Google’s introduction of Instant Preview, which displays a snapshot of your landing page when you click on the magnifying glass next to search results and Ads, has shaken the ground we search on.
The plan is to make it ‘even faster’ for users to choose the right result. Google have found through testing that by adding instant previews they should make people around 5% more likely to be happy with their results.
However, we’re not talking about 6 or 7 or the Richter scale though. This is because you do have to turn instant preview on by clicking the magnifying glass and most people will probably not pay attention to it and just click the link, knowing that they can just go back if they don’t like where they land, but it is maybe about a 4 (i.e. A bit shaky, some stuff may fall off your table and the cat will probably dive under the bed, but no walls are going to fall down.)
What it has done is made your landing page all the more important. Conversion optimisers and usability professionals have been major advocates of their importance, and now their priorities are finally marrying up with those of SEOs and PPCs. This means that all the hard work done building page strength or tweaking Ads must be backed up by a strong landing page, just in case someone uses instant preview.
So what should you do to optimise your landing page to make the most of Google Instant Preview?
Make the Subject Clear
The most important thing that your landing page needs to do is to offer the searcher what they are looking for. Even if your design was shocking, if it was clear from the instant preview that your page contained what the user was looking for, there is a good chance they would click anyway.
You could do this with images, text, video or whatever, as long as you made it easy to see. So if your ecommerce landing page was showing up when people searched for ‘red shoes’ for example, then a nice big picture of red shoes would do the job.
It is also a good idea to make sure your brand is clear, but only as long as it doesn’t take away from the subject of the landing page.
Make Your Text Perfect
You also need to look at the text (especially that which is around your keyword) too as this will pop up as part of the instant preview in an enlarged box with the keyphrase highlighted. People will soon sus that your page is keyword stuffed if this box reads like a ghastly nightmare and will indeed be put off. As they will if you have bad spelling or grammar.
You can take advantage of this part of instant preview by making sure that all the text on your landing page is good, relevant and is pristine perfect, so that no matter section of text Google chooses to enlarge, it does the best job it can of enticing users to click.
Keep It Simple
One thing that is certain to put instant previewers off is a landing page that is overloaded with text, covered in a mass of images and links or one that just looks complicated. You need to make sure that (bearing in mind the preview is a shrunken version), your landing page looks welcoming. You can do this with simple quality web design, and by focusing on only having the bare essentials on each landing page so that the preview makes your landing page look like the easy option.
Try to make headings simple and easy to read in a preview sized box, cut out banks of text and replace them with bullets, make sure images are large and clear enough to see properly in the preview and try to keep as much clear space as possible.
A good landing page preview will increase your click-through-rate, as long as people actually start to use it. Google seems to think it will catch on, so what is the harm in optimising your landing pages so you can take advantage of it if it does. After all, everything mentioned here is only ever going to improve your user experience, and that is always a good thing.
Kevin is Head of Search at Evolution Online in Edinburgh. He has a passion for effective SEO, ace copywriting and perfect usability.