It would have been easy for Google Analytics to reveal how much traffic Google Instant is driving, but Google seems to be keeping this information under wraps.
The thousands of words of commentary around the launch of Google Instant can be summed up as: "Will it make a difference? We don't know - let's wait and see."
Actually we could be seeing what difference it is making to keyword selections and traffic right now.
Buried within a recent post on Search Engine Watch is the interesting claim that you can track activity from Google Instant via Google Analytics.
The idea, which stemmed from an SEM company called Semetrical was that the parameter 'oq' within the search string is unique to Google Instant and can be used to identify not only searches which originated from the 'auto-complete' application, but would also show how much the user had typed before initiating a search.
Sadly the Google Analytics blog has now scotched this idea. The 'oq' parameter is not unique to Google Instant and anyway may not always appear. Instead, in a classic bit of Mountain View news management, the good news is that results from Google Instant are tracked in exactly the same way as all other searches, so it's business as usual.
Google Instant doesn't really seem to be business as usual. It would have been great to split out the results and see:
- What kind of volume we are talking about. (Probably not too much, since it only impacts on signed-in search.)
- Whether the average number of keywords per search has declined, as many people predict.
- Granular changes to the search landscape itself - more generic searches, word order in brand + generic searches, all that good stuff.
So it's kind of frustrating to think that we could have all this information had Google simply created a fresh parameter name for this. Any chance of this happening? Please??