Google Instant Previews: Opportunities to Boost Paid Search Performance


Google has started to integrate its Instant Previews feature into paid search ads.  Paid search Instant Previews function the same as natural search Instant Previews, which have appeared on the search engine results page (SERP) for the past six months.  Instant Previews display a magnifying glass next to each search result.  Searchers are able to click or hover over the magnifying glass to preview the page before clicking.  Google doesn’t count the preview as a click.  Instant Previews help searchers evaluate which result is most relevant by (1) highlighting the part of the page where the searcher’s query appears and (2) enabling searchers to see the page’s layout before they click.  Below is an example:

Instant preview 2 

Impact & Opportunity

Now that Instant Previews are available in paid search, searchers will be more likely to preview pages to find the most relevant page before they click.  We expect that paid search bounce rates will decrease as searchers will be more likely to land on pages they think are relevant.  Thus, Instant Previews will help paid search marketers run more efficient campaigns and possibly boost conversions.

But—in order to get the most out of Instant Previews—paid search marketers must focus on the user experience of their landing pages.  Think of Instant Previews as visual search.  A clearly-structured, eye-catching landing page will look more enticing in the preview to a user.  The more enticing the page looks, the more clicks the page will garner.  This means that paid search marketers should leverage best practices from landing page optimization (LPO) when thinking about how they want their pages to display in Instant Previews.  Through LPO, marketers can test which images and/or copy are most effective in driving a desired action.  Marketers now have an additional data input in optimizing landing pages: Which images and/or copy are most effective in getting searchers to click on an Instant Preview paid search ad?

Search previews are especially important on mobile devices.  In March 2011, Google rolled out natural search mobile previews; paid search mobile previews are not currently available but are likely close behind.  When users click on the mobile preview magnifying glass, they’re able to quickly scroll through the previews and choose the most relevant site.

Mobile previews 

When a mobile-optimized version of a site exists, Google will show that site in the preview. A preview for a mobile-optimized site is likely to be more enticing than a preview for a non-optimized site.

What Should Paid Search Advertisers Do Next?

As Instant Previews roll out to the paid search results, it’s important to think about visual optimization:

  • Clearly structure paid search landing pages to entice users to click.  Eliminate extraneous content that may make the page look unappealing in the preview.  If you haven’t already, build a mobile-optimized version of your site to maximize mobile preview aesthetics.
  • Consider including eye-catching images on landing pages.  These images could show in Instant Previews and aid in drawing the click, similar to how an image in a display, Facebook or YouTube ad can increase click-through.  Employ landing page optimization techniques to test which images (or copy) are most enticing.
  • Highlight key messages in legible text that can be easily read in the preview window.  Think of the preview as an extension of your paid search ad.  Preview text is another tool—in addition to the ad’s title, description, URL and sitelinks—that can be optimized to boost CTR.
  • Ensure that your onsite images are displaying properly in the preview window.  Avoid Flash and other rich content on paid search landing pages.  Flash is not currently visible in the preview window.  For instance, the below paid search preview shows a Flash page preview:

Instant preview 1 

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