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Google Instant Preview and Analytics

Google’s Instant Preview, which lets you see a preview of the page you’re going to click through to, has been in testing for some time now and was finally rolled out to the world on November 9th. For those of you who haven’t seen it in action before, here’s Google’s own video demonstrating it.

I played around with Instant Preview a little over the last couple of days, and while it looks nice on the page I haven’t found it particularly useful yet. I’ve a feeling it will work well for certain types of search, obviously anything specifically visual related, maybe shopping for product you know already. The level of detail offered in the Instant Preview certainly isn’t sufficent to decide whether or not the content of a given page is useful, so it seems to be trying to promote “good looking” web pages.

Time will tell I guess, but what effect is Instant Preview having on your website right now? For us, you can see from the Analytics screenshot below that over the last couple of days, as more and more people hear about the product, there has been a small spike in what I thought was “weird us traffic”.

Traffic from Google Instant Preview

The traffic can be identified as having a source of (direct) and a medium of (none) in your own Analytics. It’s normal to expect a certain amount of this traffic from all over the globe that Analytics essentially can’t identify, but only our US (direct) (none) traffic has experienced this particular spike.

Normally a little extra traffic would be more than welcome, but in this case I think Google is doing something wrong. It seems like every person who uses Instant Preview is being counted as a visitor to our site, whether they click through or not. Judging from the 91.92% bounce rate of the traffic in question yesterday, this is not a good thing!

Bounce Rate for Google Instant Preview Traffic

The bounce rates above are only for this (direct) (none) traffic from the US, which wouldn’t be a problem if it were just the usual handful of visitors a day, not now that it’s heading towards several hundred with a bounce rate heading towards 100% it could start to have negative effect on the site overall. We work hard to keep our pages’ load times and bounce rates down, knowing that Google takes both into account when ranking pages.

Hopefully this is just an oversight on Google’s part which will be rectified soon, but in the meantime watch out for “weird us traffic” to your site with an abnormally high bounce rate. Let us know in the comments if you’ve experienced it too.

UPDATE 15 NOVEMBER

The UA we are seeing in our web server logs is 5.0+(en-us)+AppleWebKit/525.13+(KHTML,+like+Gecko;+Google+Web+Preview)+Version/3.1+Safari/525.13

UPDATE 23 NOVEMBER

It looks like Google have gotten around to fixing this problem now. We’ve seen the strange traffic fall off today on our Analytics, and Google have just posted this update to their Analytics blog: http://analytics.blogspot.com/2010/11/instant-preview-issue-resolved.html

2 Responses to “Google Instant Preview and Analytics”

  1. John Mueller says:

    Hey Philip, thanks for bringing this up. I’ll check with the Google Analytics and Instant Previews teams to see what might be happening here.

  2. Caelen says:

    Hi John

    The UA is
    5.0+(en-us)+AppleWebKit/525.13+(KHTML,+like+Gecko;+Google+Web+Preview)+Version/3.1+Safari/525.13

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