Digital/Online Marketing Communications Strategy

Is Your Website Optimized for Google Instant Previews?

How many times have you clicked on a link in your Google search results only to find that webpage didn’t have the information or the item you wanted?

These things happen.

No matter how good the search engine, it’s not a mind reader. Only you know exactly what’s most relevant for your particular purposes.

Goggle Instant Previews helps boost the relevance of click-throughs

It would be nice to only click-through to webpages that meet your needs, and apparently Google thinks so, too. That’s why it rolled out Instant Previews, which gives you a sneak peek of your search results.

You’ve likely seen the preview tool; it’s a magnifying glass that appears next to title links in Google search results. Click on the magnifying glass, and presto, you get a graphical representation of that webpage while you’re still viewing search results. With some webpages the preview may also highlight text items relating to your search terms. Between the visual sneak peek and those text highlights, you can quickly compare all your search results to help determine which ones are best for you.

Here’s an example of results for the search query “best restaurants in Philadelphia” where I’ve highlighted the Instant Previews icon:

If you click on the magnifying glass next to the link for Le Bec Fin, you see the homepage to its website, with an announcement about the menu, plus a quote from a food critic.

FYI, Google decides if text appears in a preview. In this case, it’s a kudo from a food writer, which makes for a nice plug that can influence your decision on whether or not to visit this fancy French eatery. Right away, you have a positive impression.

Now, suppose you want to preview the other sites. Well, then your results vary. Take a look at what comes up when you preview Morimoto:

Not much to go by there. That’s because the site is built with Flash, which Instant Previews does not currently support. It doesn’t read Java applets or Silverlight, either.

Any areas Instant Previews can’t read on a website appear blank. If it can’t read any of your site, it looks like Morimoto’s. Then you’ll miss out on any potential benefit that comes from Instant Previews. And you may even forfeit business to an enterprise with a website that renders properly in preview.

Think about it: If you have several choices, and you’re deciding which to pick based solely on what you can glean from the web, and one choice instantly offers a better presentation, don’t you think you might favor the place that gives you the most confidence from the start?

Give your website an Instant Previews check-up

Google claims Instant Previews will “match your query with an index of the entire web, identify the relevant parts of each webpage, stitch them together and serve the resulting preview completely customized to your search—usually in under one-tenth of a second.”

That’s darn fast. Any website takes longer than one-tenth of a second to load. Once you get into the habit of previewing, you’re likely to keep at it. I use previews a lot, and I am surely not alone in this regard.

Which means, if you have a website, you need to pay attention to how it renders in Google Instant Previews. And not just the homepage, but all of the pages, because people can enter your site in any number of ways when coming through a search engine.

In fact, check it right now. See if there are any problems. If so, you should consider making changes to your site’s code so that it can play well with previews. Anything that diminishes your search result can hurt your click-through rate.

Can Instant Previews affect your site’s search rank?

I first found out about the potential for problems with Google Instant Previews from an article by my Twitter pal, internet marketing and SEO consultant, Glenn Gabe (@glenngabe). In his post, Google Instant Previews — Great Functionality or a Signal Back to the Mothership, Glenn suggests that Google might even use previews for its own purposes. He writes:

“It’s hard to ignore the fact that instant previews can send a powerful signal back to Google about the relevancy of the search results. For example, if a page is ranking near the top of the search results, but really shouldn’t (because it’s spammy, the page owner gamed Google’s algorithm to get there, etc.), then Google could start to identify these pages via monitoring low click-through rate via instant previews. For example, imagine a page with 175K impressions in organic search, with 3500 instant preview triggers, but no click-through. That very well could raise a red flag to Google.”

If Google does wind up utilizing Instant Previews as yet another way to determine relevance for certain keywords, that’s just one more reason to be sure your site is up to preview snuff.

More information on Google Instant Previews

For website owners:

Google has a FAQ about instant previews that can help you understand how it works and how you can adjust your website so that it renders properly in preview mode.

For the general web user:

Google provides a good explanation of instant previews, including a short video, on its official blog.

Have you used Google Instant Previews? Has it changed the way you search the web? Please share your thoughts and  comments.

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About the Author

About the Author: Deni Kasrel is seasoned (slightly spicy) specialist in digital/online communications. .

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