Do Google Previews for Paid Search Really Mean Anything?
I have to admit that I am Google’s worst nightmare. I am the searcher who rarely if ever clicks on a paid search ad. I am a total Google freeloader. I doubt I am alone but I also doubt I am in any majority considering the gobs of profit that Google generates each quarter. In other words, they aren’t being hurt by my search habits.
So not being a paid search user I was intrigued by the introduction of instant previews for paid ads that Google announced earlier this week. Instant previews for organic results have been around for several months now but the paid side is a new and curious development.
Initially I wondered why in the world Google would do that since it takes a lot of the impulse out of clicking on an ad thus potentially reducing the amount of clicks and possibly hurting revenue. You might think that advertisers might celebrate because now searchers will click only because they have been impressed by the preview of the page they will be going to and thus more prepared to convert.
In the end, though, I don’t think it will change much about how people behave with regard to paid ads and here’s why. Most searchers are extremely unsophisticated and many still don’t even know that paid ads are actually what they are. They just see it as a result. They just click because they are interested in fulfilling their search need and the tech side of any of this is of literally no interest. I am willing to bet that much of Google’s paid search revenue hinges on the unsophisticated user.
By adding this feature they are actually addressing people like myself who may actually use the preview feature and explore paid search more. You see, the feature isn’t a true mouse over function so the ‘instant’ description is a bit misleading. Unless you click on the little magnifying glass icon next to the ad or in the organic results you’re never going to even see a preview. SO much for it being instant, huh? Those who activate the preview function are being intentional because they want more information while those who click it by accident are probably going to find it intrusive and getting in the way of their impulsive clicking nature.
If Google REALLY wanted the masses to use the function they would have put the words “Click to Preview Site” or something instead of a non-desrcript icon that many will ignore or simply not know what it is thus never clicking on it. People who are not tech inclined mean more direction to take an action and an icon is literally no direction at all.
So while marketers are likely to start wringing their hands about landing page quality in the age of the “instant” preview, I doubt there is much to worry about at least until the general population becomes as tech savvy as the tech set. That’s a ways off if you really think about it so getting in a tizzy today about something that is more of an experiment and PR move is maybe not the best use of a marketer’s efforts.
What are your impressions of Google’s “instant” preview for paid search? Is it some altruistic move to truly improve the quality of the search experience or is it a lot more safe because Google can say that people have the options to delve deeper while knowing full well that most won’t because they don’t want to be bothered?
Or how about this one you conspiracy theorists among MP readers. What if Google is putting all of this “stuff” in the search results to keep the government regulators at bay? Now they can say “Hey, we give our users every chance to make a good decision (if they even know the option exists! wink, wink, nod, nod)”
What’s your take?