Many people are curious about what “Google Instant Search” (launched officially on 9/8/2010) might mean for the SEO of their website. Some are saying that it will have a dramatic effect on SEO and that Google is even “killing SEO,” while others are saying that it will have no impact at all. Although the long terms effects might not be apparent for some time, there are some things that you ought to know about Google instant and how it will immediately affect your natural and paid search strategies. In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the immediate effects of Google instant and how you can adjust your SEO and paid search accordingly...

What is Google Instant?

Google instant search works much like the auto-completion feature which is activated when you fill out a web form.  As soon as you start typing keywords into the search bar, Google begins bringing up search results for keywords that are related to the keywords you’ve typed so far. In other words, Google instant brings up complete search results which “evolve” as you type more words into the search bar before you click the “search” key or enter to complete your search. With Google Instant, web users can find what they are searching for in less time as Google instant helps to guide their search.

So what will this mean for your site’s SEO strategy?

(See a video example of Google Instant in action)

The Impact of Google Instant on Natural Search

There is no evidence yet of Google instant having an impact a site’s page ranking or position in the search results. However, it could have a significant impact on the traffic which your site receives from people typing in long-tail keywords. For example, if a person is searching for the keyword “leadership development company,” and your site normally comes up first in the search results for that term, Google instant might bring up the following long-tail keyword suggestions while the user is still on  “leadership development:”

  • Leadership development program
  • Leadership development plan
  • Leadership development training
  • Leadership development jobs
  • Leadership development activities

If the user finds something which catches their eye at this point, they might decide to end their search right thereby selecting one of these long-tail keywords, before they ever get a chance to see your website.  So if you see a drop in the traffic which is brought to you by long-tail keywords, it would be a good idea to run a few tests by typing in the keywords which you’re optimizing your site for and looking at the suggestions which Google instant brings up as you begin typing.

For instance, if you’ve typed in the term “leadership…” Google might provide suggestions for “leadership training,” “leadership development,” or “leadership courses.” As you do this, you might find that there are additional long-tail keywords that you could be optimizing your site for and you can adjust your SEO strategy accordingly.

The Impact of Google Instant on PPC

Google has claimed that while Google instant won’t have an impact on their algorithm for paid search ads. However, according to Google’s webmaster tools blog, Google instant may see an increase in impressions for search terms when it comes to your sponsored search impressions. For example, a paid ad impression will be counted if the user does one of the following three things:

  1. Selects a long tail keyword from one of their displayed suggestions and your ad is served.
  2. Selects any of the links within the search results page where your ad was served.
  3. The user stops typing for more than three seconds and your ad has been served in the instant search results.

If one of these three things happens and your ad is served as a result, an impression will be credited to your ad group for that keyword. This is something to consider when analyzing your click-through rate for PPC marketing groups or specific keywords, especially if you’re bidding for broader keywords or using broad keyword matching. Because of this, it’s possible that if your PPC marketing campaigns aren’t well targeted that the Google instant feature might decrease your click-through rate and quality score.  

This is why it’s essential to be as specific and as relevant as possible with your keyword selection and use long-tail keywords that zero in on your specific offer.

What Will the Future Impact of Google Instant Be?

One can only make predictions as to how else Google instant will affect SEO and paid search. Your best line of defense is to spend some time researching how the Google search tool responds as you type in the keyword terms you’re optimizing for. Are there other long-tail keywords that come up in the suggestions that could make a part of your search engine optimization strategy? Most important though, is to focus your attention on creating content and building a website that will accomplish the ultimate goal of the search engines. That goal is to create a user experience where people can find exactly what they’re looking for and get valuable content from a site that’s easy to use.

As long as you keep educating yourself about the trends of SEO and focusing your attention on creating a good experience for your users, the impact of new technologies like Google instant will be positive for your online business.

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(See a video example of Google Instant in action)