Google Tests Locked Search Box, New-Look Instant Previews

Google Search Sticky Search Bar

Apparently not content with its recent search results page makeover, Google appears to be testing a new search interface that locks the top navigation bar, search box, and Google’s vertical search options (images, video, news, etc.) in a fixed position. This change means you would no longer have to scroll to the top of the SERP to enter a new search query and makes it easier to switch to Google News, Google Images, or one of Google’s other left-side options.

Also getting a fresh new look: Instant Previews. The magnifying glass is moved further to the right rather than appearing directly next to the website’s name. Additionally, you have to hover over the magnifying glass icon to activate the preview. Currently, clicking on any of the text in a search result will load the preview. Also, the website link, URL, “cached” and “similar” links appear above the Instant Preview, which isn’t the case now.

This YouTube video shows the sticky bar and new previews:

Optimized for Infinite Scrolling?

Although nothing is for sure at this point (many of Google’s tests don’t get beyond the experimental phase, and there were erroneous reports of Google testing infinite scrolling late last year), this new search user interface has prompted speculation that Google may be preparing to introduce infinite scrolling (something Marissa Mayer didn’t sound too excited about), which could potentially have huge SEM implications. In Google’s case, infinite scrolling would mean eliminating pagination, so users wouldn’t have to click on Page 2, 3, 4, etc., or the “Next” link to see more results.

For SEO, infinite scrolling would mean the end of “ranking for page 1,” as there would only be one page. It could also change user behavior, as they might be more willing to look beyond Google’s top 10 results and click on results that typically are more “buried” on Page 2 or lower.

One study has already suggested that tablet (specifically: iPad) users are more willing to go deeper into the search results, making a top spot in Google less valuable.

For AdWords, it would be interesting to see if advertisements scrolled down the page, or if they would remain locked at the top of the page. Would infinite scrolling harm smaller advertisers?

Google is also big on speeding up search (touting the 2-5 seconds saved per search with Google Instant and the forthcoming prerendering in Instant Pages), what better way than to not force users to click on a page number to get their search results? This would also make sense for touchscreen devices, which coincides with Google’s increasing focus on mobile.

Google has previously introduced “instant scrolling” for Google Images (following Bing’s lead), which lets you see up to 1,000 images per page, and a scrolling map that appears on the right on Places searches.

Startup search engine DuckDuckGo provides infinite scrolling results.

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