Google Instant, and What it Means for SEO

4 minute read
Chelsi Nakano avatar

Yesterday the Internets welcomed Google Instant, a new search feature with streaming Web results that appear as you type your query. Reactions have been mixed, especially from within the SEO pool.  

Google Instant

Welcome to the age of instant gratification, when, thanks to real-time technology and social media, wanting more than what's directly in front of us is no longer an issue. Google Instant further perpetuates this expectation by providing users with search results before they've even had a chance to hit the "Enter" key: 


Google Instant example

In the example above, I've simply typed "Google is" in the search query bar and the most popular ending to that search ("hiring") has appeared in grey. Meanwhile, the results for that popular search have already appeared in the results panel just below.

This would be great if I were looking for jobs, but I had a different query in mind: 

google _instant_example_2.JPG
 Google Instant example

Again, without pressing the "Enter" key (or clicking the "Search" button), I've typed in my full query and am able to see the instant results for that query below. Here it is in action:

While some are claiming that Big G is fixing what ain't broke with this feature, the Internet giant claims their inspiration came form the realization that people generally read faster than they type."

Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. ...seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.

Room for SEO and Paid Search

It's a noble cause, but, as nifty as this feature may be, it is not without repercussions. Search engine optimization in particular has been on the minds of many experts. 

Learning Opportunities

"Once a single search would do the trick - and everyone saw the same results. That's what made search engine optimization work," said Steve Rubel, SVP, Director of Insights for Edelman Digital. "Now, with this, everyone is going to start tweaking their searches in real-time. The reason this is a game changer is feedback. When you get feedback, you change your behaviors. ...Google Instant means no one will see the same web anymore, making optimizing it virtually impossible."

Adam Bunn, Head of Search at Greenlight, offers another example:

If a website has optimised for and holds good rankings for ‘cheap car insurance UK’, that term may lose search traffic as UK users find that the shorter ‘cheap car insurance’ returns several relevant looking results, negating the need to finish their sentence.

On the other side of the fence, Tom Foremski of ZDNet pointed out that brands called up by Google Instant, on the very first four rows of the letter, are each wearing "the golden crown for search engine optimization" (A is for Amazon, B is for Best Buy, and so on).

Further, ramifications for paid search are floating around the ether. What it come down to is whether Google will count each refresh or change of the search engine results pages as an impression for the advertiser. 

“If Google is going to count these dynamic changes / refreshes to the SERP then should we also expect to see some fundamental changes to the Quality Score algorithm, the keyword Match Types, or do we simply need to increase the number of negative keywords in the account to several hundred thousand? Only time will tell," offered Greenelight's Director of Campaign Management, Matthew Whiteway. 

Are you a part of the SEO pool? Let us know how you think Google's new feature will impact you. 

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