Google Preview: Search and Creative combine!!

Oct. 21, 2010 | by jhawkins

I was fortunate enough to see the latest Google test of previewing website pages within the browser this morning.

Initial analysis of the results highlights some pretty major issues with Flash, splash pages and landing pages designed for snapping up traffic (low on content, high on optimisation).


Google screenshot

Hovering your mouse over the listings will display a blue box – this means you are able to view previews of web pages! Sweet! Clicking on the little magnifying glass will bring up the preview page to the right side of the screen, and yes this does cover up some or all of the paid ads depending on how big the preview is. What does this mean for paid search?

There are also multiple preview boxes that highlight snippets of text relevant to the users search query:

Google screenshot

However in this instance the first selection of copy ‘related’ to the search does not contain any terms searched for:

Google screenshot

Search engines have been battling with flash from day one, and this new feature from Google seems to slam another nail into Flash based web design.
Here is

Adobe screenshot

And here it is in the new SERP looking a lot less pretty:

Google screenshot

Splash Pages / user action required:
Another search engine unfriendly element which takes a battering in the new SERP:

Google screenshot

Hardly a compelling page to encourage click through. Obviously if a user is searching for the brand specifically they will likely be clicking through regardless, but for the purposes of testing it highlights a major issue.

Keep it search engine friendly!
A search for ‘clothing’ reveals River island’s site – apparently they’re having a sale. In I go.

The same SERP reveals, they have a lovely homepage and a sale too:

Boohoo screenshot

But wait, they have used Flash! A big white square where their promotion should be, Doh! So I am less likely to click through to see the lovely sale information (admittedly they do have a small image promoting 75% off – but nothing like their lavish Flash promotion):

Google screenshot

How will this affect click through
The above comparisons highlight the importance of keeping it search engine friendly, but it also highlights the importance of keeping your content fresh, saying it loud and pushing it out.

If you have sales, promotions, pushing new products etc, make the promotion highly visible – it sounds obvious but it’s even more relevant given the fact that users will now be influenced by your site design and feel before they even visit your website. The SERP click through now goes beyond the title snippet and description, a user will make a decision to visit your site based on direct comparison of other websites design and feel within the SERP.

Points to consider
Initial thoughts on how this will affect your website:

How well designed is your website for the Google site preview? Are your promotions in a shiny Flash video? Is your entire site designed in Flash? Users will now be directly comparing your site with other sites within the SERP, a badly designed site could see a huge drop in click through rates.

Are you putting enough visibly appealing content on site, having the right terms in the title and meta description to encourage click through isn’t enough on its own anymore.

SEO & Content
Are you promoting the right products for the right terms on the right pages? Are you cramming too much into one page?

For example having a page that ranks for 15 core terms will never have room for the content to cover these terms. If a user searches for ‘mens trousers’ having a big visible image promoting mens suits isn’t going to help your click through rate, especially when a user can view another sites page instantly without leaving the SERP and see exactly what they are looking for.

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    Comments (5)

    • Cake SEO » Blog Archive Making Google Search Work For You - 10 Ways to Improve Your Use of Google Search » Cake SEO

      [...] go over old ground as I have done several postings on this great update which can be found here and here. If you haven’t tried it out click the little opaque magnifying glass to the right of the page [...]Feb 19, 2011 07:44 pm

    • Google Instant Preview usability test results > Cubeworks blog > digital opinion & insight

      [...] another good study of issues raised by Google Instant Preview over on the iCrossing Connect blog, and below is a short video by Google introducing the service. [...]Nov 12, 2010 12:23 am

    • joseph patterson

      Interesting post Jake; have the feeling that preview more-so than Instant will effect CTR. Particularity on the longer tail - for example shopping related phrases, where the user will expect to see preview of the product Oct 26, 2010 02:59 pm

    • Ugo Smith

      Wow, I really like the feature and wish to see it.
      Very interesting post, I have to say I am not a fan of Flash in general and I am not surprised that this feature is not supported in the snapshots. Is this a reflection then of how difficult Google finds crawling Flash?Oct 22, 2010 11:50 am

    • Adam Lee

      Interesting stuff!
      Shows the importance of multi-variant testing on web pages. Think this was always a factor that got low attention from SEO in the past but onsite testing now has a major place in the SEO process.
      If could also mean that web build could involve more development into the source of the traffic. EG if the source was direct traffic then the images are more focused on brand specific information. If it is search then it is more focused around offers and depending on the search term the images change to offers using similar language to the keywords typed.
      Shows the importance of having a 'creative' search agency in futureOct 21, 2010 01:57 pm

    Please note: the opinions expressed in this post represent the views of the individual, not necessarily those of iCrossing.

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