I can’t recall something we’ve gotten tipped about more than Google Instant Previews. Even after we wrote about it appearing in the wild a month ago, the tips kept flowing in. Even just yesterday we received two more: “NEW GOOGLE FEATURE!!!” We appreciate the tips, and I’m happy to say today that you can stop sending this specific one. Because Google is officially launching the feature.
As apparently hundreds of you have already seen, Google Instant Previews allows you to see what’s on a website right from a Google Search results page. All you have to do is simply click the little magnifying glass icon next to a result and an overlay will appear to the right of the link, showing you what’s on the page.
“This is the next step in the story of Instant,” Ben Gomes, a Google Distinguished Engineer, tells us. He notes that Google has gone from a standard text input, to autocomplete, to Instant, and now we have Instant Previews. This is all about “pushing the boundaries of what’s possible with technology,” Gomes says.
And truth be told, the more interesting aspect of this new feature isn’t so much the feature itself — others have done similar things before — instead, it is the technology behind it. Specifically, Gomes says Google is able to pull up these previews in less than 1/10th of a second. And they dynamically update as content changes. And Google will have them for basically every link result in their index.
And it’s not just about the preview, it’s about figuring out the words on the page being previewed as well. If you’re searching for a specific phrase, Google can find it and highlight it in these previews. This way you can get a bit more context to make sure this is the page you’re looking for.
When I asked Gomes if he thought some content publishers might be annoyed at the notion of this pre-click data, he said he didn’t think so. Instead, he thinks of Instant Previews as almost an advertisement for content sites. The Previews give a taste and draws the users in.
Again, as we’re all well aware, Google has been testing this feature out for a while now. They’ve done it both internally with all Google employees, and externally with focus groups and a small percentage of the public. The response has been very positive, Gomes says, with users feeling more satisfied with the results they end up clicking on.
How much more satisfied? 5 percent. Yes, Google measured it.
Google Instant Previews are rolling live now and will be a standard part of the Google Search experience going forward.