Google last week released Instant Previews, its newest feature to fit the instant theme. The latest addition to Google's search results page allows users to preview the landing page before clicking.
For brands and marketers alike, this could drastically change the way you plan your search buy and consider your digital branding.
Under the Magnifying Glass
Before we jump into how this effects paid search, a quick explanation how Instant Previews work. The basic functionality of Google search hasn't changed, except now as you skim through results a little magnifying glass will show up beside each option.
Rolling over the magnifying glass produces a preview image to the right of the link. The image you see is the actual page you would land on if you followed the link (although on some sites the image may actually be a few days or even weeks old).
Google internal testing found the addition of this feature caused 5 percent growth in satisfaction for those who clicked through after previewing the landing page. While 5 percent seems small, don't forget that Google has hundreds of millions of users, so even 5 percent is a significant difference.
Why Brands Should Care
Instant Previews gives search users a glimpse into what they can expect from a site. If your website or landing page is badly designed or, even worse, made up of Flash, you're stuck with a bad experience from the start.
Takes M&M's, for example. Their new personalized M&M's site looks great, but because the main home page was made in Flash, the company is stuck with a first impression that is anything but welcoming.
Google's massive size and market penetration forces brands to adapt quickly. Google feels this feature will help complement results that may score well but are really full of spam and have yet to be blacklisted by the search giant.
Imagine spending months, even years, developing the most search-friendly site to rank high for your most important keywords, but now your site design is lacking, meaning no one clicks. Goodbye conversion rate.
This change in search behavior gives brands reason to rethink their site designs in order to enhance their aesthetics.
Why Search Marketers Should Care
Every marketer is assigned objectives and goals that need to be reached to ensure strong results and a happy client. With the addition of instant search, marketers have been forced to reformat the keywords (phrases) they buy as people type and edit their queries.
With the advent of instant previews, marketers must begin to strategize how click-through rate (CTR) and overall conversions will change due to brand appearance.
Why does this matter? You know you really only pay on the click.
A few years ago, Google added a factor to its search that determines how much advertisers need to pay for their listing position. This factor is called quality score, and is based on how often a user clicks your result compared to the number of search impressions. Essentially, the higher the CTR, the better the quality score -- and the cheaper the cost per click.
Google undoubtedly is being aggressive as its market share continues to decline slightly. But more so, this innovative push is probably meant to counter recent partnerships between Bing and Facebook, which are looking to bring social media into search.