In an effort to provide even more relevant results, Google may have just shown the world that your site hasn’t seen a redesign since 2001. Today the search engine unveiled Instant Previews, which are small snapshots of the webpages that appear in the search results.
Over the next several days, users will see a magnifying glass appear next to each search result. If they click on a magnifying glass, every result they hover over will produce a small screenshot of that webpage. Users of Google’s keyboard navigation simply need to move their arrow down to the desired result and hit the right arrow to see the preview.
In our test drive of the new feature, Instant Previews worked as well as advertised. Screenshots are clear representations of the destination sites and appear in less than a tenth of a second. Another nice feature is the orange call outs that sometimes highlight where search terms appear on the page.
While this development is great news for sites that have kept up with regular design updates, it is terrifying for companies that haven’t invested in Web design for years. With Instant Previews turned on, many users will look for sites that feature coherent design, updated graphics and helpful media. Instant Previews effectively exposes poor on-site SEO for what it is – overlong, overstuffed pages that provide no real value.
If your home page resembles anything on this site, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and invest in a redesign to earn clicks from Instant Previews. Even if your design isn’t terrible, you can always improve something to make your page more attractive to users who see your thumbnail in their results.
Improve your Google Instant Preview by:
- Featuring your logo and branding prominently
- Using large, appealing pictures
- Developing and highlighting helpful tools, charts, videos and maps
- Writing large, attention-grabbing headlines
- Splitting content into readable chunks through small paragraphs, subheads and bulleted lists
- Incorporating step-by-step pictures into your how-to pages
- Displaying trust badges like Better Business Bureau accreditation and industry awards
- Improving on your competitors’ design ideas
- Cutting down on the clutter
Innovations like Google Instant and now Instant Previews just reinforce our position that SEO is far more than just stuffing a keyword onto a page as many times as possible. SEO is all about creating valuable content, not tricking search engines. As search engines become more sophisticated, it will be the sites that take a holistic approach to SEO that will eventually emerge as winners.