Making the most of Google’s page previews

Yesterday we looked at the new right-hand sidebar presentation of page previews in the Google results. All very nice for the searcher, but what are the implications for us as marketers? Don’t forget that one of the factors in how high you appear in the Google results is related to how often people click on your result when presented with it. In the past, this was down to how appealing you’d made the title and the description. Now, many of them will be getting a third cue as to the relevance of the result: the visual representation of the page.

This could change things completely. There are three factors in play here. Firstly, is your on-page headline legible in the slightly smaller version of the page, and is it appealing enough to click on? Secondly, is there an obvious image summarising what the page is about? And thirdly, does the page, at a glance, appear to be what it sets out to be? Let’s take a look at a result from our own website, one of last week’s articles:

Google preview of BMON site

Now, I’m pretty pleased with that. Like everyone else, there’s not been a chance to redesign the site to take account of this new feature, even if we’d been that impetuous. The screenshot above has been reduced to fit; here’s the actual size of the preview:

Actual size of the Google page preview

Is the headline legible? Just about, although I think we might increase its size a little. Is there an obvious image summarising the page? Well, no, but that may not be so much of an issue, because of the final question, which is “does the page appear to be what it sets out to be?” Here the answer is a most definite yes, because I’m trying to get over to Google searchers that here is a serious article which is what they’re looking for. There’s no doubt that – at a glance – the page contains an article, and maybe the absence of an image isn’t such a bad thing. If we were presenting a product page, in comparison, it’s unlikely that we’d have the opportunity to use a big legible headline, and therefore the product image would be critical.

How do your pages look? Are they just an illegible mess of menus, sidebars and tiny images which can’t be made out at this scale? While this new Google feature is clearly not a reason to go out and redesign your website, it is certainly something you should take into account when you next come to do so. And could there be some improvements which a designer could make now without adversely affecting other functions of the design?

Discussion

  1. David Stonier-Gibson

    I notice also that the summary sometimes has one or more black “callouts” containing the text surrounding the search term, placing it in context. That could have consequences for the design of the copy.

    On my laptop screen those callouts actually lie on top of the page, masking parts of it. On large screens they poke out to the right.

  2. Chris Rand Post author

    We don’t, but Google does have some technology to block “undesirable” images, so it may have seen those on some pages. This article suggests that’s the case.

  3. Ann Cibelli

    I turned SafeSearch off and still got the Preview not available message, so I don’t think it’s an image blocking issue (other pages on my electronic components site preview fine). I will keep digging.

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