I was checking out Google Instant Previews – Google is now testing displaying images of web pages listed in SERPs to give users a preview so they don’t have to waste a click “pogosticking”, as Danny Sullivan calls it in his overview of the service. Of course, my first reaction was “what are the SEO implications?”

The service doesn’t appear to be fully baked yet, so take this with a grain of salt, but it appears that there may be a simple way to influence what gets displayed.

IMO the most significant feature of Instant Previews are the “Call Outs” – text that GOOG extracts from the page and shows enlarged on the thumbnail preview. See the screenshot below for the call out that appears for my blog when shows up for “local seo”:

It appears that the Call Out is using the first instance of “local seo” that appears on the page after the section of the code. So understanding what your top keywords are and optimizing that first set of text to display the right message for the Call Out could be an area ripe with opportunity.

But you can’t optimize this text for every possible query so let’s see what happens with the case of a keyword that is not “primary” for you. Check out what happens when I show up for “google local seo”:

In this case the Call Out found the first instance of the first two words in the query – “Google” & “Local” – that were in proximity to the third word “SEO”.

Understanding how to craft content that clusters these terms together in a way that explains the benefits of your service could make a difference.

These kinds of concepts are nothing new to SEO copywriters, but with Instant Previews, we now have yet another chance to use Google’s algorithm either to gain attention or to lose it.

BTW I wouldn’t be surprised if at some point GOOG releases a tag or microformat that allows sites to suggest what they want to show as their default call-out.

Here’s a link to a test version of the service if you want to check it out.

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10 Response Comments

  • John  November 9, 2010 at 12:30 pm

    This is… this is really awesome. I haven’t even started to think of the SEO implications beyond wanting to go check all of my call out phrases, but it seems like this would be incredibly useful for searching. If this catches on, it could really devastate some junk competitors, especially when combined with search result CTRs…

  • Stever  November 9, 2010 at 1:09 pm

    CTRs across the board may plumet. But I also suspect this could be highly detrimental to PPC ads. If it is G will drop this experiment like a very hot potato.

  • Andrew Shotland  November 9, 2010 at 1:16 pm

    Or they may start showing ads in the preview 😉

  • Jason  November 9, 2010 at 11:34 pm

    I don’t know if I like this idea or not probably not where would the SEO factors be? People are just gonna click on the prettiest website that may not be the most relevant.

    I hope there is a lot more to it than pictures etc… At least some SEO has to come into play.

  • Andrew Shotland  November 9, 2010 at 11:36 pm

    Jason, pretty pictures may make a difference, but my take is that the call-outs are much more important.

  • Dennis  November 11, 2010 at 7:16 am

    Where are these actual “callouts” coming form?

    Meta Description?

  • Andrew Shotland  November 11, 2010 at 7:56 am


    Uh, read the post.

  • Dennis  November 11, 2010 at 8:03 am

    I guess I just got ahead of myself, thanks Andrew for bringing me back to earth…:)

  • Myles  November 11, 2010 at 2:16 pm

    What i find strange about this change in UI is how messy it makes the search experience. G built it’s reputation on simplicity and focus. These changes may make the search experience more dynamic but they also introduce a lot of clutter onto the screen.

    Take a typical local search – you now have a scrolling map and instant previews popping up. It feels too busy with too many competing elements vying for my attention. Also the previews cover up the map and they both obscure the paid-ads.

    I don’t feel that anyone (Google or searchers) wins with this experience.

  • Everett S.  November 11, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    It only shows up when they take a snippet. It doesn’t show up if they use your meta description.