If you hadn’t already notice Google has recently updated their search results to include a preview tool. Not too long ago the only information you had to go on to decide wether you clicked on a search engine result was just the title & description.

No longer is this the case, now users can preview what a websites looks like before clicking through. According to Google, using Instant Previews makes searchers 5% more likely to be satisfied with the results they click.

Importance for E-commerce Websites

If your an E-commerce website, selling products directly from your website you should ensure you featured product images on the homepage either which link directly to product pages or introduce your ranges. Clear pricing and visible product images are going to help users previewing your website in Google when they decided whether to click through to your website or not. Interflora, does this well by nicely well shot and present images of their flowers.

In this example above, ASDA have made their  product pricing stand out well. The contrast of the colour red against the white background means that users can clearly read pricing and see product images before even clicking through. If you were researching products to buy based on price, you could make a very quick decision wether or not these were the type of products you were looking for. If a user cannot see your products, are they likely to click through to your website when buying online?

Some Tips from the Google Webmaster Blog about using this Tool

These tips were posts on the Google Webmaster Blog about the Instant preview update in Google.

  1. Keep your pages clearly laid out and structured, with a minimum of distractions or extraneous content. This is always good advice, since it improves the experience for visitors, and the simplicity and clarity of your site will be apparent via Instant Previews.
  2. Try to avoid interstitial pages, ad pop-ups, or other elements that interfere with your content. In some cases, these distracting elements may be picked up in the preview of your page, making the screenshots less attractive.
  3. Many pages have their previews generated as part of our regular crawl process. Occasionally, we will generate screenshots on the fly when a user needs it, and in these situations we will retrieve information from web pages using a new “Google Web Preview” user-agent.
  4. Instant Previews does not change our search algorithm or ranking in any way. It’s the same results, in the same order. There is also no change to how clicks are tracked. If a user clicks on the title of a result and visits your site, it will count as a normal click, regardless of whether the result was previewed. Previewing a result, however, doesn’t count as a click by itself.
  5. Currently, adding the nosnippet meta tag to your pages will cause them to not show a text snippet in our results. Since Instant Previews serves a similar purpose to snippets, pages with the nosnippet tag will also not show previews. However, we encourage you to think carefully about opting out of Instant Previews. Just like regular snippets, previews tend to be helpful to users—in our studies, results which were previewed were more than four times as likely to be clicked on. URLs that have been disallowed in the robots.txt file will also not show Instant Previews.
  6. Currently, some videos or Flash content in previews appear as a “puzzle piece” icon or a black square. We’re working on rendering these rich content types accurately.

Impact of Google Instant Previews on User Behaviour

Simple Usability have done a fantastic analysis on the Impact of Google Instant Previews on user behaviour – a must read for anyone with a website. It is very interesting to see how users interact with the new search engine results and features.

Your Website Cannot be Poorly Designed

In the example above, the website design is very simplistic and not very attractive looking. Product images are clear but the header and brand name of the website are missing due to the header being in flash. (The Google Preview tool cannot render flash elements yet).

Compare to the competitors in the search results this website doesn’t look as professional or well presented. Would you click through to this website?

Do you think a potential customer looking for your products or services is going to be put off by a poorly designed website?

I believe they would, due to this recent update your business can no longer get away with a poor presented or looking website. If your website is badly designed or just not very good I think your visitors could question how much you care about your brand or company to not even care about the design of your website.

A website is at the heart of your online presence, it shouldn’t be second best when it comes to the design. If your offline material is well presented, well thought out and nicely design why should your website take a back seat.

To pull out some interesting stats for you to consider.

“75% of women aged 16-74 in the UK have undertaken online shopping within the last 3 months” – Source: Eurostat, “Data Table: Internet Activities—Individuals,” cited by eMarketer, December 2009

Note that women of ages are now shopping online, we have already had the rise of the silver surfers and people as individuals are becoming more and more web savvy each day, they are now very acclimatised to buying products online.

“Over two in five (42.6%) of Brits are now shopping online at least once per week and the average shopper is now spending £71 per month on online goods” – eCommera.com, August 2010

Two in five Brits is a staggering percentage of people now shopping online at least once per week, imagine the types of website they buy products from, if your trying to beat major retailers online you can ill afford to not approach a professional well designed website. If you have a question about your online performance and E-commerce website why don’t you find out how we can help you.

Published by Illiya Vjestica

Illiya Vjestica is MD at Smartdog Digital, who specialise in Web Analytics, Social Media & Search Marketing. Illiya is passionate about helping his clients to understand the value of digital marketing, helping them to measure and improve the performance of their website traffic and digital marketing campaigns.