Internet Marketing

Click-Through Rates & SEO Results, Meet Website Design

13. 12. 2010

ome may have noticed the recent addition of a magnifying glass icon at the end of the title in Google's search results. Google Instant Preview, as it's referred to, will show a visual preview of the website before you decide to visit it.  The feature also allows a searcher to pinpoint relevant content by viewing a highlighted area where your search term appears on the web page.  We expect many people will use this and therefore it's important to consider its impacts on traffic and overall website design.

Google published this video of how its works if you would like to learn more.

If you obtain traffic through SEO, this feature will affect you in some very important ways.

1. Good web design has always been important.

It not only shows professionalism and distinguishes your brand from others, but also communicates your message in the right way.  Google's Instant Preview takes a snap shot of your website from a moment in time and will often take an image of the full page.  Previously, searchers would need to decide if they were to click onto your website by reading the Title and Description.  In many competitive industries, unfortunately website Titles were almost exactly the same.  Today, searchers can now use the website's overall design and visual intent to factor a click-through. The preview image is a scaled down version of your website.  In order to make a good first impression, which is always important on B2B and B2C websites, the components on the page, images, colours, and fonts need to be clear and headlines need to be properly formatted and large enough to make the right impression in this preview. It's also about content relevancy. Instant Preview shows a pop-up over the areas where the searcher's keywords appear on the page with a small snippet of your content.  Therefore, placing the right message is very important. Flash and videos currently get blocked out. Therefore, having a Flash detector with an image replacement background will improve the issue of seeing a blank space with a puzzle piece icon - Google seems to be altering how this has been rendering recently.

2. Traffic and bounce rates are likely to decrease - in a good way.

Most web surfers don't read everything on a page, which is why many will scan a site for a few seconds then decide if they are going to engage with your site or click the back button and continue their search.  Visitors may come across your site due to its position on the search engines, but then decide to go back to the search results page because they didn't find what they wanted.  This experience increases your site's bounce rate and negatively affects your ranking.  However, this may very well be traffic you don't want.   Perhaps you're trying to sell something, but the searchers intent wasn't to purchase; the result may have previously provided lots of visits, but a high bounce rate.  With Google Instant Preview, ideally you would receive the traffic you want and help keep your bounce rates lower as well.  However, this is not what is currently happening.  Google Analytics reports are showing searchers that click onto the preview as a page view with a 100% bounce rate.  Google is apparently working on this issue, but we are hopeful that these statistics will be separated going forwards.  Hopefully Google will share statistics about Instant Preview somehow.

3. Frequent Design Updates.

If you run regular sales or change your pages frequently, the screenshot preview Google takes on the actual site won't be the same and therefore sets the wrong expectations.  In this situation.  Although frowned upon, one may consider altering messages which only Google reads and gets picked up for display purposes.  Alternatively, website owners do have an option to block Google Instant Preview as well.

I suspect Google is using partial click intent and full click intents in their ranking factors which may also give weight to the site's ranking over time. What would be a great help to website owners would be including these "intent clicks" into analytical data so that website marketers could get insights as to the number of searchers that previewed the site, but didn't click-through.  Although bounce rate may have a correlation, I would expect bounce rates may be a result of many other factors on the site whereas Google's Instant Preview would be more indicative of first website design impression.

SEO and website design have always been an important balance for us.  Having website design, development and Internet marketing teams working together is vital for true business results.  Months ago, Google pushed the importance of website performance and site rendering speed, which led to helping make Google Instant and now Google Instant Preview work efficiently.  Increasingly on-page optimization factors, like website design, will have an inherent impact on click-through rates and reward website owners who take a holistic website approach.

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