Blue Arrow for Google Instant: Good or Bad?

12 Oct 2010 | written by Luis Bonilla for the Google News section(s)

Blue Arrow for Google Instant: Good or Bad?

The Google Instant feature has been around since late August, but near the beginning of this month, a new element has emerged along with it: the blue arrow. It has already been written about by other people, so I don’t want to focus on the novelty or functionality, but rather on how this can affect the way people search.

Brief Highlights

In case you haven’t read about the blue arrow yet, here is a quick rundown:

  • The blue arrow is a feature of Google Instant; if you turn off Instant, the blue arrow won’t display.
  • The function of the blue arrow is to navigate down the search results with your keyboard’s arrow keys.
  • The blue arrow starts at the first search result.
  • As you keep clicking the down arrow on your keyboard, the blue arrow will navigate down all 10 of the organic search results and then start from the top at the sponsored links (in the right side bar).

Good or Bad?

Obviously this feature is great for those who wish to use their keyword for navigation. But one potential pitfall is that the arrow can give an unintentional (intentional?) emphasis on the first search result—causing the searcher to focus on it more than typical.

Of course, this is great news if you’re already in the number one position, but if you’re second or lower, will this possibly take away some of the traffic you would normally receive?


Also, for those search results that have a “sponsored link” at the top, above the organic search results in a pink box, the blue arrow appears there first (instead of the first search result). Seems like it gives that sponsored link a little somethin-somethin, huh?


Helpful or Unfair?

So, where does this leave us? Is the blue arrow feature big enough to cause a stink over possible results bias or is it just a small convenience that casual Google users won’t even notice? Does it give an unfair advantage to top results or sponsored links? I’d be interested to know what you think. Feel free to leave a comment below.



  • AJ Wilcox |   Oct 12th, 2010 at 8:47 am

    It seems like the Google changes always seem to have the opposite effect that I predict (ie Google instant actually not trimming the long tail), but I have to agree that it seems to be giving a little extra love to the top paid result.

    The blue arrow just made me angry. I use my keyboard arrows to scroll, and it makes it jump by result and not scroll as quickly.

  • Luis Bonilla |   Oct 12th, 2010 at 8:50 am

    Good point, A.J. I didn’t think about people using the keyboard arrow keys to scroll up and down the page. And yes, I believe that it gives a little extra attention to the top paid or first search result too.

  • Steve Watts |   Oct 12th, 2010 at 8:52 am

    When 70-80% of all SEO clicks go to the top 3 entries already, what difference is the blue arrow going to make?

    I just don’t see it as being “earth shattering.”

  • Luis Bonilla |   Oct 12th, 2010 at 8:58 am

    That’s true, Steve, but do you know the gap in percentage between the first and second search result? =)

  • Confused |   Oct 24th, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    Wow, thanks for clearing this up. I thought it:
    1) Pointed out that the #1 search result was #1
    2) Reminded you of where you just clicked

  • Luis Bonilla |   Oct 25th, 2010 at 8:10 am

    @Confused: No problem. And yes, the blue arrow isnt’ too intuitive at first, so you’re not the only one who thought those things.

  • jm |   Dec 11th, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    BAD! Oh God I hate it. Worst thing Google has done. Well, the only bad thing google has done in my eyes. And it is really, really, really frustrating

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