Looking over my search results this morning as I was doing research for a client I noticed a new Google search feature – handy screen captures and text snippets of the homepage of the site you’re about the visit. Google launched “Instant Previews” on Tuesday in the US and now it is appearing in Australian searches and over 40 other languages.
The concept almost takes a “thumbnails for web search” approach to search results and isn’t a new idea. You could previously get a Firefox plug in called “Search Preview” which is still being used as part of the search result based application in cases where a page preview hasn’t been stored when Google has crawled the page.
Instant Previews add much more dimension to searching, web design and search engine optimisation for users and SEOs. Typically you would see a Title, URL and a snippet which was often a carefully crafted meta description but now Google has moved the bar again – positively I think – by giving image based results and “text call-outs” for you to base your search decision on. Text Call Outs are highlighted portions of content that help link in results with your search terms and help you better determine the relevance of the pages to your search.
To view “Instant Preview” just click on the magnifying glass icon to the top right of the search results. Once switched on you can roll over each search result to display the landing page and in some cases handy text call-outs.
I can see why Google has done this, take point 3 from their business philosophy: “Fast is better than slow”. Google Instant did great things for search and SEO, and now things have gotten even quicker with a user being able to preview their search result rather than click through, wait for the site to download only to find the site wasn’t what they wanted. You can check out the launch blog post on the Official Google Blog for more details.
What does this mean for SEO?
I’m in the process of writing another blog post about Website Optimisation being the new frontier of SEO. Current SEO paradigms are often one dimensional and focused on the wrong metrics. SEO providers driving traffic to a site just won’t cut it any longer and even client’s expectations and understanding need to change. SEOs need to be helping clients build sticky, high traffic websites with strong conversion goals to really make their website work for them.
Google Instant Preview is now making it easier to convince clients to pay that little bit more and look at website optimisation as a vital part of a websites strategy. Now with visual previews of the site, you’ll want to make sure that the homepage of your site is looking enticing just as much as your meta description is.
Here are some tips to optimise for Instant Previews for Webmasters and SEOs who go that extra step with actual site optimisation:
- Clear content layout and navigation. This is 101.
- Use of heading and subheadings appropriately to cue users
- Check for issues with the preview of your page, are their pop-ups in it?
- The no snippet meta tag will prevent Google from displaying the Instant Preview.
- URL’s disallowed in the robots.txt file will not have instant previews displayed.
- Flash may not accurately display at the moment but Google is working on this.
For more SEO related information you can check out the blog post on the Google Webmaster Tools Official Blog.
Now, go and talk to those clients about website optimisation and tell them Google Instant Preview sent you.