As you know Google is constantly improving the way the search engine sorts and displays results, and while this is a great thing for internet users, it puts a lot of pressure on site owners. Not only do you need to keep up with changes in the algorithm, you need to work hard on how your listings look in the search engine results pages. One recent change to the search engine results, Google Instant Preview has put even more pressure on your site’s appearance.

You may have noticed the tiny magnifying glass icon that is now appearing next to listings – that’s Google Instant Preview. When you hover your mouse over it, this icon allows you to see a preview of the page listed.

diligent design google preview

With this function in the search results, you have less than a second to impress potential visitors. And that’s no exaggeration: less than one second! That’s all the time it takes for internet users to decide whether or not to visit your site – and bear in mind that all they can see is the overall design, not the actual content. This means it’s more important than ever that your site’s design reflects and conveys what you do clearly so users will visit the site and give your content the chance it needs.

Important points to consider

The introduction of Google Instant Preview has a number of ramifications. Now that potential visitors don’t even need to visit your site to make their choice, there are things you need to think about. While the introduction of Google Instant Preview won’t directly affect the usual areas of consideration for search engine optimisation, it will in a roundabout way. If your design isn’t up to scratch, your click-through rate will go down, and your rankings will suffer.

The main thing to consider is: does your site still look appealing when it has been shrunk down? It might seem like no internet user would make a harsh judgement of a site when they can only view it in 300 x 380 pixels, but they will.

How to improve your looks in this mini-preview

  • Clear up your clutter. Clutter is the main thing that will turn potential visitors away. Make sure your pages have plenty of white space to let different content areas stand out from each other.
  • Be colourful. It’s a good idea to use a contrasting palette of colours in your design to make things stand out. This will preserve your layout when it’s shrunk down and important elements will still jump out.
  • Structure information clearly. Words won’t be very visible in Instant Preview, but if you ensure a clear hierarchy of information, some of the more important terms will stand out. This means that headlines are even more important for your layout – visualise the front page of a newspaper and how they use headlines and images to grab attention quickly.
  • Allow enough line height. As Instant Preview squeezes text together, it’s vital to allow sufficient space between lines. Increasing line height a little will take care of this.
  • Crafty headlines. Not only is the structure of your information important, the specifics of the information are as well. Once you’ve got your layout clutter-free and sparkling, you need to get back to SEO basics, convincing the reader of your relevance. Your headlines are your main chance to convince potential visitors that your site suits their search query. This makes the inclusion of keywords absolutely vital.

As you can see, basic usability best practices cover all of the things you need to do to impress in Google’s instant previews. In fact, in cleaning up your site for Google previews, you’re improving your site overall. This is great news for your site, even if it does mean a little more work.

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