Google Instant is designed to make search faster and easier for users, but what effect will it have on search marketing?
I've been asking a number of search experts for their predictions on the impact of Google Instant and what marketers can do to adapt to the changes...
What will the main effects of Google Instant be?
Malcolm Coles, Digital Sparkle:
Some people are going to end up paying a lot more for PPC. If you start searching for Premier Inns, then when you get to premier you get lots of natural "premier" results (e.g. premier league) plus one PPC ad for Premier Inns. I guess lots of people will just click that rather than carry on typing. So some brands might want to be careful that they aren't bidding on terms that get triggered too soon in the process.
Kevin Gibbons, SEOptimise:
It's going to be very interesting to see how searchers react to Google Instant. This a huge change to the overall user experience, so it may take a while for some people to get used to. Personally, I think this could easily split opinions and be a potential risk to losing some their market share – many may see this as a good time to give Bing a try instead.
Kelvin Newman, SiteVisibility:
I think this is going to have a much bigger impact on paid search.The fact that a three second pause in typing is going to count as impression is going to have huge implications on impressions and click through rates for paid search adverts.
For natural search, SEO becomes even more important, as the suggested searches push down the paid and natural results. Suddenly, if you're outside of the top three you're unlikely to ever appear above the fold; bad news for people in fourth place
Will it reduce search volumes for niche and long tail terms?
Quite possibly. If users are already seeing relevant results before they get a chance to complete their long-tail query then they are likely to just click earlier. This means searchers may get smarter, so two keywords may now suffice where a three keyword phrase was used before. However, for those looking for niche/specific information there's still a need for more long-tail queries so that users find exactly what they are looking for.
Andrew Girdwood, Bigmouthmedia:
It will change the shape of the tail; some long tail terms will become less frequent as searchers will reach them less often however as Google Instant may make re-crafting search terms more attractive to searchers we may see a greater number of final searches per searcher. The word “may” is important there as we don’t yet know. We’ll also have to consider the difference between a final search, when the user stops at the search they wanted, and an interstitial search, a result the flashes as searcher refines their query.
That would seem to be a possibility, but on the other hand it really draws attention to suggested searches which could drive additional traffic to certain long tail phrases, it's possible for interface changes to shift search behaviour; but in all honesty algorithmic changes like personalisation or localisation have a more significant impact on the day to day work of search marketers.
What can search marketers do to make the most if it?
One thing marketers should do is monitor Google's results part way through typing queries. For instance, if you start searching for "eco driving", when you've typed "eco dri" the Fiat Eco Drive page comes up (as well as a lot of watches). If you carry on to type "eco driving", Fiat is nowhere. Maybe Fiat will pick up lots more traffic based in this interim state of the results, and maybe SEOs will start optimising for the first few characters of common search queries.
Search marketers should now understand the importance of the three second delay, the return key press and the implied impression and how this will affect CTR. They’ll have to check target keywords to see whether there is an interstitial search on the way that has a particularly compelling Universal Search result, at least compelling enough to cause the searcher to delay three or so seconds to study it.
I don't think it's going to have a drastic impact on the strategies and tactics deployed by search marketers but it's going to make the choice and sequence of your keywords even more important than it already was, it'll be interesting to see if we suddenly get people focusing attention on rankings for partial words though.
If the predicted searches are based on personal history (which I imagine they might be) you've got to be on top of your personalised search.