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Google Instant Preview: A Game-Changer? Or Maybe Not

As we discussed in last week’s blog, Google Instant has changed users’ visual experience of Google, making it more important than ever to dominate the organic local search listings.

This week, we’re going to explore another development in Google’s visual design: Google Instant Preview. Google Instant Preview, which is very different from Google Instant, gives users a thumbnail snapshot of your website right from the search page. The snapshot shows in miniature what a website site looks like, while text callouts show search terms in context, highlighted in orange. To view the snapshot, users click on a small blue magnifying glass to the right of each search result, and if they click on the snapshot, they go directly to the website itself.

Google Instant Preview has the potential to dramatically change the way users evaluate search results. Testing shows that searchers typically evaluate search results by looking for their search term in the title, URL (web address), and text snippet of each search result. Now, searchers will have the opportunity not only to look for words, but also visual images of the product or service they’re searching for.

In theory, the visual preview will enable users to evaluate search results more quickly and accurately, which means that searchers who come to your website after seeing it in Google Instant Preview are more likely to be qualified leads for your business. In its blogs, Google says that its initial testing indicates that searchers who use Google Instant Preview are four times more likely to click on a page they’ve previewed, and 5% more likely to be satisfied with the results they click.

But does Google Instant Preview work in practice?  Market testers rate Instant Preview a mixed success. They report that users often miss the magnifying glass icon because it is small and pale in color. If searchers do see the magnifying glass, they are unsure of how to use it. And, after searchers are shown by testers how to use Google Instant Preview, they tend to focus on the images in the snapshot to see if a website has the products they were looking for. They pay much less attention to the highlighted text in orange – some even call it a distraction.

We believe that these initial findings suggest the following:

  1. Not everyone will use Google Instant Preview. We believe that people who do not have sharp eyesight, or who are not tech-savvy, will ignore the functionality completely. Younger people will probably adopt the technology once they realize that it’s there, while seniors are unlikely to use it.
  2. It is more important than ever for a website to have a clear, uncluttered design in order to appeal to those searchers who do use Google Instant Preview.

Google Instant Preview may not change the search game completely, but it’s worth taking into account in your search strategy. In the upcoming weeks, we’ll talk about some of the possible implications of Instant Preview, and how to be sure that your website’s design is up to the challenges and opportunities Instant Preview offers.

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