Google Instant preview launched recently and many sites should be in the process of making changes to major landing pages, if people actually use the new feature ( see a small study from Simple Usability ). Crawling over some serps here’s a few lessons to be learnt about landing page design now that Google have unleashed instant preview.

1) Flash

Everything about flash is pretty much a negative when it comes to Google. Currently a flash site or a flash object in a page will be displayed as a grey box with a little jigsaw in. For example Fiat.

But, Google have said they are working on being able to render the Flash to display in in the preview, so it might not be a problem…. however this brings us onto point two.

2) Timed Elements

If you’ve been good and not used flash but used either HTML 5, or some slidy wizzy JQuery then your little animation will show up in the page preview as the bot that takes the screenshot has JavaScript enabled (see the preview for “xmas clock”).

But, the screen shot is taken after a certain period of time. There are two options for Google to when this screen shot is taken.

A – screenshot after the page has loaded


B – Take the shot after a certain time e.g. 5 seconds the average time for a page to load.

I’m guessing that Google uses a combination of the two, screenshot if the page is loaded, if it’s still loading at 5 seconds then take the screenshot. This would stop Google wasting time on pages that would never load or take too long to load.

This page ( counts down from 30 seconds, and on the instant preview the time of 24.6 seconds is shown, so the screenshot was taken after 5.4 seconds.

If you have an animation or a change of divs being displayed think about what is displayed after 4-5 seconds, but there are no guarantee that the screen preview will pick up the animation you want.  For example has a sliding div, on this example the Trails UK site was displayed this time, it could change from week to week.

or the xfactor Talk Talk page, which features a fade in it’s taken it mid fade.

So having changing elements on your page is risky as you can’t predict when the page preview is taken, so keeping flash may be a risk.

3) Questionnaires / Site Survey / Age – Pop ups

If you have a site survey or questionnaire or age verification running on your site it’s going to be picked up on the preview. Often the question box will pop up in the middle of the screen, with the surroundings faded away.  You could try to add an exception so it’s not show for the googlebot IP. For example Carling has the age verification.

On money saving expert the background fades for the subscribe to newsletter to be highlighted.

4) Advert pages / Home page takeovers / Splash pages

The majority of the football team pages in the UK all have a offer page before getting to the main site, you may employ something similar for a temporary home page take over or offer. Or for some bizarre reason you may have a splash page, either option they don’t tend to look great in the preview. E.g.

5) Geotargeting Redirects / Messaging

The bot that takes the screen capture comes from Google, so it has a United States IP (see the page preview for If you have any redirects or message pop ups for US IP’s they will be displayed in the search results. Some examples include the BBC where the American version is shown with banner adverts, here for DHL.

Clarks have a similar problem where a pop up box asks you choose location, this only happens for a non UK IP.

So in conclusion watch out for:

  1. Flash
  2. Timed Events
  3. Questionnaires / Site Survey / Age – Pop ups
  4. Advert Pages / Home Page takeovers / Splash pages
  5. Geotargeting Redirects / Messaging

As for designing for site Google Instant Preview… thats another blog post.

2 thoughts on “Google Instant Preview – A few lessons to learn

  1. Interesting post. I am finding the same problem. I use a WordPress theme that uses a script to resize the images into thumbnails on the homepage, and a Gallery plugin in the side bar and none of the images appear in the preview.

    Do you think the fact that no images appear could stop people from visiting the site?

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