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
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:
- Displayed in search results for a completed query
- Was clicked on in the instant results of an unfinished query
- 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.