Google Instant Preview: SEM impacts and troubleshooting

The 9th November (Wow they made me a present), Google introduced Instant Preview. Beside the titles of organic search results, there is a magnifying glass icon. Once a searcher clicks on the icon of any result, a zoomed-out snapshot of the underlying page appears to the right of the organic results, giving the users a taste of the websites.

Why Instant Preview? During its testing, Google found that users were 5% more likely to be satisfied with the results that they click after using instant previews.

Google Instant Preview is not Google Instant

Google Instant Preview is an extension of the instant search concept that aims to save searchers' time as they make quick judgments of the relevancy of sites without having to leave Google.

This isn’t the first time search engines have attempted to incorporate visuals into search results. In 2004, Ask.com launched their Binoculars feature to provide a sneak preview of web pages, although this feature no longer appears to be active on the site.

In 2009, Bing was launched with the Quick Previews feature that provides a text summary of the information displayed on the web page.

Google now turned up with Instant Preview, which ultimately is an attempt to leverage the usability standpoint Google has been pursuing from a little while. But once again Google managed doing the thing better.

In fact, if you noticed the Instant Preview, Google is even able to highlight in one or more callouts the relevant text embedded in the copy.

The Instant preview impact on SEO

Now you know what Google Instant Preview is and how it works, but will it really have an affect on SEO? The short answer: yes. Below are a few ways SEO will be impacted with the launch of Instant Previews.

  1. Website Design Best practices always suggested having a web page with relevant information that is easy to navigate. From now onward they have necessarily to include the appearance as a recommendation, as the look & feel is now impacting the click through rate (CTR).

  2. Copywriting This hasn’t really changed. It was important to integrate the terms into the page’s copy in a natural way, and this will continue to be the same. As a consequence of the aforementioned callouts, the more highlighted words a user sees the more relevant they assume the site is and the more likely they will click on the result.

  3. Page Rank In this circumstance I’m not referring to the old green-bar shown by the Google Toolbar, but of the physical position a web site has once shown in a result page.

Google posted on its blog “Instant Preview does not change our search algorithm or ranking in any way. It’s the same results, in the same order.”

So, the rank won’t change but if anything doesn’t change the ranking algorithm, what the Google algorithm is made by?

Today, most people have come across pages that are currently ranking highly in Search that clearly shouldn’t be. However, most people just move on with their search without giving Google any direct feedback.

In a way or another a limited CTR can be considered as a signal that is invaluable for Google, which I bet is recording from day one; therefore, sooner or later we will see a new post which say “Instant Preview is not part of Google algo”.

Implications for PPC

Google has just introduced the same option for its Adwords platform. Searchers will now be able to preview the landing page of the ad before committing to click so it won’t cost advertisers any more or, in fact, it just might have a cost impact.

As the PPC cost is based on the quality score, which accounts among the other things the CTR, the introduction of a preview is inevitably affecting the QS too thatin turn directly affects the CPC (cost-per-click).

Instant preview as a debugging tool

Instant Preview reinstates the fact that Flash content is bad for SEO as it can't be crawled by the search engines, the other reason to remember from now on is that flash portions don't render in the Google Instant Preview making the pages look ugly and badly arranged.

Silverlight on the other hand, appears regularly. So this could be a critical factor while deciding which technology to use in a new web site.

Instant preview for webmasters

A preview cannot be shown in specific circumstances like:

  1. Blocked resources due to a robots.txt entry
  2. Cloaking: Erroneous content being served to the Googlebot user-agent
  3. Poor alternative content when Flash is unavailable

However, it was not possible seeing what was happening until a specific site wasn’t indexed and shown in the SERP.

From the 18th of May 2011, Google introduced a new section into the Webmaster Tools to troubleshoot any issue related to the instant previous.

For more information regarding the new troubleshooting section, please refer to the Google Webmaster tool official blog.

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