Using Google Instant Previews To Increase Clickthrough Rate

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One of Google’s many new search results innovations in 2010 was the development of its Instant Previews function. Launched in November, Instant Previews are a visual preview of the search results – click the magnifying button next to a listing and a preview of the web page is instantly generated without the user ever having to leave Google.

Google has identified three advantages for the average search user:

1.  The ability to compare results — A pop-up preview of each results allows users to do a visual comparison of search results without ever leaving the Google interface.

2.  Recognition of relevant content – Additional pop-up boxes within the search preview pinpoint where search terms appear in the text of the page, making it easier for the user to see if the search result is relevant to their need.

3.  Web page interaction — The visual page previews show the user the page layout and site without having to click through.

But what about advantages for the website owner? Are there plus points to users seeing your site without actually having to leave Google’s SERPs?  Now that Instant Previews have been around for a while, you should have gotten to grips with their impact (if any) on your traffic and clickthroughs. Have you noticed an upturn in Google traffic? Or a downturn? You can compare easily using Analytics data from September/October and then December/January after the Instant Previews launch.

There are of course ways that you can make Instant Previews work for you, even if they have caused you a traffic slump so far. In fact, Google research shows that 5% more search users were satisfied with the result they chose, as a result of using Instant Preview. This is good news for you as a website publisher and small business owner because it points to an improved and more engaged traffic flow. If users are satisfied that yours is the right site before they even get to your homepage, your opportunity for conversion increases tenfold.

To take advantage of Instant Previews and show a higher percentage of your traffic referred from search how relevant your page is, follow these simple tips …

1.  First of all, make sure your site is eligible for the Instant Preview function. This allows you to compete on a level playing field with bigger sites as you can appear on mouse over just as the industry leading site in your field can. To take advantage, you first need to be sure your site is able to show a preview. As Instant Previews uses similar functionality to rich snippets, you’ll need to remove any nosnippet meta tags on your site. If you’ve blocked snippets, you’re blocking Instant Previews by default.

Instant previews are potentially much more lucrative for you than rich snippets so it is worth making the sacrifice, even if that is just for a short period to allow you to test the impact of Instant Preview on your visitor numbers and conversion rates.

2.  Google recommends you avoid “…interstitial pages, ad pop-ups, or other elements that interfere with your content”. These devices can change the way your site is previewed, with the ad itself displaying for example rather than an accurate snapshot of the page being indexed.

3.  Some kinds of rich content such as Flash videos are not previewed correctly currently. Rather than have these types of files on your main landing pages, consider moving them to dedicated pages of their own. This removes the problem of question marks and crosses appearing where rich content should on your Instant Preview, providing a more accurate, inviting and complete picture of the page to potential visitors.

4.  Be sure to include your logo in a prominent position on each page of the site – this helps users to identify with you and will reinforce brand awareness. It also means that users get to your ‘official’ site rather that third party pages which may be an affiliate for your products or rebrand your offers.

5.  Including other images such as charts and pictures can also make the page more visually appealing, particularly if you have a visual product such as canvases, clothes or shoes or offer services such as floor polishing or dog grooming – pictures allow those using Instant Preview to get an immediate impression of your handiwork.

With a little bit of preparation and some tracking of the results, you can see if using Google’s Instant Previews will increase clickthroughs on your site. If so, all other things being equal, you’ll have found an easy way to improve performance!

About the Author

Rebecca is the managing director of search engine optimization agency Dakota Digital a full-service agency offering SEO, online PR, web copywriting, media relationship management, and social media strategy. Rebecca works directly with each client to increase online visibility, brand profile, and search engine rankings. She has headed a number of international campaigns for large brands.

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