This week, Google began rolling out Instant Previews, which lets users view a preview of search result web pages before visiting them. When users click on the new magnifying glass icon next to a search result, a screenshot of the specific web page will appear on the right hand side of the search results page.
Of course, this kind of page preview isn’t going to seem like a big deal to users of various other search engines like Bing that have been providing similar web page previews for some time. But, Google promises that Instant Previews will take it one step further and actually highlight the section on the web page where the search keyword actually appears.
This is the latest enhancement from Google, following the launch of Google Instant back in September. Like Google Instant, the Previews feature will be available to users who are logged in to their Google account. But, it would certainly seem likely that both features will eventually be rolled out to all Google users.
The big question is what kind of impact will Instant Previews have on site designers and online marketers? Similar to Google Instant, it will take some time to determine the overall impact. However, a few things jump out immediately.
Paid ads are obscured.
As mentioned above, when you click on the magnifying glass to see the preview, it will appear on the right side of the page. This means it will effectively cover the paid search results. (see below) Google has said that its research shows that users who have decided to focus on the natural search results have already decided that the paid ads don’t provide what they are looking for. Thus, covering up the ads with the preview page should not have a negative effect on ad performance. Obviously, this remains to be seen.
Some Common Site Features may not show up well in previews.Google has advised web designers to make their pages as simple as possible for better viewing in Instant Previews. Pop-ups, interstitial pages, videos, and flash content all may interfere with a high quality preview showing in Instant Previews, according to the company. If the Instant Preview becomes very popular with users, site designers may need to begin taking this into account and optimizing their sites accordingly. If a significant percentage of users start utilizing the preview to evaluate a site before clicking on the link, the site will need to immediately appeal to the user in the preview. This would certainly add a new variable in web design decisions.
What about previews of paid ads?
Currently, Instant Previews will only function on natural search results. However, Search Engine Land reports that, while there is no set timeline, the feature will also come to ads at some point in the future. Previews in paid ads could be a very big deal.
If I can preview a page, am I likely to click on fewer links overall?
Thinking like a typical Google user, if I start using the Instant Preview feature to evaluate sites before clicking on them, will I click on fewer sites in general? That seems pretty logical. Currently, if I read a search result and it seems to offer what I am looking for, I will click on it to find out for certain. Like many people, I sometimes get to the site and immediately decide it wasn’t what I was looking for after all. Then I return to the search page and pick another result. If I can preview a page and decide it isn’t what I’m looking for, I won’t bother to click on it. This would definitely suggest that I am going to click on fewer results if I make use of Instant Previews. Of course, there could be an upside here for online marketers. While click rates may go down, conversions may actually increase as the preview function helps to pre-qualify visitors to some degree. In some ways, this could end up being a benefit if and when Instant Preview becomes available on paid results. In theory, clicks would go down, but conversions would improve.
Long story short, Instant Preview could end up having a significant impact on affiliate marketers, especially if it is eventually rolled out to all Google users. In the meantime, this is yet another development to watch very closely in the upcoming weeks to see if it begins to have an impact on your search campaigns or natural site traffic.