On Tuesday, Google introduced a new search feature called Instant Previews. Traditionally, search results only display the title, URL and a snippet (short description) for each result. With Google Instant Previews, users can find information faster with the help of a visual preview of each search result. For webmasters and web developers, Instant Previews allows them to see their site designs and how they are relevant to a specific query.
From the Google Webmaster Central Blog:
Today Google introduced Instant Previews, a new search feature that helps people find information faster by showing a visual preview of each result. Traditionally, elements of the search results like the title, URL, and snippet–the text description in each result–help people determine which results are best for them. Instant Previews achieves the same goal with a visual representation of each page and where the relevant content is, instead of a text description. For our webmaster community, this presents an opportunity to reveal the design of your site and why your page is relevant for a particular query. We’d like to offer some thoughts on how to take advantage of the feature.
So how does Google Instant Previews work? When a person keys in a query, each search result will have a magnifying glass icon at the end of the title.
When the person clicks on that icon, a zoomed-out snapshot of the page is displayed on the right-side of the page. The snapshots contain “orange highlights” which highlight the relevant content for that specific page based on the query.
Google has provided a few tips for webmasters and web developers on how to make good use of the Instant Previews feature:
- Keep your pages clearly laid out and structured, with a minimum of distractions or extraneous content. This is always good advice, since it improves the experience for visitors, and the simplicity and clarity of your site will be apparent via Instant Previews.
- 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.
- Many pages have their previews generated as part of our regular crawl process. Occasionally, we will generate screenshots on the fly when a user needs it, and in these situations we will retrieve information from web pages using a new “Google Web Preview” user-agent.
- 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.
- Currently, adding the nosnippet meta tag to your pages will cause them to not show a text snippet in our results. Since Instant Previews serves a similar purpose to snippets, pages with the nosnippet tag will also not show previews. However, we encourage you to think carefully about opting out of Instant Previews. Just like regular snippets, previews tend to be helpful to users–in our studies, results which were previewed were more than four times as likely to be clicked on. URLs that have been disallowed in the robots.txt file will also not show Instant Previews.
- Currently, some videos or Flash content in previews appear as a “puzzle piece” icon or a black square. We’re working on rendering these rich content types accurately.
I think Google Instant Previews can help webmasters or bloggers like me with SEO because with this feature, we can view the competition’s pages and see what/how the keywords or relevant content are displayed for a specific query and compare it with our own (if there’s any). From there, we can make the necessary changes that could help our pages rank higher in the SERPs.
What do you guys think of Google’s new search feature Instant Previews? Do you think that Instant Previews will make it easier for people to find the stuff that they’re looking for? What other ways can Instant Previews be useful? What do you think will be the effects of Instant Previews on SEO (search engine optimization)? Please share your thoughts.