Google Instant Proves Chinese Wall is a Myth

Editorial: This is a guestpost written by Dixon Jones of Receptional.

Google is rolling out “Google Instant” – where suggested results are returned as users type. In doing so, they inadvertently debunked their long and heavily pushed mantra that the paid results and the organic results are not linked. Infact, this move – whilst probably doing all the good they say – will cost advertisers more and will line Google’s pockets.

I should explain. You can see in the image, that not only do the organic results change as you type, but so do the PAID results. This in itself  demonstrates that the paid search team and the organic search team must have colluded heavily to be able to launch instant on both sides at once, but there’s more. Organic search is now fundamentally going to affect the paid results, because several well known SEO people say that  instant search will shorten the long tail as users start looking for shorter ways to get their results. This from @oilman:

Time will tell, but I am inclined to agree. That means that as users we will start to be retrained to do shorter searches to reach our results. This will increase the short tail (short keyword strings) and by definition, reduce the long tail searches (long keyword strings). This means that on the paid side, the competition for the shorter keyword strings will increase, pushing up the money Google can generate from these searches.

Our own keyword research shows that the big keywords cost FAR more to rank than the non-competitive long tail, both in paid search and organic. Google makes far more money out of advertisers if they increase competition on the money terms – even fractionally.

This is a guestpost written by Dixon Jones, Director of Search Consultancy, Receptional. Any opinions are those of the writer and do not directly reflect those of State of Search.

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15 thoughts on “Google Instant Proves Chinese Wall is a Myth

  1. Although I get the point about the cooperation that had to take place between the paid and organic sides to make this change happen, and I certainly get the much bigger point that even a small upward change in what Google can charge for competitive phrases will boost revenues in a huge way, I still think using the chinese wall as the focal point might be stretching things. I say that only because the general feeling about the wall has always been that the paid side doesn’t affect the organic rankings. That would still be the case.

    However, the fact that this new technology will likely increase competition on the paid side, and therefore line Google’s pockets while lightening advertiser pockets, is one that is fairly important. That’s what I think is the real meat of this post, and why I think maybe the title is not as effective as it could be.

  2. Interesting article. Not sure I agree though about the long tail getting shorter. Think about user intent. If I search for ‘villa with pool in villamoura’ that’s what I want. Results for just ‘villa’ will not be specific enough to entice me to click through. Relevancy between KW and Adtext will still be vitally important in this ‘Instant’ world.

  3. Thanks for commenting Donna!

    Obviously, the title is meant to stir a reactiion – but it is not without foundation. The truth of the matter is that influences on people when they conduct a search are not always directly as a result of the maths within the algo. Because paid and organic appear in the same place at the same time, one CLEARLY will have an influence on the other. ‘Twas always thus, but this simply highlights many of the complex relationships graphically. Now I am not saying that there is a connectrion in the coding, but it is true to say that there is a correlation which which can ultimately affect the rankings on either side, through increased CTR, for example.

    Simon – thanks for your comment too. It is too early to say if the searches will get shorter, I admit – but it’s new and the time for debate and opening opinions is now. Probably fairer to say that – in time – this system will seek to educate users towards better search queries. This may or may not mean that the queries become more concise, but if they do, then the cost of a PPC campaign may be set to increase.

  4. This move will have to shorten the long tail, maybe not from 2 words to 3 but certainly shorten the even longer queries. Imagine before instant, a user might have typed in ‘blackberry bold contract £20’. Now if they see the suggested ‘blackberry bold contract’ there is little chance they will type in their full query.

    It will be a shame if it does restrict the long tail as this is where Google has had the advantage over Bing and Yahoo.

  5. Google’s direction is one of continually moving to push out small businesses. Long tail phrases spread the wealth by increasing the diversity of organic and paid listings.

    Anything that reduces the number of different results that get displayed favors those with the deepest pockets in AdWords ppc and the big brands that Google chooses to favor in organic.

    The obvious solution is to stop handing Google a monopoly on search while we still have small businesses. Unfortunately, most Internet users have no clue of the connection between their choices and our economic turmoil.

    Perhaps we as bloggers can influence at least some to make changes in what search engines they use and where they spend their money. Doing so can create better economic conditions for all those who participate.

    How what we as bloggers do and what search engines we use ties into our economic decline is explained in my blog in many posts including the one linked to this comment.

  6. Thanks for the input James. I was hoping I wasn’t going to be alone on thinking about the long tail.

    Gail – I don’t assume they are aiming to push out SMALL businesses… I don’t know if that is clear.

    However they are confident enough now in their top three results on the vast percentage of queries to be able to confidently encourage users to one of these. A small business can still rank… but you had better be seen (by Google) as significantly more relevant than the rest, because if you weren’t top 5 before… this is going to be more difficult now.

    But small business can still survive and thrive. You will need to be more brand conscious though, I guess.

  7. Hey Dixon, in contrast of all the other SEO’s in the other post about Google instant, I agree with you, this will cut back a shift from long tail to more money terms, in which it will increase profit on Google’s side. If it was only 0.1ct per query per click, it’s massive…

  8. In the recent past, I used to work for a company that used Google Adword campaigns. Short-tail keywords are far less effective for conversion and obviously have a far more expensive cost per click. If Google instant pushes everything to short-tail bidding, it will really hurt smaller companies that rely on Adwords to market products.

  9. Hi Dixon

    Very well put! Yes – the long tail searches will definitely be reduced in numbers as searchers get used to Instant. Another thing that worries me a lot is the statement from Goggle:

    “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.”

    This will lead to lower CTR and to higher CPC. Maybe advertiser will have to rethink the use of negative keywords? A company like Reebok might wanna use “-ree” in order to avoid impressions for people searching for Reese Witherspoon etc. etc.

    What’s your take on that?

  10. Thanks Roy and Jarret.

    SEO-Lex – you are right of course. A person looking for the “reeb” dna project will see Reebok adverts. But 3 seconds is a long time in search, and the lower CTR will effect everyone.

    The problem with the negative keyword strategy that you suggest is that the MAJORITY of people who have typed in “reeb” will indeed be looking for Reebok. They will see relevant results on the page and may well click on one before your advert even appears, if you used “reeb” as a negative.

    A better strategy MIGHT be (and I don’t head up out PPC team, so it’s just me saying) that you create ad-groups designed for the shorter forms, so that they appear as people type, but disappear when the “money” terms arrive, Maybe that would protect the high CTR ads a little. It needs lots of testing though, to be sure.

  11. Hi Dixon

    Thank you for replying. Your idea doesn’t sound all that crazy actually. It needs testing and I will start them right away. I might even write a little report on my findings later. I wish everybody a great weekend!

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