About a month ago Google launched the ‘Instant Google‘ feature which rendered the ‘Search’-button kind of obsolete. While the ‘Instant Google’ feature might be highly interesting from an unfair competition law point of view (results are being shown already while the user is searching and thus users may be especially vulnerable for distractions etc.) the implications of the new ‘Instant Preview‘-feature onto currently ongoing TM-disputes should be considered.
The ‘Instant Previews’-feature enables users to see -after clicking on the magnifying glass besides the title of the search result- a preview (Google calls it a ‘image based snapshot‘) of the search result whilst remaining on the SERP (Search Engine Result Page). There is a also YouTube-Video available in the respective Google blog post.
The most interesting aspect of this feature lies in the fact that the ‘Instant Preview’ function is however not available for ads. One might wonder why. Most probably there is no technical reason for that as the websites of the advertisers will be crawled in the same way as any other website on the internet.
Google has always stressed that is does no or only very little investigation into the websites an advertisement (short: ad) is linked to avoid liability (Art 14 of the eCommerce Directive 2000/31/EC). Such limited investigations are carried out by Google to check if the linked website fulfils basic criteria which are laid out in Adwords’ Advertising Policies (e.g. the back button has to be working properly; the price of a product has to be displayed in a clear&proper manner; there are certain goods and services Google won’t accept advertisements for: e.g. certain kinds of online dating services) The offering a snapshot of the linked websites would for sure inspire lawyers to talk technically less experienced judges into believing that Google is aware of the existence of any (infringing/illegal) content.
Advertising Revenue Argument
Another reason could be that this would (at least on the short run) decrease the number of clicks and thus would decrease advertising revenue. Although this argument sounds reasonable at first sight I don’t think that this is the reason, as Google already in the past has paid a lot of attention to ‘user experience’. So for example if ad A creates an advertising-revenue for Google of 0,25 EUR per click but is only clicked on by 3 out of 1000 users, ad B which only creates 0,10 EUR per click will be placed (ranked) above ad A if e.g. 50 out of 1000 users click on ad B. (This is generally referred to as the Adwords Quality Score) The reason for this is simple, the less relevant users find the ads displayed next to the search results, the less likely they are to click onto an ad again. Thus Google needs to leverage between short- and long term revenues. What happens if users find the ads generally irrelevant is usually referred to as ‘banner blindness‘, meaning that although the user’s brain will notice the existence the of the ad, the brain will solely focus on the area the search results are located and will thus block out any information stemming from the area in which the brain expects the ad (For more information: The Inattentional Blindness Theory)
One very interesting aspect was pointed out to my be a reader is that the preview-picture is placed above the side-ad which could lead not only to a certain decrease in clicks on side ads but also to fiercer competition for top-ranking.
These are the two not overly convincing arguments the author could come up with. Thus he’d be delighted to hear his readers opinion on this matter.PS: I hope this will be Google’s LAST layout change before the final submission of my thesis… 😉 Hint: ‘Infinite Scroll‘ might already be on its way…