Google Testing a Feature with Major Implications for Clickthroughs

Google Might Make Web Design More Important

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Google is apparently testing a feature in its search results pages that allows users to see full-page previews of sites before they click through to them. 

Patrick Altoft at BlogStorm spotted the test, providing the screenshot below and saying, "One of the fascinating things about this is that they are highlighting certain sections of the page in orange and expanding the text to provide a snippet of information. This shows that they have the technology to know exactly where a piece of text is on every single web page. The snippets highlighted are not always the same as the snippet in the search results."

Do you think this feature will make a good site design more critical? Share your thoughts.

Page Previews from Google Search Results, Courtesy of Patrick Altoft at BlogStorm 

Image credit: Patrick Altoft at BlogStorm

It’s worth noting, as Altoft points out, that not all previews display the full page, as some longer pages are cut off at the bottom. 

While this may not be a widely released feature yet (and it’s possible that it won’t be), it’s interesting to see just how much Google has changed the search experience this year, just from the desktop. In the Spring, Google rolled out the left panel navigation. More recently, they introduced Google Instant. Those are the major changes, though there have been other smaller ones sprinkled in among them.

That doesn’t include the ways Google is changing the way we search on mobile devices with things like Voice Search and Google Goggles (not to mention Google TV). 

If the preview feature goes on to become a full-fledged feature, I’m going to have to consider that a major one. This could dramatically affect clickthroughs, for better or for worse. We’ll really get to see how big a part web design plays in conversions at that point. It’s conceivable that consumers will be drawn even more to well-known brands and familiar layouts. 

Late last year, Google released a tool called Browser Size that shows you how others view your site. More specifically, it shows you the percentages of people that will see certain portions of your site without having to scroll. This shouldn’t really have much affect on the full-page previews in SERPs, but it can come in handy for when the user clicks through.

We’ve reached out to Google for more information on the preview feature. We’ll update when we get more info. 

Update: Google gave us the classic response: "At any given time we are running between 50-200 search experiments. You can learn more on our blog."

Are you concerned about what the feature will do to your clickthroughs? Comment here

Google Testing a Feature with Major Implications for Clickthroughs
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  • Guest

    Once again Google doing everything they can to keep the users on their side. They did the same with images. Websites can only make money on pageviews.

    I find it fascinating that a company who’s sole mission is to get people to other destinations does everything in their power to limit it as much as possible.

    • Chris Crum

      Depending on how information is presented on a site, it could help drive clickthroughs though, no?

  • http://www.moxby.org.uk mOxby Design (Martin Oxby)

    I think this will help drive design and quality content even further. Google seem to be messing with the mind more than they ought – they keep changing things really obviously and although the message to people is ‘consistency’, Google consistently make things difficult to understand in order to effectively implement strategies.

    On the up side, this should increase the chances of an improved conversion rate as all of a sudden you are only likely to get the visitors who are genuinely interested in your products or services. But then who wouldn’t mind fewer click-throughs for increased conversions?

    We will just have to see whether they do this or not, but Google are clearly doing their hardest to fend off the increasing search % of the Bing-Yahoo alliance. As to whether this is in users’ best interests or not we shall see.

  • Guest


    It certainly cuts both ways. Will it be a “teaser” type of thing or is the mission to use the technology to deliver information to people without ever having to leave google? Only time will tell.

    Regardless, I’m sure it’s justified – all in the name of a “better user experience”

    pardon the cynicism –

  • http://www.w7b.org Abhik

    That’s certainly a nice addition from Google.
    They are going to increase the importance of quality content once again.

  • Guest

    Google thinks they are making Google useful. They are making it annoying as hell! Meantime Yahoo is uglier but has more relevant search results. I read the news today of Xenforo, the new forum software developed by original makers of Vbulletin, and vbulletin users are defecting to them in mass. That’s exactly what is going to happen to Google within 3 years. They don’t have the eyes on the ball anymore. All I read is bad news about them.

  • Guest

    NO. Please just give us the information we are looking for. Just takes up more real estate on the page.

  • Chris

    As a designer, I put in lots of time and effort to design a site for a client as well as all the other main elements such as SEO capability, correct code etc.. People are visual creatures and if they see something they like they will look at it. As long as the webmasters have done their jobs correctly hopefully the viewer will actually stay on those sites and navigate their pages.

    It is often the case that you get top rankings for sites that have keyword stuffed or linked illegally and this way you can see the site first (generally they tend not to focus on design as much as being found) and make an on the spot decision as to if you want to visit or not.. That could work badly for some websites with great content but bad design tho..

    At least it will increase the need for more professionally designed sites out there!

    • Guest

      As long as it is not shoved in out faces and allows us the option to enable or disable then I do not see a problem. The more options we have the better we can make of what is supplied to us.

      Options people options.

      • Chris Crum

        Good point about an option to turn it off. Google Instant has this.

  • http://www.snerdey.com Snerdey

    I’d hope that not only that it shows you content of the site before clicking. But, while your at it big brother can you advise not to click if it’s a virus site?

    By the way.. why are you indexing sites that have viruses? I mean, it’s not like you can’t tell already so why not use a virusbox to hold a site in that may not be aware of the attack.

    Guess I’d like to see them work more towards protecting surfers while on their servers…

    Happy Days!

  • http://www.nice-layouts.com Mr. Nice

    I think this is a new beginning in web design and site promotion.
    From now on, attractive web design + good quality and relevant content + a smart site architecture will be the key for a REAL online business.

  • http://kercommunications.com Ker Internet Marketing in Pittsburgh

    This may help to overcome the thousands of garbage sites that have worked their way to the top of the search results by keyword stuffing and buying links, then you get to the site to find nothing but keyword gibberish. Of course, now those sites could just put a nice big picture above the fold to make it look nice. I would love to see sites with good design and useful information get the recognition they deserve.
    That’s my design/marketing opinion. My opinion as a user is that I don’t think I will like it. I prefer simple, to the point lists with accurate descriptions. Of course, as it is now, you usually don’t find the best site on the first results page because that page is often full of sites that had the money or spare time to fudge the results.

  • http://www.sitebyjames.com/ James

    No… I don’t think it will make it more “important” as it’s always been “important”, but I think it will have a major effect on the way people perceive the value of design.

    If there are any major consquences, it might be a step towards better understanding which websites make it to the top. Whether they are cookie cutter templated designs. Or custom brands with a focus on content.

    If anything, I think it’s going to make what is already happening much more apparent to others.

    I think it could be a good move on Google’s part, so long as they have an off switch for people who don’t want to clutter up their search.

  • http://www.admain.net AdMain

    IMO, one of the things that I started to use google for years ago, was it’s clean quick layout. All the other engines where full of banners, button and other bits of useless advertising that just plain annoyed.

    Google, at the time was fresh and clean. You got your natural results, and then you had your paid results.

    All these changes are moving away from the simplicity that made google good. All the new alterations are just plain annoying.

    They are lucky at this time that there is no plain and simple search engine available, otherwise, myself, and quite a few people i’ve had the conversation with would defect from having google as their prefered method of search.

    Maybe they should have options as to if you want to search “Google Classic” or “Google Modern”.

    • http://thevegetariancenter.com Guest

      I agree that the option of “Classic” or “Modern” is a good one or even the “on/off” button as mentioned before. I am a person who enjoys change, however, when the formula is working (and the ease of Google is brilliant in its simplicity) then changes should be made with options.

  • http://www.b-seenontop.com/ Donna

    I too would want the option to turn it off. I like the ability today to scan the brief (150 character) descriptions displayed below the top ten links to see which one appears to be the best match for my needs. I think having to review previews would slow the decision process down.

  • Guest

    I actually like Google instant, I like their image search and I think, as long as I’m at a computer with high-speed internet, the new preview feature would be cool. And if I’m looking for a certain website without knowing the name, only the look and content, it would be helpful. For me, their search has been more accurate than yahoo’s for a long time, even with the extra “stuff” some people don’t like and their layout is still cleaner/simpler than any other SE. As long as they have an off option, I don’t see what the problem is.

  • http://marketingautomotive.net Andrew Brinkworth

    If this goes through then bounce rate should instantly drop to 0%. I’ve always had a love hate relationship with this analytic. But the question I have is will Google begin altering its search results if too many people view a preview but don’t click through?

    • http://www.benewords.com Carol Frome

      Good point, Andrew.

  • http://www.NightOwlReviews.com Tammie King – Night Owl Reviews

    I like being able to get a visual of the site I’m going to prior to clicking on the link. I think this will help me search faster for quality designed sites. Part of the experience is the design. It’s like going from black and white to color.

  • Guest

    I have kids that search, even with the filters in place there are still inappropriate sites that come up. For the most part, my kids (and me) will not click on the sites that come up that look obvious to what their subject matter is, but now they will get a visual preview. Also, as we know sex sells, so makers of those sites will just make sure their page preview (home page) has the right (wrong) picture in plain view.

    Same subject, another question, then does making sure your site fits to one page and not need be scrolled become important? Will google pickup inner page views for such things as product pages?

    Site design has always been important so this should not change things.

  • http://www.anythingbutcoffee.com Randy

    Let’s not forget that this feature, along with the left side navigation, the Twitter feed integration and even Google’s new image search layout has already been done by Bing months prior to Google ever releasing these features.

    Seems as if Google’s strategy now is just to sit back and copy what works with Bing and then use their 70%+ market share influence to hope they come out on top.

  • Guest

    What if your site is an adsense site and someone hovers over the image and sees all the ads at the top of the page? wouldn’t that discourage the searcher to click over to your site and decrease adsense publisher commissions? Google loses money as well. Also I think these images are distracting enough for the google searcher to perhaps opt for clicking on the adwords ads rather than the organic results. I bet this test of theirs a increases clicks for the PPC advertisers, which is where they make all their money and what they really want you to do….

  • http://www.webprofast.com Steve Pro

    I’ve long had a Firefox extension installed that show thumbnails… I started ignoring them after a while. Then I uninstalled it. If Google just knew how much (Great) information I’ve found on ugly websites. Perhaps I wouldn’t have visited that site had I seen a preview? It could leave a lot of sites out in the cold that have great technical content, but crappy designs. Of course it might make more work for me, as I’m a web designer!

  • John H.

    Taking a snapshot of the page, displaying it fully at Google’s site, highlighting sentences and paragraphs in it, in addition to the current snippets from the page … wouldn’t all that be infringement on the site owner rights?

    Imagine that happening with a magazine … another company scanning the issue pages, and displaying them to their users.

    Several posts mentioned that users/searchers should be given the option to disable this feature. What about site owners? Will they be given the option to disallow Google from taking/displaying this snapshot?

  • http://www.SolicitorsInBournemouth.com Boyd Butler

    It’s copying Bing. It’s a nice option to see what you are going to be clicking on to.
    Google with Instant is about reducing key strokes. Preview reduces clicks. The only
    problem is that TV style sites i..e Video will be more attractive to most people..(because
    people have big TV’s but small libraries).

    My thoughts are that with Google TV/YouTube and now preview, VIDEO is even more important because people will favour video based sites.

  • http://www.realitist.com Bob

    There is nothing new in this, meta and clone search engines have enhanced their results for years with Preview, MaxPreview, Close Preview and/or Thumbshots as well. What is disgusting is Bing and Yahoo scrapping off their leach friends by shutting down feeds from AltavVsta and AllTheWeb so many third tier search engines depend upon for search results.

  • http://str82u.co Str82u

    Who was it, Bing? They still show snippets from the page and that doesn’t help as much because it’s a mouseover that activates the description. I don’t know if this is going to get used by Google but if they are testing it you can be sure it’s a feature to boost their click rate. I’m not throwing rocks, but they’re web designers too.

    Another thing to note is that if our pages are designed for getting users to do certain things when they get there, a clear page layout and call-to-action should work in thumbnail format as well if the users see what could be their answer in your thumbnail. All those crammed together and impossible to read at 100% sites that get in front of me in SERPs will hopefully get less clicks and drive traffic to us, but I won’t hold my breath until it can be seen in action. As mentioned above about Bing, they aren’t displaying thumbnails anymore and those snippets don’t appear without a mouseover of the trigger ( the little > to the right of results).

    The Answer to the Question: “Are you concerned about click throughs changing?”, Concerned, NO. Optimistic. If the user can see some of our sites, the well thought out, clean layouts with clear directions, we’ll be expecting a higher CTR.

    • http://www.zingseo.com David

      I can see that this could become annoying, how much content should a search engine be providing? What happens if i just want the old type of search where I decide where i want to go? The problem with htis sort of thing is that it crams the page and it gets a little like having pop-ups all over the place.

      However it reinforces that web design, calls to action etc are really imprtant. We are primarily an SEO company and the amount of clients we have who have atrocious websites with little or no call to action is amazing. As I say to clients ‘we can help get people to your website but you need to make sure that when they get there what you want them to do is easy’. This will be even more important if this new function happens.

  • http://www.sixthsensemarketing.com.au/ Brad

    I really dont feel that Google should offer this in their search results. It is going to disadvantage those that dont spend more dollars on site design to get traffic! This contradicts their search algo of relevance Vs design!

  • Vincent

    I just read this article on my iphone on my snowboard holiday, i really like the new google stuff!


    Vince dude form a white Snowboarding world


  • http://www.5starcar.co.uk malik tahir

    AWESOME!!! Google is improving its search results…

    I am amazed to see the complete websites preview at the right side… Thanks for the update

  • http://www.weballways.com Radha

    Let’s See the Result that what exactly make the difference….!

  • http://www.replica-sunglasses.co.uk/ Lisa

    Yeah its good, but won’t it be disturbing? And i think google shouldn’t experiment too much.

  • http://www.bkzs.tk ??

    First I pro.Thus we can see the outline which our mouse is on,so that we can avoid click the site
    that is unsuited to us or cheat us to click.And we can save a lot of time.
    However,will the speed of the seaching result be much longger than before,which I don’t want to see.

  • http://armanihair.com/blog/ jcon

    Im curious how this will effect a virus. Can they pass through a virus to your computer through this feature?

  • zs1otb

    Somebody already commented that with Firefox and as add-on called Surf-Canyon have been in use for a long time. This feature give you a preview of the site being moused-over.

    Sometimes it is nice to have, but other times it is a schlep. However, I think this will have a negative affect on the pay-per click ads on web-pages as a person would quickly scan through the presented page and go to the next without actually opening the page, thus by-passing the ppc ads.

    I have a feeling that Google is getting to the point where the will become so entwined in themselves that they will start rotting from the inside and another search engine will take over as the leading one….

  • Tonita

    I think that if it gets off the ground many websites will cut the blurb and increase the quality of their graphic content. Why expect people to read what they can just look at?

  • http://www.internetmarketingrocket.com Mark

    With Google Instant, it just goes to show how important it is to optimize every page of your website with relevant keywords in your content and descriptions…

    Great post

  • http://briarpatchgiftshop.com Joe

    This new feature full page previews in search results makes site speed critical. Site speed has now become more important then ever. I think there will have to be a site speed cut off point in order to make this feature work. This is one new feature that takes site speed to a critical level if you want your site to show up.

  • http://ResistanceTrainingWorkout.com Ex-AdWords Advertiser

    Great, one more thing popping up in our faces. Google only does what’s good for Google, never for the end user.

    It blows my mind that AdWords advertisers aren’t allowed to have any popups on their target pages. Google says “it’s a bad advertising experience” for the visitor. But it’s ok to for Google to popup image previews and now web page previews? And THAT’S not annoying to their users?

  • Rod

    If it aint broke why fix it?

  • http://www.elsonconsulting.co.uk Killer Marketing Tactics

    I’m fed up of seeing crappy websites, stuffed with keywords getting away with stealing valuable traffic from reputable websites. At last this could see the end of many spammy sites on the internet, Hurrah!

  • http://www.myseojourney.com Rajeesh Nair

    Yes, It will definitely make the web design of a website an important factor now. The clickthrough rate would obviously depend partly on the site design as people will be more likely to click on the sites with good appealing design..

    But still need to look at the feature live to analyze its outcomes.. As how the screenshot or preview is going to show up. If its at will or on mouse over etc…

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