Google Instant Preview Changes Search Results Viewing

by Lynnea Bylund on November 27, 2010 · 17 comments

Google Instant Preview is a new aspect of Google search following the recent release Google Instant –  completes searches while they’re being typed – significantly speeding up Web searching.

Google search marketingGoogle Instant Preview gives users the ability to see a website before they visit it. Google accomplishes this by taking a screenshot of every webpage in its index and giving users access to it via a magnifying glass icon that sits to the right of every search result.

For the latest preview feature, Google’s research revealed that searchers are 5% more likely to be satisfied with the search results they click after seeing a page preview next to the natural search result.

Veteran UK interactive marketing pro Peter Bowen at explains –

When a user clicks on the magnifying glass icon, a screenshot of the webpage in question will appear to the right of the search result listing. It’s an at-a-glance view of the website page without actually having to visit the webpage.

One of the key elements to Instant Previews though is that Google sometimes highlights a section of the page where the page description occurs. This becomes a useful feature when you’re trying to find information on a specific person on a page that lists dozens or hundreds of people. Instead of having to scroll through the entire page to find the person, you can just look at the Instant Preview and see where they are on the page.

“We realized early on that this kind of experience would only make sense if it was lightning fast. Not long ago simply downloading an image could take 20 or 30 seconds, and even today many websites take four or five seconds to load,” Raj Krishnan, Product Manager wrote in the Google Blog. “With Google Instant Preview, we match a search query with an index of the entire web, identify the relevant parts of each webpage, stitch them together and serve the resulting preview completely customised to your search–usually in under one-tenth of a second.”

Instant Previews can be helpful for many kinds of tasks. For example, say you looked at a page before and need to find it again – with a preview, you can tell if any of the results look familiar. Or perhaps you’re looking for an official website – look for a logo and formal style and you’ll probably be able to identify it. Or maybe you’re looking for a how-to guide – it’s easy to spot a page with clear illustrations and step-by-step instructions.

Again, Peter Bowen in the UK

“while Google Instant Preview is designed to speed up the searching process what it actually does is to speed up the decision-making process of choosing whether or not to click on the link by previewing the visual screenshot of the resulting webpage.”

“Google currently provides a lot more data to help the searcher. At one time search engines just displayed the first two lines from a webpage under a search result, but now they include information like site links, date, cached content, jump to links and even Google Places.”

From an SEO perspective the big question is how will Google Instant Preview affect our understanding of traditional SEO, and what changes should we consider making to webpages so that they can be easily previewed in a tiny screenshot?

When a searcher performs a search and sees the search results page displayed, they do have a choice of whether or not to activate the Google Instant Preview feature by clicking on the magnifying glass icon.

“However, clicking on the magnifying glass icon is less of a commitment than clicking on a link, and you still need to convince the searcher that it is worth their time to preview a website” says Peter Bowen. “Therefore it becomes more important than ever to have a well defined and well written description of what the website page is about and it has to fit within the 150 character limit. So the Meta content description is what you will have to change and be aware of here.”

As we already know, Flash is not SEO friendly because it cannot be read by search engines and is even worse for Instant Preview as it shows as a black rectangle and cannot be rendered. The same is true for video files that also display a black rectangle in the preview, so consideration of this is important too.

It should be pointed out that because the image size of the screenshot is so small, unless the text in headings is large enough, it will be impossible to read.

So what does all this mean? Well, we have to start thinking about the overall page layout and if it looks good at postage stamp size or if it is just a blur of text with no images to make it look appealing. This means creating pages that pay more attention to navigation, titles and headers, spacing, colors and objects, such as call-to-action buttons. Having a good looking page with relevant titles now may count as much as the content on the page itself.

It is likely that we will begin to see a lot more webpages with well defined graphics and other visual aids designed to get a searcher’s attention. This makes SEO even more important than ever, make sure that your images are named with keywords and their file names and alt text are descriptive and accurate.

Google Instant Preview is here to stay and designed to make the search selection process easier and according to Google faster, but in the end, good SEO practices are what is going make the difference of whether or not you get discovered on the search engine results pages.


1 SEO Kal December 2, 2010 at 2:11 am

Google changes are impressive and make SEO harder.

2 iPaddy January 6, 2011 at 4:44 pm

Heya wonderful blog and design. I am hoping I’m not disturbing you I merely sought to ask precisely what wordpress plugin you use to display the most recent commentary on your blog? I want to do something along the same lines for my free ipod website yet I cannot get the plugin or widget for it. I saw the Google changes and didn’t know what it meant until I read your blog, BTW!

3 Lucilla January 19, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Indeed it does – not just Google but all the search engines, amazing work.… My best regards, Lucilla.

4 Latisha January 20, 2011 at 1:24 am

I admire what you have done here. Google changes so fast!

5 Canada Roberta January 29, 2011 at 5:03 pm

I’m thinking about conducting a reverse mobile search by going online. And so, exactly where do I locate the Google search for mobile phones?

6 Catalyst QuickBooks Editor January 29, 2011 at 7:42 pm

Its automatic, as far as Google Places AND search is concerned.

7 Mieszkanie Tarnobrzeg February 9, 2011 at 2:39 am

Thanks a bunch for sharing this with all of us you really know what you’re talking about when it comes to Google search!

8 Ślubna Rzeszów February 10, 2011 at 6:19 am

Google is always changing and we are always staying one step ahead.

9 Zynga Chips February 19, 2011 at 8:31 am

Keeping up with Google is quite a challenge.

10 Catalyst QuickBooks Editor February 19, 2011 at 10:07 am

You can say that again!

11 Saul King March 7, 2011 at 12:05 am

Google – figuring out Google and search is a mind f**k!

12 Kecia Rapone April 15, 2011 at 10:44 am

Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing a little research on that. And he actually bought me lunch since I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that: Thanks for lunch!

13 wireless webcams May 4, 2011 at 9:44 pm

Loved going through this. Keep it up!

14 Mercedes Repair Pro May 17, 2011 at 1:00 am

You are professional and report on Google changes well.

15 Credit Card Processing Guy May 17, 2011 at 1:11 am

Nice, good post about Google changes.

16 Jasper Halprin May 17, 2011 at 3:26 am

Thanks for the post. Google keeps us on our toes, don’t they? 🙂

17 Gry o'Pieniądze May 19, 2011 at 7:13 pm

That’s incredible! Google gets better and better!

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