Google’s release of Instant Search has been buzzing in the blogos­phere for the past few weeks. Some blog­gers have written that instant search marks the death of SEO as we know it, and that paid search will be changed forever … what do we think? Every­one needs to calm down.  Google’s algo­rithm is liter­ally updated nearly every day, and every change is meant to surface the best, most rele­vant content to your search. If this post could be summa­rized in a sentence, it would be: Good websites will always win and search market­ing is alive and well. We’ve welcomed changes to the algo­rithm before, and once again we believe Google is moving in the right direc­tion.

Instant search has not changed Google results; its real effect will be:
1.    A change in user search behav­ior
2.    How many search results users see

Best Office Chair - Google Search Results

1. Search behav­ior

Though search­ing while you type has been around for quite some time, the speed of results and feed­back, combined with Google’s predic­tive text, creates a new search expe­ri­ence. It is the combi­na­tion of result speed along with the Google’s predic­tion of users’ queries that may affect how people are search­ing. Users are still search­ing for the same things, however the predic­tive text and instant results may stop people from finish­ing the full search query they intended to type if users see good results earlier in their search. Users’ search queries may shorten, as a result, and a new focus on the “head” of search might drive strat­egy in a new direc­tion for certain sites. This has always been a goal of Google’s algo­rithm – to connect people with the content they desire with the least amount of infor­ma­tion. Instant however, has forwarded the process signif­i­cantly.

How it will affect search market­ing:

People will of course continue to search for long tail terms, but we expect the amount of people that see and click on head term results will increase simply because with Instant Search, they are put right in front of you. We expect there will be more compe­ti­tion in paid search for head terms, and that some adver­tis­ers that go after only long tail terms may have to rethink their strat­egy.

2. How many search results users see

Since Instant refreshes search results with ever letter your type, the user may be seeing a differ­ent search result for each letter of his query. Brands will need to have as much pres­ence as possi­ble along this “stream” of searches.

How it will affect search market­ing

Instant will alter the infor­ma­tion we get from paid search and analyt­ics. For example, you may start to see more impres­sions for your site in both organic and paid search since Instant launched. Google says that’s to be expected, since with Instant you see more results pages, and users are encour­aged to search more. So in order to get a more accu­rate count of impres­sions, Google changed the way impres­sions were measured. Your listing will garner an impres­sion if your site:

  1. Displayed in search results for a completed query
    1. Was clicked on in the instant results of an unfin­ished query
    2. Displayed in the instant results after a user stops typing for more than 3 seconds

To those that say SEO is dead, we say SEO has never been more impor­tant. The days of black hat SEO and gaming Google are long gone, and Google Instant taps the nails in the coffin for unfor­tu­nate strate­gies like opti­miz­ing for misspelled words. Instant presents differ­ent search results as you type each letter and word of your query. That means if you are search­ing for “the best office chair for lower back” with each letter of your search, there are 10 sites with whom you could be compet­ing. That means that it’s more impor­tant than ever to both improve your site archi­tec­ture and build out both robust and support­ive content. You can think about the addi­tional sites people will see in results as adver­tise­ments. Even if someone has settled on your office chair, with each letter they type, there is an oppor­tu­nity for another company to present an adver­tise­ment, and poach your click.

SEO is not dead, but it will evolve. The prac­tice will continue to help ensure sites can be crawled from a tech­ni­cal stand­point. But SEO will become more impor­tant than ever in ensur­ing your site is struc­tured in a way that allows content to appear in more results pages. SEO will to focus more on content strat­egy, what content needs to be devel­oped to ensure your site appears along the stream of search results, with greater focus on head term result pages, and in more univer­sal search elements.

At Search Discovery, we are excited about the change to Instant. Our web consult­ing offer­ing incor­po­rates tradi­tional SEO as well as the infor­ma­tion archi­tec­ture, usabil­ity, and tech­ni­cal knowl­edge that will guar­an­tee your site is repre­sented on more result pages. We welcome the change, and believe our clients will, too.

Addi­tional resources: