Why is Google Showing a Blue Arrow In Search Results?

Update / Answer: The single blue arrow next to Google search results is used for keyboard navigation. Try moving your arrow keys up and down. Thanks Ahmad P. for the answer. For more info read the comments at the bottom of this post.

Google must be up to their testing again. I thought my eyes were playing a trick at me at first, then thought maybe I had installed a new plugin in Firefox and that was causing it. But after testing several different search terms with several different browsers including Firefox, Internet Explorer and Chrome; Google was indeed showing a single blue arrow there next to one of the search results on each page for nearly every search query I tried.

blue arrow next to google search results

Which result the arrow pointed at did seem to be somewhat random, but I’m sure nothing Google does is random. For instance one time I searched for “SEO Blog” and it showed a blue arrow pointing at the second listing which was SEOmoz.org. A bit later I tried and the same search with a different browser and it showed the arrow next to the first listing which was Wolf-Howl.com.

I searched all over the web and couldn’t find any information about the mysterious Google blue arrow typically found next to the first result. Perhaps we’ll learn something about it tomorrow…

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  • September 30th, 2010 at 10:50 pm Ahmad P. said:

    The blue arrow will appear if you have Google Instant Search enabled. It is meant for use with keyboard navigation (up and down arrows) to provide a visual indication of which SERP result you want to visit. (Try moving your arrow keys up and down, and the arrow will move accordingly).

  • September 30th, 2010 at 10:58 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Ahh… Yep, it does move up and down. Thanks for clearing that up, Ahmad!

  • October 1st, 2010 at 2:31 am keks said:

    Yes that’s it.
    It is there for me too and I’ve never seen it before.

    Try pressing enter and your redirected to the website.

    What are the other keyboard shortcuts ?

  • October 1st, 2010 at 7:44 am Brian MacDonald said:

    We got a quick video of the Google keyboard navigation in action. Interesting that you can’t use the right/left arrows to get to the paid results in the sidebar. http://bprox.me/33f9th

  • October 1st, 2010 at 10:18 am victor said:

    Hi friend

    Im experiencing a decrease in my first ORGANIC positioned keywords at Google because of the blue arrow. My first positioned keywords have decrease visits from Google just from -15 to -25%.

    Im very worried about that, and this is only ORGANIC but imagine ADWORDS payed keywords, Google use blue arrows too for pay keywords, so maybe first pay keywords positions can decrease visits too??

    Can someone tell me if you are having similar decreases from day 29th to 30th of September?

    More details:

  • October 1st, 2010 at 11:00 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Victor, I would think the opposite to be true. However, I cannot confirm or deny that.

    I’m always “drawn” to the arrow, so it seems to me like it might be a sneaky way for Google to drive more clicks to the paid search results right above the organic ones, because the arrow shows there too. It will be interesting to see the data after it’s been live for a while..

  • October 1st, 2010 at 11:36 am victor said:

    Hi Wesley

    Im a bit worried, cause Ive seen similar decreases in another website that I got.

    As you wisely say we must see the data after its been live for a while, but believe me, none of my mates knew today what does the arrow means, and we are ver heavy internet users…

    Its not only traffic matter!

    Elements in the interface must be self explicative, and in this case I think it is not. Well, lets wait to see results :-)

    Thanks for your opinion Wesley

  • October 1st, 2010 at 11:58 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hey Victor,
    I hear you. I’m definitely a bit concerned as to what this means for traffic and user experience as well. Thanks for sharing what you are seeing. Would love for you share a summary of your data here for everyone after it’s been active for a few days too.

  • October 4th, 2010 at 12:34 pm Ramsay Crooks said:

    I also noticed the update and didn’t know what it was all about… had to find this post to figure it out. Not all that intuitive. Interesting to see how users will pick up on this over time… and interesting to see what additional data will bear out. People might mistake the arrow for an ad and, therefore, be less inclined to click? I guess the data will tell. Look forward to upcoming reports.

  • October 4th, 2010 at 4:39 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Ramsay,
    I agree it’s not very intuitive at all. I guess after awhile everyone will figure it out.

  • October 5th, 2010 at 9:44 am Amber Khan said:

    I noticed the arrow when Google launched it and was unsure what to think at first. My gut instinct prompted me to click it and of course, it opened the first PPC ad because it lands at the top of the search results.

    While allowing users to control their searching via keyboard is a nice feature, most will not know that the blue arrow serves that purpose. And, it brings a little extra attention to which ever organic result or PPC ad it happens to be parked on – which will prompt clicks (unintentional clicks).

    With Google claiming that it will do everything possible to keep the PPC landscape fair, I do not see how the blue arrow fits in as it naturally highlights the highest bidder’s ad!

  • October 5th, 2010 at 9:47 am Wesley LeFebvre said:

    Hi Amber,
    It sure does conveniently highlight the highest bidder’s ad doesn’t it…

  • October 30th, 2010 at 8:31 am Jordan Silton said:

    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: http://www.jordansilton.com/organic-search/google-blue-arrow/

  • September 20th, 2011 at 6:56 pm Wesley LeFebvre said:

    It looks like I’m getting a flurry of visitors today because of the HUGE blue arrow on Google’s homepage.

    If you’re wondering what that is about it’s pointing you to +You, which if you click on, encourages you to sign up to Google+.

    If you don’t already know, Google Plus is Google’s new social networking platform looking to take on the likes of Facebook.

    It’s free, and so far I think they’ve done a pretty good job with it, but we’ll it does over time. I’ve been on there for awhile, but they’ve just opened it completely up to the public, which is why you’re now seeing the big blue arrow pointing you to it.

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