Google Quickview: Great design meets great SEO
Great website design has never been more important.
If you regularly use Google, you've probably already noticed that you can preview web pages before you visit them, just by rolling your mouse over the results (or clicking the small magnifying glass next to a search result). This is Google Quickview in action.
Here's an example for (ahem) Reactive:
It's obvious that if your website looks crappy, you may be experiencing a decline in visits, regardless if you rank highly. If people don't like the look of a website in Quickview mode they'll probably explore result options further down the Google Results.
We're already receiving reports from people who's websites rank lower down a search result page receiving up to 25% more traffic from various keywords, principally because their website looks 'great' in Google Quickview.
At the moment anyone with a full flash website would be rather unhappy as Flash is not supported with Quickview (yet).
It's also apparent that if you use font replacement tools like cufon or sifr you're also going to lose out as Google doesn't support those types of technologies in Quickview either.
For well-designed websites, the irony is that most of the time, the quality of the preview mode is so bad, it makes really gorgeous websites look quite ordinary.
Okay, so what are some key takeaways and recommendations for website designers?
1. Headings. Big headings. I mean REALLY big headings with USP's (unique selling propositions) and benefits work really well to optimise your chance of a click/visit.
2. As mentioned earlier, make sure your headings don't use font replacement technologies as they'll be completely invisible in preview mode. Once Google sorts this issue out, you can use something a little more elegant.
3. Don't use flash – it's also not supported by Quickview. Looks like Steve Jobs and Sergey and Larry have been chatting.
4. Let your designs breathe; allow lots of space between images and areas of text. A cluttered design with lots of messy content, banners, tiles etc looks horrible in Quickview.
5. Use really big images of products, people, etc. Thumbnails don't look good in Quickview.
A couple of final points to note. The first is that Google appears to caching and storing a visual snapshot of web pages. So if you make a change to the design, you'll have to wait for a few days for the Google bot to return and the Quickview version to update.
One thing we'll be exploring as an agency is the concept of 'ethical cloaking'.
We're still looking into this, but we might be able to create a Google Quickview optimised version of a webpage (using server-side user-agent detection to send the Google Bot to a "Quickview Optimised" webpage).
The content on the human visited page would be exactly the same as the on the Quickview optimised page, just presented or laid out differently.
The only risk is that people may get a surprise when they see a page that's visually different from what they saw in Quickview mode.
It could pay to keep Quickview in mind for your next design. You never know, as we learn more about its impact on visitation from Google, there may be a requirement in your next brief!
Importantly, if you don't think that Google's engineers are looking at human activity in terms of clicks to results further down the page as a signal of website quality I'd say you could be sorely mistaken. I'll 'almost' lay a bet that if a web page starts getting lots of clicks from people after viewing it in Quickview mode, Google will adjust its algorithm to reward those pages and rank them more highly.
Lastly, as Google states in its 'about' section: "We are constantly working to provide you with more relevant results so that you find what you're looking for faster."
I think people's behavior around Quickview could influence how websites rank, perhaps not now, but sometime soon.
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Chris Thomas heads up Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.