Google launches instant previews visual search results

Thursday, November 11th, 2010

It’s been a busy year in search engine land, with a number of big changes to the way search engines index sites and present their results, including Google’s Caffeine update, Instant search and Places search plus the Bing Yahoo Alliance. As a result, search engine optimisation has become more complex than ever before, which has certainly been keeping us on our toes!

This week, Google launched another new search feature called Instant Previews which provides a visual preview of websites listed in the search results, allowing you to quickly evaluate a website before deciding whether to click on it. Google hopes this will speed up searches further by enabling you to quickly and easily select the right result from your search. But what impact will this have for your website? Firstly, let’s take a look at how it works.

How Instant Search Works

A small magnifying glass should now appear next to the search results, and clicking on this shows a visual preview of the website to the right (covering the sponsored results). Once you have clicked on the magnifying glass, you can preview other results by simply hovering over the listing. Clicking anywhere on the preview takes you directly to the site.

Google Instant Previews

In some cases Google will also provide a snippet of text with an orange border, highlighting the most relevant sections and search terms on the web page.

Instant Previews Call Outs

Search for ‘Canterbury Earthquake’

Google isn’t the first search engine to introduce previews to the search results. Back in 2004, Ask Jeeves (now Ask.com) added previews using binocular icons, although this feature is no longer active. Last year Bing launched Quick Previews, which provide additional text-based information about a site when you mouse over the listing.

Implications for Your Website

Although Google have said that Instant Previews will not change their search algorithms or rankings, the previews are created by identifying relevant parts of each web page and ‘stitching’ them together to present a preview customised to the search. This makes having relevant content and targeted keywords on your key pages more important than ever.

Previews will also change how users respond to the results they are presented with, possibly resulting in fewer clicks, which will affect your traffic. On the flip side though, exploratory clickers increase your bounce rate, so this could come down and you may end up with higher quality visitors that are more interested in your content and more motivated to make a purchase or enquiry.

Sponsored Results

As the previews cover the sponsored search results (now called Ads) on the right hand side of the page, AdWords clients may be concerned that their click-through rates will suffer. Google is playing down the impact on paid results, pointing out that if searchers are interested in the organic results, they will tend to focus on these and will ignore the sponsored results anyway.

Website Design

The major impact that Instant Preview will have on your website will be in terms of design and layout. If your site is badly designed, contains lots of distracting features or has confusing navigation, you could put off potential visitors before they even click on your link.

Your site must be enticing to visitors, both visually and in terms of unique, relevant content, so make sure your design is attractive, pages are clearly laid out, your navigation is well structured, and your content focuses on your key selling points and relevant, highly targeted keywords.

If your website design is looking out of date or you want to ensure you get the best results from Instant Previews, contact our Web Design Team.

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Mark started in the Internet industry in 1994 working with one of Canterbury’s first Internet Service Providers. In 1997 Rocket launched New Zealand Tourism Online and then Avatar Web Promotions in 1998. New Zealand Tourism Online was sold to Telecom Yellow Pages in 2006. Mark enjoys meeting with Avatar’s clients and strategising winning Web solutions. When not at Avatar HQ, Mark’s into playing tennis, going on family camping trips and supporting the private space industry.

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