Blue Arrows Hit Google Instant

Did you notice the blue arrow that’s showing next to the first result in Google’s listings? It’s part of the new keyboard navigation system that rolled out for Google Instant this week.

A reader contacted us about the arrow that he started seeing, and that caused me to see them for the first time myself. Maybe they’ve been there for me since Google’s announcement earlier this week, and I didn’t notice. Maybe it’s part of a wider rollout (I’m checking). But here’s a closer look.

Notice how in a search below, there’s a blue arrow next to the first listing:

The blue arrow, or blue delta, can be moved using your keyboard arrow or navigation keys. Below, you can see how I’ve “arrowed” my way down to the third listing in another search:

The arrow will also appear pointing at ads that are listed, if they’re the first thing on the page:

Blue arrows don’t appear next to OneBox-style listings:

It feels sort of strange to me. Google Instant already focuses so much attention on whatever is at the top of the page that this seems like overkill. But with Google pushing the keyboard navigation option, having some type of marker to help you know where you are in the page makes sense.

Postscript: Google tells me the arrow has been there since earlier this week. I guess I’m just noticing it now finally, along with other people. Also as Webconnoisseur says in the comments below, holding down the enter key will also automatically click and take you to the arrowed results.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Google: Instant | Google: User Interface | Google: Web Search | Top News


About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

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  • Duane Forrester

    I think they might be overthinking things a bit here.

    Do THAT many people (real people, not search people) use keyboards over the scroll wheel on a mouse?

    Seems to me like a bid to change user behaviour, which while admirable, is one heck of a long-term play.

    This one has me scratching my head wondering why, but perhaps time will teach me the logic…

  • The Zombie

    Yes… I hate lifting my hand after typing the search word and clicking the link I want to explore….

    Google is evil… given the fact that it makes such awesome products and makes us lazy and lethargic… :)

  • iamdavidboyd

    Hey Danny

    When you scroll with the arrow keys you can press enter when it’s pointing to the page you want and then it will navigate to that page.


  • George Michie

    It will be interesting to monitor this effect. Google Instant didn’t show a huge impact on paid search as I wrote earlier this week, but I could see this tweak biasing the data, at least in the short run while people figure out what’s going on. Watch for traffic spikes for Ads in position 1.


  • webconnoisseur

    It actually has a greater impact than you may realize. Holding down enter or clicking enter after your search automatically selects the first result. Full explanation here:

  • Slavik V

    webconnoisseur, I agree, power users are more likely to hit “enter” twice to go directly to the first result – this will increase ratio of clicks on PPC ad vs. natural.
    But I don’t see other people, who are having a hard time adopting Ctrl+C shortcut, using this feature.

  • webconnoisseur

    @Slavik – actually, I see the non-power users more likely to hit enter twice or hold it for 1-2 seconds out of being impatient or not understanding that you don’t need to double-click (as you do with a mouse).

    I agree that few people will be using down arrows to navigate search (even power users), but the auto click of the first result if you hit return probably has a much larger impact on people who had no intention of choosing a result.

  • Duane Forrester

    …and I wonder if Google will factor this into the CTR values applied to ranking results? If clicks are higher on the first result due to this, will then organic result sbe skewed to support websites that ordinarily might trend downward sin rankings due to lower CTRs?

    yep, interesting stuff – watch and see… :)

  • webconnoisseur

    Good point Duane. Simple UI changes can certainly affect click behavior (even if unintentional), which creates false input into the click behavior portion of their natural & paid algorithms.

  • deepripples

    Interesting! Bouncing around, I’m getting the blue arrow on the first result, but what’s odd is its usually a sponsored position. Not really sure what the point is, although if this doesn’t raise their CTR for top paid position, google will have to resort to writing ads in blinking text ;) (and maybe adding a dancing silhouette).

  • jsilton

    I believe Google developed the blue arrows to help users on TVs to navigate easily using keyboard shortcuts. The blue arrow does have some implications for paid search and other search developments like previews. I wrote a post about this on my blog:

  • fdhill

    Why? I am sure there is a reason for it but I cannot see it. If its as annoying as instant then I think I might be moving to Bing. How about that Duane….Google has finally annoyed me enough to push me to Bing.

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