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New Instant Preview Overshadows Side Ads

by David Tittle

David: Recently, my colleague Evan and I noticed an update in Google’s instant preview.  While it is a more user-friendly design, this new change has the potential to greatly devalue pay-per-click ads.  Before we get into that, let’s have a review.

Evan: Long ago, on November 9th 2010, Google rolled out the Instant Preview feature.


Evan: It was relatively well received, although no usability studies have been released.  Over time we’ve grown accustomed to its existence. It’s a feeling akin to the complacency that befalls all Facebook users 36 hours after a major change.  And, as with all things web, it evolves.

David: Which brings us to the meat of this post.


David: The average user might not notice it at first glance.  A roll-over instead of a click.  A frame instead of a pseudo pop-up.  While Google has made slight changes to interaction, the content stays the same.

Evan: Yeah. We we’re relatively underwhelmed at first too.  Until we took a closer look at the side ads.


Evan: Now, the instant preview completely covers the side ads. That’s kind of a big deal, especially since you no longer have to click. A simple rollover will suffice. (Say that in your most British accent and someone will bring you a bearclaw. Kid you not, 2% of the time, it works 100% of the time.)

David: Mmm, yes (monocle).  One thing is for sure: any ads that fall prey to the massive roll-over will be viewable 0% of the time.  Bad for pay-per-click; good for SEO (our account managers are standing by).  One more important thing to note, the side ads — which previously had instant preview — no longer have preview images.  Another downer for those who invest heavily in their PPC campaigns.

David: Another interesting development is that indented site link results now have previews as well.


David: This seems like a double whammy, when you combine the push-down factor of these with side-ad-squelching previews.  Any result with site links will pretty much dominate the page.

Evan: Instant preview for PPC ads is nothing new, but the new styling makes the PPC ads look even more like the organic results below them.


David: The user interface also experienced a makeover.  As you can see from the previous shots, the top ads have a yellow margin to match the yellow background for paid ads.  The preview for organic had a more dramatic change.


David: The preview no longer turns the results margin blue, but turns the roll over margin grey.  The image and location of each preview remains in the same position, regardless of scroll-position.  There is also a small X located at the top-right of the roll-over, so you can close it.  A bit pointless, when it is…a roll-over…(just roll off).

Evan: We’re also confused by the lack of a +1 button. With the new Google+ platform, the +1 button was becoming more important than ever. It’s likely the +1 button will return in newer tests of this feature.

Your key take-aways from this post:

  • You no longer have to click to see the instant preview.
  • The preview image covers the pay-per-click side ads.
  • There are no preview images for any of the side ads.
  • Indented site links now have a preview.
  • New UI coloring; a grayish/black scheme.
  • The +1 button is gone.
  • And of course, the preview is just bigger (because size matters).

The new version of preview is still in the testing phases so it may never see the light of everyone’s LCD screens.  Overall, we like the change.  The reaction to this?  We’ll have to save that for a future post.

Well, that’s it for this post.  Thanks for tuning in. Make sure to provide us some feedback in the comment section below.  What do you think of the user interface update?  How will this affect PPC campaigns?

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