Google announced last week that it had added a new feature known as “Instant Previews” to its search results page which would allow users to preview search results without having to click-through to visit the page…

Before delving into the possible implications of Instant Previews it is important to understand exactly what this new feature is all about.

About Google Instant Previews

Google Instant Previews provides a graphical overview of search results and in some cases includes call out texts that highlight relevant sections of the page making it easier for searchers to determine the context of a match from just the preview.

google instant previews example screenshot

Google argues that instant previews would allow users to easily compare search results and find the most suitable result. Tests carried out by Google revealed that people who use instant previews were on average 5% more satisfied with the search result they clicked on.

To activate Instant Previews click once on the preview icon next to any search result. Hovering over a search result, with instant previews enabled, displays a graphical preview of the page. To deactivate instant previews, click a second time on the preview icon.

Google instant previews attempts to include the most relevant sections of the page within the preview and uses torn edges to indicate sections of the page excluded from the preview.

Google Instant Previews Torn edges screenshot

Implications of Google Instant Previews

Outlined below are some of the ways in which Google Instant Previews might impact on websites and online businesses.

1 Decrease in website impression and keyword search volume

As users using instant previews are on average 5% more likely to be satisfied with the search result they click on, they are also less likely to continue searching which would result in decrease in website impressions and keyword search volume.

2 Decrease in natural search traffic

Instant Previews users are likely to filter out low quality and spam websites based on the page layout displayed in the preview. This will result in less traffic sent to low quality or poorly designed websites.

A less common scenario that could result in traffic loss for a site is the case where users find answers to their query within the call out text displayed in the preview without the need to visit the site as shown below.


3 Increase in conversion rate and decrease in bounce rate

Instant Previews is likely to result in lesser but more relevant traffic sent to websites which in turn would result in a lower bounce rate and higher conversion rate. Note that this does not imply an increase in conversion.

4 Less focus on the top search results

The ease at which users can preview search results might encourage users to browse further down the search results page bringing more focus to the search results within the middle to bottom section of the search results page.

5 Call Out text optimisation

A major feature of Instant Previews is the call out text included within the preview which if optimised has the potential to significantly improve the click through rate of a website.

6 Website layout and design optimisation

As  searchers on Google are likely to filter out low quality and spam websites using Instant Previews, the click through rate of a website can be improved through optimising the design and layout of the website.
At present, flash based content is not displayed within Instant Previews but Google says it is working on a fix to be released soon.

Google Instant Previews screenshot of flash not showing

Final thoughts and recommendations

Instant Previews is still in its infancy, however as more users begin to utilise this feature, we expect to see noticeable changes in the way people search and new ways to optimise websites around this new feature will become apparent.

The take up of Instant Previews is likely to be slow as it requires a level of curiosity on the part of the user to click on the preview icon to begin to use the Instant Previews feature, however this might be overcome through an education campaign by Google.

As an organisation it is important to make sure your search team or agency is aware of Google Instant Previews and the potential implications, and are keeping a close eye on your website metrics for out-of-the ordinary changes.

First Rate will continue to investigate into the possible impact of Instant Previews and look into ways in which to optimise client sites to take advantage of this new feature.