You Won the Battle, Lost the War
This has caused a great deal of celebration on twitter. Certainly, none of us want our data sullied, and if you need accurate pageview counts to report to advertisers, or if your site’s performance is being judged at the executive level based on bounce rate, then such a sudden change is alarming.
However, if the success of your business’s online efforts rely in any way on organic search results and your efforts utilize digital measurement for strategy and reporting, then the community demands to remove the opportunity to track Google Instant Previews is disconcerting and disappointing.
There is now no aspect of Google Instant Previews that is directly measurable, and that change was spearheaded by the analytics and digital measurement community. This is backwards. Arguing for less data around major changes by Google that impact your ability to compete on the web is short-sighted.
Google Instant Previews are functionally miniature landing pages and we need to treat them as such. This is a strategic opportunity missed, not a victory.
There’s a lot of valuable data that could come from knowing more about how searchers interact with your Google Instant Preview. What if:
- Views of the preview of a particular page double but visits only increased by 5%?
- Preview Views site-wide suddenly cut in half? What would you do? Did you just drop to page 2 for relevant search terms?
- Pages on your site don’t render well in Google Instant Preview, how will you convince your Executive and Design teams to budget for redesign if you can’t demonstrate a rough size of the exposure?
- A page that previously had negligible views of the preview suddenly started trending sharply upward? Would that signify an opportunity?
- You’re pushing for more extensive organizational adoption of digital measurement within your business? Would the ability to measure and act on high-visibility changes in the search space bolster your case?
- You could serve optimized content to the Google Web Preview Agent? It’s a user agent like any other. What if you could serve content for searchers that made previews more engaging, more relevant, and clearer?
Ultimately, Google Instant Previews will affect how searchers find you. What we need is better measurement, not less measurement. Could there have been a better implementation with more warning? Yes. Do some of these things belong in Webmaster Tools, not Google Analytics? Yes. But is removing the ability to measure previews in any fashion a resolution? No.