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Today Google unveiled a new product called Google Instant, which predicts users' search queries and delivers results as they're typing. The news immediately got people talking. While it will make search faster, not everyone is excited about this new feature. Some, in fact, are worried it will kill SEO and harm paid search advertising results.
Google, however, knows better than to kill off its cash cow with a new consumer friendly feature. Rumors of Google Instant killing the art of SEO are greatly exaggerated.
According to Google:
"Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type."
It also means search results will change as you type — early and often. That fact has some worried about the effects the new feature will have on SEO.
According to Steve Rubel, director of insights for Edelman Digital, this is the death knell. In a post titled Google Instant Make SEO Irrelevant, Rubel explains:"Google Instant means no one will see the same web anymore, making optimizing it virtually impossible. Real-time feedback changes people's behaviors."
Rubel gleans this from the details of the new tool Google released today, including:
"Even when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, predictions help guide your search. The top prediction is shown in grey text directly in the search box, so you can stop typing as soon as you see what you need."
Rubel takes that to mean search results will be too personalized to leave room for internet-wide SEO efforts:
"No two people will see the same web. Once a single search would do the trick - and everyone saw the same results. That's what made search engine optimization work. Now, with this, everyone is going to start tweaking their searches in real-time. The reason this is a game changer is feedback. When you get feedback, you change your behaviors."
His fears are a bit premature. For starters, Google's search delivery is only as good as what's available online. Faster recall of results won't eliminate the art and science of SEO. But it could change the way words are prioritized in headlines. According to the Google Analytics Blog:
"With this change, you might notice some fluctuations in AdWords impression volume and traffic for organic keywords. For example, you may find that certain keywords receive significantly more or fewer impressions moving forward."
Paid advertising is sure to change as well. Google Instant will quickly start delivering more ads, since search results change as users type their queries. They'll be scanning more advertising as they refine searches. Whether they click on those ads will be another story.
CTRs could easily plummet. Josh Woelker, senior manager of internet marketing for JC Whitney, predicts as much:
"Paid search advertisers: expect your impression numbers to explode and your CTR to drop big time with #googleinstant"
However, it could be awhile before the effects of Google Instant are felt by advertisers. As JP Morgan’s Imran Khan tells AllThingsD:
"We think this new product will have little to no impact on monetization rates. We see this product as an improvement to user functionality and think that its impact on advertisers will be limited. All of the ads typically associated with the suggested search appear as normal as the query is being entered. No changes have been made to serving or ranking. Although the constant updates to the results page may result in more ads served as a person types a query, this should only impact CTRs not the number of clicks as a user will not likely click on an ad until the appropriate results appear."