Google Instant Search: What Do We Think?
Search Engine Optimisation

Google Instant Search: What Do We Think?

9th September 2010

After Rob Ousbey `outed` a new Google feature a few weeks ago in its test phase there has been a lot of speculation about whether or not this was going to be rolled out and whether or not we would like it. And if it would be rolled out, what would be the impact on SEO and PPC?

In the past few days it became clearer and clearer that something was up. Google announced a special press conference and hinted on the changes with their animated logos. And yesterday at the Google Press Event Google did announce `Instant Search`. Search results showing up based on what you are typing.

There have been several posts going around, including a guest post later today here on State of Search. And many people have given their view on it. We also asked several experts in the field to give us their first opinion on the new feature. And off course we want to hear what you think!

First, let us give you a `fresh up` on what Google Instant is. Here`s Googles official video:

Here`s what some of the experts say:

I`ll start of with my quick humble opinion: It looks `fun` and I do believe that people can get used to it, but its just another signal of the world wanting to go `faster and faster`. Don`t wait for results, see them right away. This will confuse a lot of people in the beginning and we`ll have to wait and see whether or not this will stick, but to be totally honest: its not my thing. Even though I`ll use it, just to keep testing things. And who knows, I might grow to like it.

As for the impact on search: the biggest impact will lie in the ppc-part, not the seo-part. You now have got even more chances to get into peoples sights than you did before. So I think SEOs can benefit from it. But something tells me this is just another move by Google which is a step up to something bigger. And I think social and mobile have something to do with this.

Lisa Myers (Vervesearch):

“I can understand allot of SEOs are panicking, it’s only natural, “instant” is a big update – it will have an impact on the way people searches and maybe more so the results. I can see loads of possible impacts, for example longtail traffic is likely to be affected and PPC advertising is certainly going to be more interesting when a result will be counted as an impression if the user hesitates (more than 3 seconds) on a search. BUT despite “Instant” being one of the biggest updates in a long time, I’m not worried, this is what us SEOs do, this is what we are good at, adapting. This is why I love my job, because I don’t know what is going to happen next year, but what I do know is that SEOs are damn good at figuring it out. So what if it changes allot”

Dave Naylor (Bronco):

`Looks like another google instant fail.. roll on the instant scrapers.`

Nichola Stott (themediaflow):

`On a personal level I find the amount of mid query response annoying and distracting and thus far patronising. I know how to format a query to get the most suitable result.

Even taking a WWMD approach (what would Mum do?) I can`t imagine this as hugely welcome at the outset; however I suspect this will change as the naturally resistant to change user becomes used to and more adept at using this.

In terms of metrics it`s tough to imagine at this stage, though my gut tells me an upshift in impressions on head terms and possible ctr uplifts on tail terms in the long term, as the user becomes more used to query refinement on the fly.`

Andrew Girdwood (BigMouthMedia):

`Google Instant is a big deal to the search engine and you can see why. It’s a huge feat of very impressive engineering.

Only time will tell the true impact of Google Instant because only time will reveal how the new interface effects searcher behaviour. The initial suggestion is that user behaviour will change radically as Google’s now leading the searcher by the hand rather than waiting for the first search.

This will change search marketing. The phrase “three seconds delay” will now become a core reference in every paid search pitch and strategy. Why? Google Instant challenges what counts as an ‘impression’ and Google’s all-important Quality Score leans heavily on impressions and CTR.

Google Instant means there’s a tangible difference between someone prone to searching from the web interface and someone who searches from the browser. As it happens, the percentage of internet users who search directly in browsers (such as Chrome’s omnibox) is increasing. It’s hard to see how Google Instant will import directly into browser searches.

Universal search gets a boost in importance. Users are far more likely to stop typing once Universal Search flashes up something that catches their attention. Search marketers will be talking about Universal Search and the three seconds delay, they’ll be talking about attention grabbing search interstitials and guided search.`

Steen Öhman:

`Looks interesting – could give greater focus on page one in the result, and the long-tail , as people will refine the search dynamically`

Tom Critchlow (Distilled):

`This change is huge. This is the kind of change that will get talked about in the streets by people who have never even heard of SEO. That said, the underlying system is intact – users search for keyphrases and click on things that rank. So fundamentally nothing has changed for us – the biggest change I can see so far is that unless you hit enter the organic serps are pushed WAY down the page. This is especially true for local results with a map box. So competition for the top few slots could get more fierce as clicks drop off for any ranking 3+….`

Ralph Tegtmeier (Fantomaster):

`Google Instant Search: the dyslectics` paradise. (Or is that actually `nightmare`?) :)`

Dom Hodgson (The Hodge):

`Google instant search – I really like it but if this is rolled out fully we can see google starting to dictate what people search for rather than just suggesting`

Kelvin Newman (Sitevisibility):

` I think it`s going to have a much bigger impact for PPC rather than SEO, I know a few people with brands that start with generic terms who are pretty worried this evening. I think it`s going to increase the value of a third place listing quite significantly, as fourth is gonna end up below the fold far more frequently now. There is a danger of overstating this though, the way Google have hyped the event and done the live streaming have probably made this a bigger deal than it really is. I think personalisation and the introduction of suggested search terms will have a bigger long-term impact and in a few months time we`ll wonder what all the fuss was about.`

Peter Young (Holistic Search):

`I’ll be honest, I can’t help thinking Google Instant is a bit of a gimmick. Saving me 2-5 seconds per search wasn’t really a problem I felt I had so it – and to be honest I find the usability offputting and intrusive.

From a commercial perspective however, I think this could have quite significant effects. It will raise impressions for both PPC and SEO – theres no doubting that despite the fact impressions may not be counted at each and every ‘change in result’.  This however could have more wide reaching impacts for paid search than it could do for SEO (despite their being the usual ‘seo is dead’ rhetoric being banded about) – as I can’t help feeling this will impact search behaviour the most. From a PPC perspective, I would imagine avg CPC and Overall costs would be the biggest concerns amongst many advertisers at present.

From an organic perspective, well nothing really has changed, we haven’t lost any search engine real estate, they haven’t changed the way they rank results – they have merely changed the way people find them.  What it may do for SEO’s  however is reduce the opportunity for long tail targeting and increase the competitiveness amongst a larger subset of ‘premium’ keywords – ie those which are presented most often by the suggest mechanism (in effect a shortening of the long tail and a  lengthening of the head terms)

Where I think this may evolve is where Suggest can get more behavioural. If it starts better learning what I am looking for and is able to determine potential search terms based on those requirements then I think this may become a useful day to day tool. At present however this appears to stop well short of that.`

Paul Madden (Seoidiot):

`Great day for low quality long tail content. Google just revived the mass content spam game`

Kristjan Hauksson (Optimizeyourweb):

`Looks nice, not sure what they want to get out of it beside the PR value, but I need to try and test better. One thing it might be, its looks to be longtail friendly. After reviewing this Instant Search: SEO + Instant Search = Business as usual.`

So, back to `business as usual, or is this going to change the search world? Let us know what you think!

Missed the press event? Check out the video of the entire event here

Written By
Bas van den Beld is an award winning Digital Marketing consultant, trainer and speaker. He is the founder of State of Digital and helps companies develop solid marketing strategies.
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