For those of you who have listened to anything I have rambled on about in December and early in the new year, Google is looking at Click-Through-Rates(CTR). One of the ways Google gives searchers the ability to help make a decision on which result to click on is through the small magnifying glass link to the right of each result’s listing title. What did this do for organic search? This move forced us to recognize that ranking on the first page is important but just as important is the enticement of your Title and Description, and now, how your landing page looks to the viewer clicking on the magnifying glass.
A few weeks ago this magnifying glass was adding to sponsored listings. This has resulted in the PPC world paying more attention to the look of their landing pages through the magnifying glass, in hopes of maintaining their current click through rates. It also shows us that the preview is probably not going anywhere. Now to confuse you a little bit, we focused on how to give information to Google to get to the first page, then took into consideration what users think of our landing pages visually, and now we can put both of these factors together to look at how Google sees our page. Got it?
A very close relative was recently added to the Labs section in Google Webmaster Tools. This tool seems very akin to the Fetch as Googlebot feature, and it is, but this tool gives the aesthetic feature to illustrate how Google sees your pages. In the past, SEO’s were forced to revise their browser to disable Flash, and to turn off images. Now with the Instant Preview tool you are able to see exactly how Google views your pages without staring at lines of code and imagining this in your head via Fetch as Googlebot.
This new tool can be powerful for several different reasons. The first that came to my mind is the ability to visually portray to clients how pages are seen by Google. The ability to show others that Flash and image heavy sites look very pretty but Google doesn’t see all of these elements. This tool can show that framed text is invisible, text embedded in images is also invisible and text embedded in Flash elements will not be rendered. It is one thing to tell them that Google can’t crawl something. It is another to actually show them what Google sees.
Additional benefits of this tool include a feature that shows crawling errors such as page elements failed to be fetched or items of the page layout that have been excluded in robots.txt. While this tool is still in the beta area of GWT, I- as well as others on the web- think that there are some premature errors here being reporting by Google. I am not going to point fingers though at Google as the tool likely needs a little massaging. I am still happy to see its entrance in into Webmaster Tools. And while it seems that us white-hatters never get any love, it is nice to see that Google has a tool showing- even further- that the have a pretty good eye on cloakers and code-swappers.