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Google Instant Previews, SEO, & Analytics

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Google has made its name on innovation and never resting on its laurels. They’ve always looked for new things to get involved in and ways to improve the user experience. In its continued efforts to improve the user experience for people performing Google searches, the company has recently introduced “instant previews”, which displays a mini preview of the website before visiting it. When you type in a search, you can simply place your cursor over the small magnifying glass displayed beside each listing to get an “instant preview” of the website.

With all the changes Google has been making to their algorithm and the way they display search results a common question I’ve heard is, “Is this going to affect my placement in Google?”

Below is a statement regarding  this from Google:

Instant Previews does not change our search algorithm or ranking in any way. It’s the same results, in the same order. There is also no change to how clicks are tracked. If a user clicks on the title of a result and visits your site, it will count as a normal click, regardless of whether the result was previewed. Previewing a result, however, doesn’t count as a click by itself. ~ Excerpt from Webmaster Central Blog

While I believe Google is making an accurate statement, I do believe any SEO company will understand that Instant Previews can have an impact on your SEO, both positive and negative. The effect that it may have will be magnified by the magnitude of traffic you’re targeting. A measurement that Google takes into consideration is click through rates and Instant Previews should have a big influence on click through rates. If you get more visits to your site you also have a better chance of connecting with people, having your content shared and other sites linking to your website. So while the design of your landing page that Google displays as a preview will play an enormous role in the click through rates, Google also may display snippets of text in the preview that can play a big role as well.

Currently flash sites will not show in Instant Preview and you can inadvertently block Google from showing “instant previews” of your site if you’re using the robots meta tag “nosnippet”.

A metric I am interested in seeing is the number of times Instant Previews displays a preview of a site compared to the number times the user clicks through after viewing the preview. While this won’t be an “end all be all” statistic, it is still one to watch to make sure that your website preview is enticing enough to get people to click through. Currently this is not possible, but I am sure it will availabe soon.

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