Google Instant Preview and how to capitalise on it

Google has launched its instant preview feature which shows a small visual preview of websites in the search results, as below;

Google Instant Preview Example

This latest development moves search engine marketing into an area that it would not normally encompass, the art and design world!

Sites will now not only be compared on search position but also in visual terms. My recommendations having thought on the topic for a few minutes are simple …

Look at your competitor’s sites

Who looks better? And just as importantly, who looks more relevant?

People are going to click on the result that looks the best match to their perceived needs. As a result you need to make sure the pages you design give off a very clear message about what the page contains. By using large, bold lettering your message will still be visible when the site image is reduced to a preview size. This will help entice more visitors to choose your site.

Because people are looking for sites relevant to their industry, sites that are plain and generic in design are likely to become a thing of the past. Sites which have a more focused theme, based on the industry or sector they exist within will perform better.

Use large bold and clear headings at the top of your page

Google Instant Preview give you a 302 pixel wide box to strutt your stuff. Using large text on the page to show relevance and generate calls to action in the small previews, will help people understand what your site is about and the types of things you can and should do on the page. Treat this as an opportunity to say something to the user before they even click your link. It you have large text on the page it will still be readable in the 302px wide preview image.

Make your page long in Google Instant Preview

Longer pages have bigger previews, these may make the user feel there is more info available on the page and a lot of people think (rightly or wrongly) that bigger/more is better.

If you are a known Brand use your logo

Use your existing brand to maximum effect by making your logo clear on the previews.

Google Instant Preview dimensions

Some people might find some of the site preview image dimensions for Google instant preview useful.

The dimensions for Google instant previews are 302 px wide and 585 px high.

 

We can help you get the best out of Google preview with our Search Engine Optimisation service.

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E-Commerce survival guide: 10 mistakes to avoid

With e-commerce sites increasing over tenfold in the past few years, competition is rapidly on the rise and to stay ahead of the game is becoming increasingly difficult. With 80% of startups failing and the internet boom now a thing of the past, it is essential to adhere to certain rules, or risk losing customers.

With technology accelerating at a record rate and the marketing always expanding to offer a larger selection ever before, established business run as much risk as startups so whether you are a new business or an established one, it is worth taking these points on board and making sure you don’t fail with any of the following common mistakes.

Mistake 1: Confuse your customer with complicated delivery

A method of shopping that has become a lot more common in e-commerce is tab-comparison. This is where the customer will open a variety of sites for the product they are looking for in new tabs and assess the pro’s and con’s for each one. Things the customer will factor in includes customer support reputation, obviously price, environmental responsibility to a degree but most importantly, delivery cost. If a customer can’t figure out how much it will cost them straight away, they are likely to just close the tab and make their shop elsewhere. Free delivery is a growing trend many successful sites are adopting to take the headache away from the customer.

Action point: If you can, offer free delivery across all products and make up the ground elsewhere. If you can’t, make delivery costs clear and visible.

Mistake 2: Require registration before checkout

This goes without saying really, but many sites still enforce registration before a customer can make a purchase. Let them into the cart, let them see their total price and don’t force them to make an account before making their purchase. It is great for your demographics and marketing to existing customers, but the amount of customers you will lose from the frustration of having to register is just not worth it.

Action point: Remove any barriers in your checkout process such as compulsory registration. Give users the option to register later, perhaps with a simple “enter a password here if you would like to register an account” as part of the final checkout process. Keep it simple, with the customer’s e-mail address as the username.

Mistake 3: Keep quiet about stock levels

If you don’t show your stock levels, or claim to stock items that are in fact unavailable (leading to a bad customer service reputation) then you are shooting yourself in the foot.

Action Point: Ensure that your site displays stock levels. This can either be detailed or more commonly, just a few simple indicators such as “In Stock”, “Expected 2-3 weeks” or “Out of stock” – if out of stock, remember to try and leave an indication for when it will be back in stock and display an enquiry button so users can get in contact if they need to. Additionally, you may want to allow users to leave their e-mail address so you can notify them when it is back in stock.

Mistake 4: Hiding a way for customers to get in contact

Occasionally customers just want to pick up the phone to ask about a product or if they are an existing customer, receive support and guidance. Sometimes phone or contact details can be hidden away and this can lead to a very frustrated customer.

Action Point: Place your primary method of contact (usually phone) clearly visible on every page of the site, ideally in the header. Additionally, you could setup a knowledge base to reduce the number of support enquiries you receive.

Mistake 5: Category, followed by sub-category, followed by sub-category

Yes, the traditional way e-commerce sites were developed is now a thing of the past. No long does a user have to sieve through hundreds of categories to find what they want! Filtered navigation is an essential and established way for finding what you want. If you don’t use a filter based navigation system, then you are severely falling behind the competition.

Action Point: Switch to a filter based system immediately. This isn’t an easy task, but essential for surviving the competition.

Mistake 6: Don’t keep the user informed

Users like to know what is going on with their order. Ensure correspondance throughout the order/delivery process and you will maintain good customer loyalty. Let them know their order has successfully been received, when it has been dispatched and then follow up after the estimated delivery date to verify that everything went smoothly (you could use this opportunity to obtain reviews, feedback and upsell).

Action Point: Build a system that allows the user to view their order status online, as well as receive e-mail notifications throughout the process.

Mistake 7: Litter your site with banners

A good e-commerce site should be usable, simple and not draw attention away from the primary methods of navigation. Use a couple of banners or hero images by all means, but don’t over-power the user with more than they can see at a glance. When you walk into a shop, you may see the featured products in display cases near the front – but you wouldn’t be surrounded by several products encapsulated in powerful colours all in one go!

Action Point: Reduce the banners you have on your site, ensuring you only focus on the products that you really want to push. Use Search Engine Optimisation to optimise other products, as well as other methods such as upselling, related products and featured products (not using banners, but in a list!)

Mistake 8: Store, transmit or process card details yourself (PCI-DSS Compliancy)

Unless you use a third party payment provider (such as Sage Pay) or one of the very very few off the shelf packages that are fully (PA-DSS) PCI compliant accompanied by PCI compliant hosting, or outsource development that goes through the rigourous PA-DSS audits (which can cost tens of thousands) then I doubt your e-commerce site is PCI compliant. This didn’t affect smaller businesses so much this time last year, but as of 1st July 2010 PCI compliancy is now mandatory and anyone not compliant can undergo a PCI audit which can cost enough to put you out of business, or have your full card processing capabilities revoked.

Action Point: Do not store, transmit or process ANY card details yourself unless you are 100% sure you are PCI compliant. If you aren’t too sure if you are or aren’t PCI compliant and don’t use a third party payment provider, then it is more than likely you are not. Do this immediately.

Mistake 9: Ignoring social media

In today’s modern world, social media is the king of marketing. It’s struggling to catch up a bit with e-commerce sites, so now is the time to get on board and ahead of the game. Monitor Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites for feedback. Particularly, setup search terms for your company or some of your top products and listen out for particularly bad feedback. Set the record straight and you may turn an angry customer (usually from a simple misunderstanding) to a happy one!

Action Point: Setup a listening post for social media sites and monitor search terms for your company name and it’s top selling products. Try to be as helpful as possible and never react with strong defense if the feedback is negative.

Mistake 10: Don’t invest in Online Marketing

Whether it is basic search engine optimisation such as making sure the product title is in the title and H1 tags, or full pay-per-click advertising, it is worth investing in online marketing to even survive being recognised among your competitors. With so many e-commerce businesses out there, you need to make sure your company comes out consistantly top of the rankings.

Action Point: Invest in Online Marketing. Do the research, take some tips from our Online Marketing Team posted on this blog and you will succeed. If you are still a bit confused, outsource the Online Marketing work to someone that really knows what they are talking about for the best results!

In conclusion, I still see many e-commerce sites out there failing because they aren’t meeting the obvious criteria for a successful e-commerce site.What mistakes have you come across in the real world? What top tips would you have to ensure a successful e-commerce site?

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Will you get a buzz out of Google caffeine?

The online industry has been waiting for the latest developments to Google’s search engine, Google Caffeine, to go public in the UK for some months now.

However, Google have a habit of rolling out new innovations slowly and gradually, testing the water and making adjustments rather than going in for Big Bang launches.

It is believed that Project Caffeine will soon be driving the Google search engine we will be using in the UK. So what is it all about and what differences are we likely to notice?

Well, for starters there is a clue in the name as to one of its essential improvements, namely Caffeine, a stimulant that gets things moving faster.

According to those who tested the new search engine last year, Caffeine is almost twice as quick as Google’s current search infrastructure, in one example taking 0.12 seconds to deliver results on a search that took 0.25 seconds on conventional Google.

Relevance: Testers reported that they not only found a much larger number of results for specific searches but also that Caffeine produced better results for longer ‘strings’. In other words longer search terms or searches for specific phrases or titles produced more productive results.

It also appears to be more reactive to current and breaking events. With Twitter and Facebook both launching real-time search engines, Google would naturally want to stay up with the game.

On the downside, it was reported that images and videos seemed to appear further down in searches than currently, although that may well change or have been changed already.

Due to Google’s gradual test, review and adjust way of doing things, we can’t say for sure exactly when you’ll be able to see Caffeine in action at home or at work, but it’s coming!

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Facebook Open Graph and Online Marketing

One of our online marketing team, Daniel Cave, was recently asked:

“Facebook Open Graph is pretty cool stuff when you think about it. Is the future of E-commerce online marketing about to change dramatically?”

That question covered such an interesting topic we have edited his response and posted it here for your pleasure.

The most transformative thing facebook has ever done for the web.

When you think about Open Graph and the wealth of information it provides about users, the potential is HUGE for marketing and e-commerce exploitation, the only issue is setup costs and lead times. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg may not have been overstaing the fact when he said that this is the most transformative thing facebook has ever done for the web.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Using Facebook Open Graph for marketing is a potentially very powerful tool. Anything that gives you an insight into your potential customer’s likes and wants is powerful indeed. Add to that the fact that it also allows you to leverage social proof on your customers to sell your products then it is a powerful tool for site personalization and customization indeed.

If you have one of your developers learn how Open Graph works and start to do some basic stuff with it then you will be making a good start at moving towards using this potential.

Doing something easy like putting like buttons in place along with trying to match featured items with their likes on a fuzzy search, publishing to people’s wall with permission would be bordering on free advertising that rivals and beats paid for advertising.

It is hard to judge how much of this is hype and how much is really useful, but I personally think if Facebooks ‘vision’ of the web comes to life (without being killed off by privacy issues) then it will become a big factor in marketing and Site Design.

So, is Ecommerce about to change dramatically?

Maybe, but only if the Facebook Open Graph takes off in a big way (which I think it will) and is adopted across the mainstream web.

I think the end effect on sites will be subtle but important. You will start seeing sites extending beyond their own borders and reaching into social to both take information and to post some back too. Borrowing information about users preferences and using them to personalize sites and offer more relevant offers.

Using people’s friends against them as marketing tool is a very slick and clever way to market to them. After all how often do you buy something when you know a friend has bought it, and how often will you place more trust in a site that someone else has already used? That’s not to mention the “keeping up with the jones” effect.

Interesting questions to consider:

Contemplating the future of Open Graph in the context of social media and the wider web brings up almost unending list of ideas/possibilities and exciting potentials. Some of my initial thoughts were:

Could a process which cross references social networks work?

Think about it. If a person’s twitter account and Facebook page can be matched and cross referenced publicly then targeted tweets/follows/offers can be done.

Imagine this tweet:

“Facebook says you like holidaying and you’ve been tweeting about Spanish hotels. We hope you like this website: http://tinyurl.com/2uc2k77

How about:

Click Here to See people on twitter who have similar backpacking travel ambitions and check out their travel photos on twitpic at the same time”

How will site personalisation be treated by Search Engines?

Will they take notice of how many ‘likes’ a site gets? Will ‘likes’ the new links for SEO? Will personaized content be penialised by google as cloaking?

The very short answer is No, but it is an interesting prospect to consider.

What happens to your site when Facebook has downtime?

Will your site break if you have implemented too many Open Graph features and facebook suffers downtime?

Important things to remember:

Don’t get caught up and design your e-commerce site just for Facebook. A lot of people are slow to change and even dislike it, just look what happens every time Facebook changes its layout (millions of people protest, and then reluctantly accept it).

Conventions which work now will still work tomorrow and not everyone in the world is on Facebook so make Facebook integration part of the website not the core of it. A well designed site which is optimised to convert visitors into customers will always do well regardless of Facebook, but the same site with Subtle Facebook integration will possibly do even better.

Conclusion

Yes Facebook Open Graph can, and likely will, have an impact on the web but it will not be a radical overnight change and will most likely be a subtle change used to quietly influence users to buy as part of an overall web marketing strategy. Start small with it and slowly introduce it into your sites while it picks up popularity and you will be well placed to use the more advanced features of it when the time is right

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