Google Instant Preview: The Visual Aspect of SEO

SMS Text

Earlier this month, Google added a new feature to their Search experience: Google Instant Preview. The feature, explained in detail on the official Google Blog, accelerates the search process and adds a visual aspect to the SEO job description. In order to activate Instant Preview, users must click on the magnifying glass nestled within each search result. Once activated, a graphical preview flips up when the cursor hovers over any part of a search result.

Like many of Google’s enhancements to the Search process, the arrival of Instant Preview affects the SEO industry. Many web marketers were tempted to dismiss Instant Preview’s SEO influences after reading that the change would not influence algorithmic SERPs. Sure, the rankings of your client won’t change, but what if your #1 ranking doesn’t appeal to users visually? Instant Preview encourages conversations and integration between SEO and Web Designers for maximum return on search engine marketing efforts.

SEO without an Algorithm

An important element to each preview returned is the text highlighted, emboldening the keywords from the search query; a golden opportunity to impress searchers and ensure a click-through. This concept is similar to well-crafted meta-descriptions: Optimized copy won’t influence the algorithmic results directly, but the right keyword usage can lead to increased traffic and visitors.

As mentioned earlier, Instant Preview adds a visual dynamic to the SEO process. How do your landing pages appear in Google’s preview? It’s important to note that Previews do not include Flash graphics. As you can see in the example with a search for “YouTube”, pages loaded with Flash are unappealing and may cost you visitors.

The wall between the Search Optimization Department and Web Designers is slowly crumbling due to changes like Instant Preview. With so much of search decision-making fueled by the look and feel of a site, SEO has a voice in webpage design, at least when forming landing pages.

Changes in Web Marketing

The introduction of Instant Preview is the latest in a long line of Google efforts to organize the way the internet works. If you want traffic, you have to play their game. Instant Preview brings sweeping changes to those sites hoping to profit off pop-ups or windowless Flash Ads. The Google Webmaster Blog explains:

Try to avoid interstitial pages, ad pop-ups, or other elements that interfere with your content. In some cases, these distracting elements may be picked up in the preview of your page, making the screenshots less attractive.

Additionally, Google is picking up valuable seconds in terms of Average Time on Site, and in the process, building trust in the Google search process. Instant Preview affords users the ability to quickly interact with a page and determine its usefulness while never leaving the safe haven of Google’s search results; a notion that contributes to overall brand loyalty to the search giant. Tricky? Maybe. Smart? Absolutely.

Game Changer?

The arrival of Instant Preview is merely another example of the constant evolution that is SEO. Interpreting Google’s signals and actions is an exciting aspect of SEO that will never end.

Case Ernsting
Case Ernsting works as the Online Marketing Coordinator for LoSasso Advertising Inc., an interactive advertising and marketing agency in Chicago, IL. In addition to posting... Read Full Bio
Case Ernsting

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  • David Iwanow

    Casey nice post, I’m hoping they update Google Webmaster Tools to start provide some of this data back to webmasters so you can see the possible impact and know when to start testing elements such as removing popups.

    There is a number of issues such as failure to render flash that makes some sites look broken that needs to be addressed.

    • Casey

      Completely agree with your points! With such a great response from test groups and users, I anticipate future molding of the feature – possibly turning it into a more active Webmaster/Google experience.

  • Nabil El Alaoui Sossey

    I hate Google Instant Previews. It’s so annoying…

  • C. Lobo – Internet Exposure

    As a user, I love the new instant preview feature. As a content strategist and digital marketer, it gives me even more reason to create an optimal homepage experience. It also expedites my competitive audits and research. On a side note – I bet a lot of companies with poorly-designed homepages are seeing a decrease in traffic, and probably bounce rates, since visitors won’t bother coming to their site.

  • Chris Boggs

    “The wall between the Search Optimization Department and Web Designers is slowly crumbling due to changes like Instant Preview”

    Tear down the wall! great insight.

    • Casey


  • Alex

    At this point I am happy instant previews are an option that you can opt-into rather then just automatically popping up.

    Will Google soon let those with Flash serve up an alternate image to replace their flash content?

    • Casey

      I agree, an automatic pop-up box would really slow down my search experience.

      I don’t know Google’s plan for sites with Flash, but I see reasons pro & con when it comes to allowing webmasters to submit their own images for preview. On the one hand, Flash can be a very enjoyable part of site usability and I don’t think Google should punish those that use it well. But on the other hand, allowing users to submit their own Preview images could encounter plenty of spammy strategies. Interesting topic to keep an eye on.

  • Jasmine

    Google Instant is awesome, I like this revolutionary feature in Google’s search engine. I am sure in the near future it will support flash as well.

  • KJ

    I love the instant preview as an attractive site should hopefully get more traffic. One thing I don’t understand is what determines the text callouts. Searched for keywords on the page don’t always get highlighted by instant preview it seems.

  • JESSICA BIEL dresses

    The Visual Aspect of SEO ? I can’t see it before. This time I like it.