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Google Instant Means 5 Big Changes for Search Marketers

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Google recently unveiled Google Instant, which displays search results to a user as they type. The benefits of these changes, according to Google, are as follows...

  • Predictive Typing: As you type, a prediction is made of what you are seeking.

  • Instant Results: As you type, the results appear. Every new character updates the search results instantly.

The end result that Google promises is 10% faster searches. Google states the average search takes 25 seconds -- 9 to enter in the query, less than one for Google to process and display the results, and 15 seconds for the user to decide and select a link. So shaving off 2.5 seconds is considerably faster. Is it true? Try it out yourself and watch a live presentation of Google Instant in action.

apple livesearchTechnically speaking, the predictive type and “instant results” aren’t new technologies. Bing and Yahoo both rolled out predictive type solutions to their search input field several months ago. Apple has had an instant results in its search results drop-down box, which it dubs “live search”. In other words, as you type, it produces “live” search results.

What is new, however, is the combination and scale of these technologies. Google has applied these technologies — predictive and live results — to the world’s information. In other words, you can scan billions of potential results instantly while you type. Rather than typing the full search term, hitting return, and waiting (however briefly), you now get results “instantly” updated as each new character is typed.

5 Ways How Google Instant Changes the Game for Search Marketers

There are several critical implications that need to be considered by search marketers.

  1. Brevity is the soul of wit: Search engine users now have a reason to reduce their attention time even further — instant results as you type. Keep your copy brief, to the point, and able to grab their attention. If a searcher can't scan and find what they are seeking, they are only one keystroke away from an entire new search results page of options.

  2. Impression counts may increase: If results, both organic and sponsored, are updated and presented as the user types, what is considered an impression? Is an impression the milliseconds between typing words, or is it a pause greater than 1 second in typing, or is it a movement of the mouse? Google provides some guidance on this: 1) the person types a query into the search box and either presses the Enter key or clicks on the “Search” button (just like it has been historically); 2) the person starts to type their query, sees a results page displayed and clicks anywhere on that page (i.e. it registers an impression when the user selects a link from that page); and 3) the person stops typing and the results are displayed for three seconds or more, implying the searcher is scanning the results page. Regardless, we advise all search marketers to monitor their AdWords accounts closely in the next few weeks.

  3. Your competition list just got longer: No longer is your competition the other websites that rank for your target or niche keyphrase term, like “tankless water heater“. Rather, it is also the shorter phrases, like “tankless” and “tankless water” that now also appear as the user types in their full search phrase. Each phrase presents a new layer of competition for you to now consider. In other words, your success with "long tail keywords" is now being challenged by the shorter tail keywords that precede it.

  4. Predictive search = keyword research: Don’t know if you should focus your campaign on “steakhouse” vs. “steak houses” vs. “steak house”? Look to predictive search. The term that appears first is probably the most common search result, and the one you should consider targeting.

  5. Real-time is the new fast: Web users will soon expect all websites to be as responsive as Google. In other words, a 2 second load time is probably 1.5 seconds too long. Your search strategy should include considerations for ongoing load-time and performance tests to ensure the page consistently loads in a snap.

What do you think of the new Google Instant results? How are you changing your search strategy to respond to this significant change?

David Felfoldi is the chief experience officer and founder of Sherpa! Web Studios, a search-friendly web design and development firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. His goal is to make the Web a better experience, including for people who write emails in all capital letters.

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  • by Robby Monk Fri Sep 10, 2010 via blog

    David, I personally like Instant for SEO simply because it may cause users to type more specific search phrases (out of curiosity primarily to see what results post) which will help the long-tail search. On the other hand, it's been hard for me to get use to seeing the results pull in live as I type. Am I the only one that thinks this is distracting?

  • by Doug Boisvert (QOV) Sun Sep 12, 2010 via blog

    I believe the quality traffic (those likely to convert) will see how easy it is to refine their search to get the actual results they are looking for. Short terms will continie to drive lots of lousy traffic and long tail keywords will continue to drive new clients, customers and leads.

  • by Christina Sun Sep 12, 2010 via blog

    Very timely, I was actually looking for something to read regarding the effect on SEO on the new change from Google. Google is making me crazy haha...long-tail or short term, you really ought to be good researching for a keyword. Long-tail used to be name of the game to get ahead with the competition now with this in place, gotta do a lot of thinking...thanks for the info.

  • by David Felfoldi Sun Sep 12, 2010 via blog

    Robby: my concern is actually the opposite -- that with as-you-type results, searchers are less likely to continue typing because they will find what they want, or at least what they are willing to click on, earlier on in typing the query. The end result is that the long-tail keyphrases -- phrases with 3 or more words -- get less exposure. I think people are less focused on their curiosity, and more focused on finding "what will do" as quickly as possible.

  • by Matthew Mon Sep 13, 2010 via blog

    Useful advice - this will definitely impact on long tail keyphrase optimisation as you suggest. But it will be interesting to find out user reactions to google 'thinking' for you. Personally I hate it when this happens - increasingly so with MS software.


  • by Nate Long Tue Sep 14, 2010 via blog

    Great perspective here, David; thanks for sharing. I agree with your thinking that this will change our SEO approaches and lead to new strategies based on evolving consumer search behavior. For me, it will cut down on open browser tabs as I tend to use two or three Google searches every time I’m searching for a specific piece of info. Instead, I can now see the results for each search by modifying the words and watching the instant results for each modification.

    On a related note, what are your thoughts on the new way Google Images display? Perhaps consumers are now more likely to view lower-listed image results since more show up without having to click to additional pages.

  • by Clive Holtman Wed Sep 15, 2010 via blog

    Still a bit early to tell how well the Google customer is going to adopt or adapt to Instant. I find myself toggling it on and off to see if there is any real difference in the final result and for my style of seach end up in the same place. What does appear real is that the long tail may shorten considerably meaning more concentration on fewer keywords; in my view this will lead to higher AdWords costs as we all bid for a reduced choice... hmm perhaps this is the strategy.

  • by David Felfoldi Fri Sep 17, 2010 via blog

    Matthew: Have you experience predictive typing before on other OS/devices, like the iPhone. I find this feature very helpful, which makes me think the issue isn't the feature of predictive typing, but the accuracy.

  • by David Felfoldi Fri Sep 17, 2010 via blog

    Google already exhibits the behavior that they are not interested in long-tail keywords. If a keyword isn't searched enough, it won't even let you bid on it in AdWords. Instead, it says "low search volume"

  • by David Felfoldi Fri Sep 17, 2010 via blog

    Nate, are you referring to universal search, in which Google is presenting image and video in the Search Engine Results Page (SERP)?

  • by Ryan St. Germaine Sat Sep 18, 2010 via blog

    Great post!

    I'm in Canada so I haven't had the opportunity to try Instant yet, but I'm keen to see how the increased impressions impact my Adwords campaigns! I agree that all search marketers should be watching their accounts like a hawk for the next few weeks.

    It'll be interesting to see what new opportunities arise from the new search as well. Some of these changes could increase the potential long tail terms being used.

  • by Marston Gould Fri Oct 8, 2010 via blog

    I think both will happen and I suspect it is closely tied to whether someone is actually watching while they type or whether they are an old school "two finger typer" who looks down while they type.

  • by Brandi Heinz Mon Oct 25, 2010 via blog

    I would also argue that overall search volume will go down (i.e. not as many searches for the same item) and that the search will become long-tail (if you don't like what you see, you keep typing in keywords that may narrow it down). It's interesting how they are measuring searches that positively impact impressions - however, I think the impression measurement will go down in value as a metric due to these changes.

    I think this will be a great thing for SEO - and it'll help to broaden the understanding of how properly optimizing your site and content for search can really make an impact.

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