Nearly 12 months since Facebook launched Instant Articles, Google have jumped two-footed into the arena with a beta of their own instant content feature.
The feature is still yet-to-be-named, though at this stage Podium is looking pretty-darn-likely.
Google’s description of the feature as a “podium” is maybe deceptively modest. What they’re actually planning to do is publish users’ content directly within search results.
Here’s what it is.
Full articles – up to 14,400 words and 10 images or videos – from publishers lucky enough to be invited to the beta are already appearing instantly in some search results.
The content appears in a prominent new area of search results that expands to a large “teaser” preview and then (strangely) expands again to the full article.
In the words of The SEM Post’s Jennifer Slegg, the content will be “essentially live and active” in Google’s search results for just seven days. After that time, although it will cease to appear in search results, it will still be accessible by link.
This limited shelf-life might give us some insight into the kinds of publishers Google hopes will take up the feature: news and current affair publishers, politicians and well-known brands.
But it looks like the big winner could be in entertainment: TV series and networks seem to appear prominently in the beta so far.
Although the feature is in beta, we’ve yet to see any posts in search results. Google do have a dedicated landing page offering a modest amount of information:
Should we be getting excited?
While Facebook sold its Instant Articles on the promise of a faster and cleaner experience for users (read: Facebook thinks their site is better than yours – though several studies seem to confirm their claims about speed, at least), Google have what we at Kwasi would agree is a stronger carrot to dangle in front of publishers: far better visibility in search results.
At least – for the actual content that’s posted directly to Google.
There’s little indication at this stage whether articles posted on Google will lead to – what everyone must surely be hoping for – some positive effect on rankings overall, or even some increase in web traffic at all (this Business Insider story about Facebook’s Instant Articles suggests that things may bode well).
Although Google hasn’t said much of anything to anybody whose name doesn’t rhyme with Fall Street Journal, it does appear that the feature is not the same as the AMP (Accelerated Mobile Pages) that started rolling out in February, is in an experimental phase and is invite-only.
So if you haven’t had a knock on the door from Google just yet, you can always stick your name on the wait list, cross your fingers and join us for some wild speculation.
Will Google’s Instant Articles-ish feature be a good thing for content publishers, or is it just another way for users not to visit our pages? Let us know what you think.
Image of podium: “Presidential Podium” by Gage Skidmore is used under CC BY-SA 2.0. “Wall Street Journal + Ogilvy = Social Media Seminars” by Ogilvy PR is used under CC BY 2.0