Gaining Visibility Via Google Instant Previews

Google launched Instant Previews in November, providing searchers with a way to preview the web page of each result before clicking through to each site. According to Google, "people who use Instant Previews are about 5% more likely to be satisfied with the results they click."

To use Instant Previews, click on the magnifying glass just next to your search results and you'll see a "preview" of the page of the web search result. Google "Instant" Previews is somewhat of a misnomer, however, as Google Instant (instant updates of the web search results as you type in the search query box) and Google Instant Previews (a preview of the site listed) are actually unrelated. You can still see previews with Google Instant disabled.

But not all previews are created equal. Try a search for "Pepsi" and take a look at the Instant Preview. Notice that the preview only shows a puzzle piece. That's because Pepsi's website is a Flash-based website. But Google isn't the only search engine offering previews. Bing has offered previews as well since its launch in 2009. And, like Google, Bing cannot display Flash-based content, so no preview is available of the Pepsi website on Bing. Whoops.



How Can You Fix Your Preview?

If you have a Flash-based website, you can still create a preview in Google Instant Previews, and the fixes for showing previews also can help Flash-based websites with their search engine optimization (SEO) efforts as well.

Flash is often loaded via Javascript, so it's typically easy to see how a site will render in a browser when Javascript or Flash is not active by simply turning off the Javascript in your browser. For instance, if you turn off Javascript in your browser and reload, you'll see a blank page. However, one approach Flash-based website owners have taken to help with SEO is to add similar content to the content contained in the Flash movie into a tag. Adding content to a noscript tag tells browsers that if the browser does not have Javascript enabled, it will display the content contained within the noscript tag instead. This approach is very helpful for SEO for all-Flash based websites, as it provides a way for webmasters to share readable content to search engines, which read the noscript tag.

However, the noscript tag does not work with previews for Google, while it does for Bing. For example, Kia effectively uses the noscript tag to provide navigation links and verbiage for the search engine bots to read, even though its site is Flash-based.  Unfortunately, however, the noscript tag information is not incorporated into the previews for Google.

Until Google can do a better job of indexing Flash or incorporates the noscript data into the Instant Previews, options for webmasters are fairly limited. The best course of action in the meantime will be to structure site design to make Flash simply a page element as opposed to an all-Flash based website. A good example of this approach would be Verizon Wireless, which uses Flash as an element on the page. When Flash cannot be displayed, an image shows in its noscript tag. This allows Verizon to have content indexed in the Bing preview and provides a preview of the Verizon page in Google Instant Previews that doesn't necessarily compromise the entire preview. This isn't the easiest fix, of course, if you currently have an all Flash-based website, but unfortunately, it's the best option to appear in Google Instant Previews for now.

1 comment about "Gaining Visibility Via Google Instant Previews".
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  1. MediaMark Walker, January 25, 2011 at 2:12 p.m.

    Nice, but how doi I get BING to show relevant results? I see results from all over the- everything except what I want!

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