If you conduct business online, Google is an 800 pound gorilla you need to keep tabs on: chances are they deliver a lot of your traffic. There’s still a lot of dust yet to settle, but there are some issues that you should start thinking about now.
Check The Mirror Before You Leave
If you haven’t seen Instant Previews, try it out. It’s pretty handy. It will be particularly helpful for searches where the description appearing in the results doesn’t clearly communicate site content.
But it does give you something else you need to think about: Google Instant Preview is another opportunity to put your “best foot forward” with potential customers. Which means it’s another place you need to be examining your presentation and branding.
Most previews will be too small to discern any significant copy, will your pages still represent your brand effectively? Can you communicate your value proposition in a preview? Is your site design compelling enough to entice users to click through?
Take a look at some examples before you assume that the answer to that question is always “Yes:”
Designing pages and using technology that affords a good presentation and user experience is going to payoff for the businesses that start now.
Check Your Numbers Before You Report Them
We at [meta]marketer, and in the wider analytics community, are still investigating what this is going to mean, and Google has been characteristically opaque about how this will affect measurement.
It is clear the “render fetches” by Google that create the preview image are being counted. This means you can expect your visits, visitors, and pageviews and bounce rate to increase. If you use any of those metrics – for example to report to advertisers or investors – you’ll need to take precautions to prevent reporting false results. Keep in mind that the more traffic you receive from organic search, and the more frequently you appear in search rankings, the more skewed this is likely to be.
Unfortunately, knowing that doesn’t lead to an easy solution. This is especially true if you’re using Google Analytics – as most sites are – since it simply doesn’t provide the tools to examine or filter these preview fetches without significant development work – and even then, prospects are limited.
If you’re intrepid, the user agent sting for previews appears to be consistently reported as:
Mozilla/5.0 (en-us) AppleWebKit/525.13 (KHTML, like Gecko; Google Web Preview) Version/3.1 Safari/525.13
but getting that data into your measurement tools and using it is going to take some work. The whole community will be discussing and investigating this problem for the foreseeable future.
But Wait, There’s More
Since it gives you another point of contact with potential visitors, it would be nice to measure whether searchers who see your preview actually click through. After all, the more effectively you use Google, the more relevant traffic you’re going to get. As use of Google Instant Previews increase, your ability to measure and affect preview performance is going to impact your success.
Unfortunately, you can’t. As I said earlier, the “render fetches” that happen when Google is generating previews do count as views and visits in your metrics, so you might think you could somehow use that to determine a clickthrough rate. The problem? Those fetches don’t happen when a searcher previews your site, as you might expect.
In Google’s blog post introducing the feature, Raj Krishnan says:
Once you click the magnifying glass, we load previews for the other results in the background so you can flip through them without waiting.
Which means that your preview is going to be fetched if a user previews any search result appearing on the same result page as your site, even if the searcher doesn’t preview your page. So for now it looks like there’s no way to determine whether a visitor viewed a preview before clicking through to your site.
So, What Do I Do?
The first thing you should do is perform searches for the keyphrases you’re concerned with and check out the previews Google displays for your pages. Don’t check to see if they look accurate, but see if they would entice a searcher to click through to your site. If not, you’ve now got another project on your plate.
Once you’re off and running, you’ll also have to address the analytics problems. Do you need to invest technical resources in mitigating skewed data? Is your analytics platform sophisticated enough to tackle the problem? How does this affect your ability to compare historical site performance? What are you going to do about it?