clicks are tracked. If a user clicks on the title of a result and visits your site, it will count as a normal click, regardless of whether the result was previewed. Previewing a result, however, doesn't count as a click by itself.
  • Currently, adding the nosnippet meta tag to your pages will cause them to not show a text snippet in the results. Since Instant Previews serves a similar purpose to snippets, pages with the nosnippet tag will also ignore previews. However, think carefully about opting out of Instant Previews... as with regular snippets, previews tend to be helpful to users. Previewed results were more than four times as likely to be clicked on. URLs that have been disallowed in the robots.txt file will also not show Instant Previews.
  • Currently, some videos or Flash content in previews appear as a "puzzle piece" icon or a black square. Google is working on rendering these rich content types accurately.
Google Instant Preview should actually force you to take a good luck at your web site because you know that the searchers out there may be taking a closer look and are determining whether or not your site makes the grade.

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posted by Jody @ Wednesday, December 08, 2010  
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