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: