Google Preview shaking up search

The eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed that Google has recently introduced new functionality to it’s search results. Instant Preview is a new tool which generates a full miniature preview of your search result, allowing you, the user, to preview the site before visiting. So is a seemingly minor update likely to have an impact search performance?

Absolutely!

Take a moment to think about how many times you’ve searched using Google, clicked on the first, second, third results, only to find yourself clicking the back button because the content isn’t quite what you wanted, is poorly presented or the design of the site lacks credibility. Until now, the presentation of a site may have impacted it’s ability to convert once it’s got a visitor, but providing the site owner had a sound SEO strategy it is still capable of driving search traffic to it.

Instant Preview introduces a visual factor into the decision making processes, with a user now able to choose not only based on search ranking and meta descriptions, but also based on whether they like the look of your site or not.

Screenshot of Google's Instant Preview

An example of Google Instant Preview in action. The preview clearly shows that the site is still under construction despite it ranking highly. Sites like this could lose out on traffic if users perceive them to lack quality or content.

Now I don’t profess to be an SEO expert but here’s my attempt at putting this into some context based on my understanding…

A user who may have previously had to click through eight of the first ten results to find a site they liked the look of, can now preview all ten and then only click through to the eighth one; the one that captured their interest. In doing so this tells Google that search result eight was more relevant to the user (no longer purely because of rank or content but also because of appearance). Times that scenario by thousands and Google starts to understand that the search terms 1-7 aren’t all they’re cracked up to be (the content may be spot on but users just aren’t attracted by them) and search result eight begins to earn more authority and improve its search position.

Essentially this enables Google to rate pages not only on hard metrics like content and link equity, but also on the subjective metric of visual appeal.

Given that people are by nature attracted to things that aesthetically please them, it is likely that consumers searching with Instant Preview will naturally be drawn to sites stimulating that visual interest; with sites that have focused on the presentation of their content being the main beneficiaries.

In testing, we’ve found that people who use Instant Previews are about 5 per cent more likely to be satisfied with the results they click. The previews provide new ways to evaluate search results, making you more likely to find what you’re looking for on the pages you visit. (Source: http://www.justsearching.co.uk)

Whether users embrace instant preview is yet to be seen, but in my mind Google Instant Preview represents a major step toward enhancing the design quality of the search result for users.

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