Google took another step forward in providing relevancy to its users last week when it made Instant… instant-er. When you submit a search in Google, you should now see a small magnifying glass to the right of each listing, which when clicked will enable Google’s new Instant Previews on each listing, allowing you to see a graphical snapshot of the web pages returned by your query. This snapshot often includes what Google calls “text call outs”, which magnify and highlight the part(s) of the page including your search terms. On many of the results, you’ll also notice what looks like tear(s) in the page, which is Google’s way of showing users the most relevant sections of the web page without disturbing the context. The big G reports that custom search results are usually returned to the user in under one-tenth of a second, and that “people who use Instant Previews are about 5% more likely to be satisfied with the results they click”. This is fantastic news, as it means a more qualified and happy site visitor, but what does it mean for your digital branding efforts?
Well, this isn’t the first time site previewing has been done, but while it’s here and especially if it happens to stick, there are a few lingering implications that may be cause for concern. Looking through Instant Previews over the past week, I’ve collected a list of notable search changes when it comes to Google’s new feature:
1. Aesthetics are Paramount
Layout and design are becoming increasingly more important with Google’s new Instant feature. Now users can choose to steer clear of your website altogether based on aesthetics alone, so even the most relevant site may be ignored. If both of these websites were in your top three search results, which would you choose after using Instant Previews?
2. Flash Designs Leave Much to be Desired
Not only are there countless small-sized companies losing out in search because of pure Flash designs that search engines don’t render, but also the big guys, like Dolce & Gabbana, Dominos, and even Disney, among others. If you have a Flash site, don’t let this be your visitor’s first impression. Be sure to serve content for those that don’t have Flash installed as well and you can’t go wrong.
3. Link Farms/Ad-traps Exposed
In my searching for resources on the web, it is all too often I run into pages like these, cluttered with links and ads. Now with Instant Previews, spammy websites will be easier to spot, so if you’re not giving users what they’re in search of, you’re definitely in trouble.
4. Page Length May Be Discouraging
It has been proven by web usability experts that users prefer well-organized, easily scannable content and avoid long, scrolling pages. Users dislike marketing fluff, so oftentimes lengthy pages can be instant justification for dismissal. I’ll admit many factors come into play here, such as user expectations, type of business, content, and images used to reinforce the content. Keep in mind though, if you’re not organizing your website appropriately, it will likely be obvious to potential visitors.
5. Focused Content is a Must
Content has always been king, but now that Google is enlarging and highlighting your most relevant content in Instant Previews, you’ll want to make sure your copy includes key terms in all the appropriate places. The more highlighted items in a user’s eyes indicate more relevance, and an increased chance of click-through.
6. Size Does Matter
Scan through a page of Instant Previews for a product such as art prints or sunglasses and note which sites caught your eye the most. It was likely the pages with large, clear images of the product and large, clear headings relating to the merchandise, such as “$20 Sunglasses” or “Art Prints and Beyond”. Images and eye-catching text have always played a huge role in attracting users – and they will even more so now. Keep these aspects in mind as you review your website. Is your message clear when your site is reduced to 20% to 30% of its standard size?
7. Immediate Access to Answers may be Detrimental
While Google is doing a continuously great job of providing relevant content, giving a preview of this information means less people need to click through to your website to get what they need.
If you think Google is simply bringing issues to the forefront that have been essential all along, you’re absolutely right. In their never-ending pursuit for relevance, we are uncovering what should have been our focus all along – the user.
What other issues do you see arising as a result of Google’s new Instant Previews feature?