Yesterday, Google launched it’s newest enhancement to the search results page: Instant Previews.  The idea of a website preview has been around for some time – Browser plugins like CoolPreviews and SearchPreview have been downloaded by millions of users.  With this launch, all Google Instant users will be able to view previews of search results pages without a plugin.

Google Instant Previews allows users to see Google’s cached version of a website without leaving the search results page.  The look and feel of a page is more important than ever at enticing users to click.  When a user clicks on the magnifying glass icon Magnifying Glass next to a search result, an overlay will appear with preview of the page.  Once the magnifying glass is clicked, the user can hover over the other search results to scroll between previews.

How will Instant Previews impact websites?

Diet Coke Instant PreviewInstant Previews will increase the importance of web design and usability and should decrease the number of clicks going to lower quality sites, doorway pages and sites praying on misspellings.  As an agency that optimizes both HTML and Flash websites, we believe Instant Previews has raised the importance of optimizing Flash websites yet again. As seen in this example of the Google Instant Preview for Diet Coke, the lack of alternate content for users without Flash renders a preview that is less than enticing and may decrease click through rates and traffic to Coke’s website.

We continue to impress upon the interactive community the importance of focusing on SEO in combination with page design and usability in order to create clean, useful and appealing sites that rank high in search engines and entice users to click. According to Google, people applying Instant Previews are 5% more likely to be satisfied with the results on which they clicked. The concept of previewing websites is far from new, but when the world’s largest search engine decides to add a visual representation of a page to the search results page, website owners must take action.  Google continues to lead the way towards increasing the “experience of search”. In a week where IAC’s Barry Diller announced is surrendering to Google, the Google Instant Previews launch highlights the challenges with competing with the most sophisticated search engine in the world. From the June Caffeine update to the introduction of Google Instant in September to yesterday’s newest addition of Instant Previews, Google has made 2010 a remarkable year in search advancements.

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