Known Unknowns That Affect Your Searchers and Site
Now that we’ve had Google Instant Previews for a week a little more information about how they work has come to light, but there are still some things we don’t know that will affect the experience of searchers looking for your site. It may seem laborious to keep harping on this, but if any sizable portion of your traffic comes from Google, then if affects your business. So we’re going to harp a little more.
Once you click the magnifying glass, we load previews for the other results in the background so you can flip through them without waiting.
For the geeks here at [meta]marketer, this is a little imprecise. Raj uses the word load rather than the word generate. We found this interesting and Google is remaining…let’s say…tight-lipped about how this actually works. But in the comments on a post on the Google Webmaster Central blog, a Google engineer shares this little tidbit:
we use normal crawling to create these previews (on-the-fly accessing is only used for cases where we don’t have recent, complete data from crawling)
which explains Raj’s choice of the word load. And introduces a number questions.
Bots vs Agents
Some previews will be generated by the GoogleBot and some will be generated by the Google Web Preview Agent we mentioned before. Is there a practical distinction?
Crawls and “Recent” “Complete” Data
If the previews are mostly generated when your site is crawled by the GoogleBot, there’s also a “freshness” issue with the previews.
An Example: Does This Make Me Look Flat?
How previews appear is – obviously – going to be the single most important factor for searchers, and flawed previews are likely to affect traffic volume. Just a few days ago, Apple.com’s preview looked like this:
And today it looks like this:
Rank Speculation and Recommendation
A second possible explanation is that Apple wasn’t happy with the empty preview and adapted their site implementation to render an accurate preview. If that’s what happened, it’s a good example of being responsive to major changes that affect customer experience, and that businesses who rely on Google for traffic (and customers) need to be ready to adapt to major changes quickly.