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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?

  • http://www.sauersconsutlting.com Ryan T. Sauers

    Frank, this is a really good post. What strikes me– is that whaever Google does, as a general statement, is deemed as being “cool and right.” My thinking– and I am one who really likes Google– is they know more about each of us than anyone except faceBook. :-) Well done here and thanks. Ryan Sauers http://www.ryansauersblog.com

  • http://www.foolsavenue.com Kate Middleton

    Hey Frank First of all i appreciate your efforts that has been pulled into this post, second, thing is that Google always out smart other big names out there in this internet business. and they do think that whatever they do is always the right thing to do and i do agree at some point that they have all the world’s data analysis and they know whats going through our minds and what would be our re-actions after the changes have been made so if one thing has been done wrong the other thing would be the right one .. Cheers if i’ve mentioned anything wrong. Kate !

  • http://www.localbasix.com Frank Reed

    Wow! Even with her busy schedule the princess still remains a dedicated MP reader and commentor. Amazing……

  • http://www.foolsavenue.com Kate

    shes Adorable :( and Yes MP is a batter place so why not Princess come to action *wink* Keep posting good stuff .. Good Luck.

  • http://www.orbitalalliance.com Simon Yohe

    Good article… I think the addition of the preview button is probably focused on accomplishing a few goals….
    1) For those that know which ones are paid ads, an opportunity to preview and now possibly click where they never would have before.
    2) For those that don’t know the difference, making paid search results more consistent with organic results look and feel to continue to keep them not realizing what they truly are.
    3) If they believe that the preview button can help increase conversion rate, and thus provide clients with more incentive to buy more ads
    4) Continue to keep google in the discussions about adwords/ppc, to help offset competition of bing/facebook ad placements.