Today Google began testing yet another new feature for the search engine results pages. As far as I can tell, it is only visible on Google Chrome, but it has the possibility of a significant impact on the web design and SEO industries.
It seems that the same type of change that we noted with Google images is going to take place within the search results pages. If you are searching using Chrome, you may have noticed a little magnifying glass icon beside the search results. When you click on this icon, an image of the page comes up, and you can preview the site to decide if you want to go there or not.
What is also interesting is that Google has chosen to highlight and magnify a small excerpt from the pages. But it is not usually the excerpt you may have included as your site description in your meta tags. This means that we have a new puzzle to figure out.
This also means that web design and SEO is going to be even more important if this goes live on all browsers. Unless your pages look fabulous and you work at figuring out what excerpt Google will choose to magnify, there is a pretty good chance that you will see a decrease in traffic very shortly.
There is something I would like to point out, and it is something I have been trying to get businesses and web designers to understand for a very long time. Sites that are comprised totally of images are not optimized, and this new preview will hurt you even more. Your website might look great, but it is not going to do well in the previews. There is no text for Google to magnify! And if you use flash or slide shows to get your message across, they will show up as a big blank white space in the preview. Not something that will attract clicks, for sure!
Now more than ever, keywords will be ten times more important; the use of the keywords within the text of your website will determine your success. From what I can tell from the investigating I have done since the test started this morning, the highlighted area will be the first paragraph that contains the search phrase. You should use this to your advantage. Make your crucial phrase paragraph speak to your potential visitors. Make it an invitation to your site; make it spark their curiosity. Somehow you will have to take the opportunity to have a second site description that will pre-sell your website so visitors will click to visit instead of scanning on by.
Google has taken every opportunity lately to attempt to keep it’s users on the search results pages longer by giving them less and less reason actually to explore websites. If you do not take steps now to prepare for this latest feature, you may be sitting and wondering where all your traffic went to. Ditch the fancy image-based web design and get some real meat on your site and get the advice of an SEO consultant to help you plan your site correctly.