Friday, September 10, 2010

Google Instant search: what it means for you

Author: Chris Thomas on 10 September 2010 Print

I've been away on leave for the last few weeks, as I took the family to Bali; it's close, cheap and my small kids loved the place.

Anyway, most of you have probably heard about or even used Google's new instant search.

This is a big change – probably the biggest I've witnessed in search, like, ever.

While it's probably too early to predict exactly what the fall out will be (if any), I've had a scout around the traps to try and get a feel for what the big SEO industry guys are saying about it.

Assessing it yesterday morning, I also have my own ideas about the change.

Here in Australia, we're in a (luxurious) position where we're not being impacted by it just yet, as it's only been rolled out in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia. It gives us a little more breathing space before it's implemented here.

Personally, I think there are a couple of things to think about. The first is whether it will actually be adopted and embraced by users. People are funny about change and Google may see people turning it off and going back to what they've always known.

From an SEO point of view, I think the predictive search feature is probably where the money is. I've just got a feeling that predictive search will start to drive keyword research more and more.


We've already seen how predictive search has driven large amounts of traffic to some client sites where someone starts a search and uses the search predicted search string to complete their search. If you're lucky enough to rank well for a Google "predicted search" you'll see the keyword showing up prominently in your web analytics.

Instant search could also see a decline in long tail search traffic to your site, as people who search start to settle for the predicted results (or at least try them first). Hard to say yet though.

Google's definitely also shortened the amount of predicted search results, down from about 10 to about four or five to choose from. I think this is more about usability than anything else as most of the result screen would be pushed down if 10 predicted results suddenly appeared.

Some experts are saying that this spells the end of SEO. Others are saying that this new change combined with personalised search results, geographic based results serving, etc will make SEO irrelevant.

Personally I disagree since Google's been doing this for ages anyway and Instant search is just an extension.

Google also disagrees:

Q: Does this change impact the ranking of search results?
A: No, this change does not impact the ranking of search results.

The other thing to note is the probable impact on your AdWords accounts.

Google states:

"As a result (of instant search), Google Instant changes the way we think about impressions. With Google Instant, an impression is counted if a user takes an action to choose a query (for example, presses the Enter key or clicks the Search button), clicks a link on the results page, or stops typing for three or more seconds.

It's possible that this feature may increase or decrease your overall impression levels. However, Google Instant may ultimately improve the quality of your clicks since it helps users type queries that more directly connect them with the answers they need."

I'm worried about the "stops typing for more than three seconds" bit. I hope Google's correct in the second paragraph, because I can see a situation where Keyword Quality scores could be impacted by the impression to click ratio (CTR or Click Through Rate) if the impression counts go very high. That could mean a lowering in the CTR, then quality scores which in turn could affect click costs.

I'd imagine Google could make a lot more money as a result if this transpires.

For more Online Sales expert advice, click here.

Chris Thomas heads up Reseo, a search engine optimisation company which specialises in creating and maintaining Google AdWords campaigns and Search Engine Optimisation campaigns for a range of corporate clients.
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