Google began rolling out its latest feature today, Instant Preview. You can try it out for yourself here. A magnifying glass icon now appears to the right of the site links in the search results. The feature is activated by clicking on any one of these icons. After the first click, the user may cycle through the results using the arrow keys to see preview images of each website.
The preview images are pulled from cached versions of the site. For websites with a fairly static front page, the preview image should give a pretty good representation of what the user can expect when clicking on a given link. Sites that update frequently throughout the day, such as news sites, are more likely to display a preview image that is slightly behind. At least that seems to be the case for now.
What does this mean for SEO? If nothing else, it re-emphasizes the importance of having a well-designed front page that is aesthetically pleasing. The preview images are lower resolution than what the user would see upon visiting the site. Text and images are a bit blurred. Larger fonts are more legible in the preview, so it may help a site’s message get across better in preview if important parts of the message appear in large type that is clearly separated from the background.
Instant Preview continues Google’s trend of following the natural evolution of the internet. As the web itself has become a more visual medium over the years, it only makes sense that the engines that help users navigate it do what they can to keep pace. As for SEO, it may be a little early to gauge what the impact will be. An edge may be gained for sites that are prettier vs. a plainer site that may contain equally compelling content. As always, adjustments to search engine processing will drive changes to SEO strategies.
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