Google likes to play a little game with those of us who do business online.
The game is called “change all the rules and see who survives.” It’s often a fun and rewarding game for Google users, but it can be painful for business owners.
In the latest version, Google has rolled out a feature called Instant Previews.
When enabled, users see a cute little magnifying glass sitting next to their search results. The user can view a quick snapshot of sites simply by hovering over links. Why do you care?
Remember the three-second rule for websites? The one that said that your visitor will decide within the first three seconds whether or not they’ll stay on your site?
Forget that: it’s now the 0.3 second rule. Does your site have what it takes to make the cut?
Let’s find out. (And if not, let’s get it fixed).
Snap judgments served here
With Instant Preview, potential visitors are going to make a judgment about whether or not to visit your site without even reading the content. It’s too small to see in the pop up window. They’re going to decide based purely on — (drumroll, please) — design.
Potential site visitors don’t have to leave Google to get a peek at your pages. What will they find when they see your site reduced so that it’s just large enough to read the name, the headlines, and maybe the subheads?
Don’t despair if you don’t like what you see. You can polish up your site so it holds up when viewed under Google’s magnifying glass. Just follow these few simple steps.
Clear the clutter
Some pages are cluttered with so many ads, sidebar entries, social media icons and sign up boxes the visitor won’t want to see them full size. Why magnify clutter?
To remedy this, decide what one action you want users to take on your page. You may have more than one possible path to send visitors down, but which one takes priority?
Once you know what you’d most like them to do, set up your page so that this action stands out. Put it toward the top, make it larger, use brighter colors to emphasize it.
Then don’t be afraid to strip off the ads, sidebar items and icons that are distracting from that one action. Push them down the page, and display them in colors that are subtle and low-key.
Customize, simplify, implement consistently
Here are a few ways to know if your site looks bargain basement:
- Does your header feature cheap clip art?
- Are you using lots of different colors with no discernible visual branding?
- How about typefaces? If you need more than two or three fingers to count the different typefaces used on your site, you’re in trouble.
You can create a custom header image for your site using a nice, clear typeface and a textured background you download from free or inexpensive photo sharing sites. Combine them using free image editing software, and you have a no-cost, unique header image you can use on your site and in your email marketing. You’ll stand out, even if you can’t afford to hire a designer right now.
When it comes to colors, pick two main colors, and make sure all your headlines, subheads and site graphics reinforce these choices. Black or grey text don’t count toward this total.
This doesn’t mean you can only use two colors: just give your two main colors priority, because that will reinforce your visual brand.
Stick to two typefaces as well. Your graphic style will be clearer and easier to capture in a glance if you’ve used two typefaces consistently throughout your site.
And of course, you can always take a “shortcut” by getting a turn-key premium WordPress theme that incorporates these professional design elements without having to pay for a designer.
Headlines always matter
In a “snap judgment” environment, a great headline is one of the most valuable tools that can stack the deck in your favor.
If headlines aren’t your strong suit, be sure to check out the great resources here on Copyblogger for creating more compelling headlines.
While you’re at it, make sure your subheads also tell a compelling story. Since your readers can often read them from the preview, they’ll help entice and attract the reader to click through and learn more.
And while we’re talking subheads …
Make your content scannable
Readers can’t see individual sentences from Instant Preview.
But they can see if your content has been broken up into short paragraphs, with plenty of white space.
Long stretches of unbroken text can intimidate your searcher. They make your content look difficult and painful to digest.
Just about any piece of writing can be made more reader-friendly by breaking it into short sentences, short paragraphs, and using strong subheads to keep the reader oriented.
Time to clean up your act
I’ve said it in this space before. Sure, content is king. But if your handsome king looks like an ugly toad, who’s going to pay attention?
It’s more important now than ever to spend time polishing up the visual presentation of your site. Not only will it help you with Instant Preview, but all of these enhancements will make your site look better on small mobile device screens as well.
And — added bonus — they even improve reader experience on a full-sized screen. Come take a look at the brand new Copyblogger design for ideas you can implement on your own site.
What will you do to survive the Google shrink ray? Tell us about it in the comments.
About the Author: Pamela Wilson helps small businesses grow with great design and marketing tips. Learn the basics with her free Design 101 e-course at Big Brand System.