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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...

Google Instant1

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?

Kevin Gibbons:

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.

Kelvin Newman:

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?

Malcolm Coles:

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.

Andrew Girdwood:

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.

Kelvin Newman:

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.

Graham Charlton

Published 9 September, 2010 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

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Malcolm Coles, Director at Digital Sparkle

Just to be clear, when I said "maybe SEOs will start optimising for the first few characters of common search queries", I didn't mean we should optimise for "eco dri". (That would make me sound like an idiot).

I meant maybe we should optimise for what Google assumes we want once we've typed "eco dri" (which was "eco drive" in my example, and not the "eco driving" I was actually going to search for).

over 6 years ago

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Simon

seems to me that there will be some inappropriate results as well here.  If I'm doing a quick search on my football team or their manager, Arsenal or Arsen Wenger, what happens if I happen to pause after typing the first four letters?

I'm sure there are worse examples too...

over 6 years ago

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Carla Prosser

My personal view is that both PPC and SEO long tail keyphrases will suffer. In PPC i agree that the cpc's will suffer, rising in price. My concern is that the impressions will rise, CTRs go down and with that relevancy will lower. This new set up seems to make the sponsored searches become more visible for Google users and I should imagine will increase their revenue.
However, they cant afford to make sponsored search less effective to advertisers - I'm interested to know what changes to the advertisers system will also be made of the back of this.

over 6 years ago

Joe Friedlein

Joe Friedlein, Director at Browser Media

I agree with Simon (clearly not talking arse!) and there is a big risk that a lot of the instant results will actually be fairly useless and users may then just apply the blinkers and wait until they have actually finished typing in what they want to look for.

The massive growth in longer search queries over the past couple of years (as well as the number of brand new / 'never searched on before' terms) indicates that search behaviour has evolved and uers are much better at using search terms that deliver the results they are looking for.

In some respects, Google's Instant search is a suggestion that people don't know what they want and need help in constructing their search.If it proves to do a good job in guessing what you are looking for, it will be popular. If it suggests a load of arse, then I suspect people may well just ignore it or turn it off.

Personally, I have not been convinced that it speeds up any searches that I have done as I have been watching the new results coming in - but I always end up on the search term that I had originally planned. I do quite like it but we will just have to wait to see what impact it has.

over 6 years ago

Joe Friedlein

Joe Friedlein, Director at Browser Media

P.S. What has happened to line breaks?!

over 6 years ago

Brian Anderson

Brian Anderson, Marketer at Sporting Index

ha ha, nice clarification Malcolm...! And good insight from the experts. Does anyone know if this functionality will only be for those searchers who are signed into their Google account, as it is at the moment?

over 6 years ago

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Punya

It's really been confusing me. When I search a keyword with/without instant button, the results are completely different for generic small words. The other problems I faced with instant are my PPC results for most of the keywords are on toss especially the long tail ones and completely irrelevant results for misspelled words. Now what? Should I rework on SEO strategy starting from Meta data to play with instant? I guess it is better to have instant option by default off than on.

over 6 years ago

Kelvin Newman

Kelvin Newman, Creative Director at SiteVisibility

It may just be me but I find the refreshing distracting which means I make more typos - and I make plenty of those already!

over 6 years ago

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Richard

I think one of the biggest impacts is going to be on back of the more prominent search suggestions. The automated "I feel lucky" function that kicks in when you click one of the suggested search terms is going to severely impact results for everyone.Unless of course you hold the top spot. In which case hello even more traffic. Poor position 2.

over 6 years ago

Artur Jach

Artur Jach, Technical SEO Manager at MPG Media Contacts

It definitely looks like Google suggestions may just become one of the most important keyword research tools as you want your site to appear for a partial term or for other terms Google suggests. @Brian Aaron Wall's SEO Book claims Google plans to roll Instant out for all users in future, even those not signed-in. I share your concern there though.

over 6 years ago

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Robert Dicks

I guess from a paid campaign you may want to become more granular if someone types travel and a ad pops up people may well just click on it rather than search further which will lead to higher costs and lower quality traffic.

This could have a positive effect on those advertisers who are prepared to bid on the more granular keywords than the generic ones. You can imagine the costs associated with generic keywords if people stop searching and click it could drive some more inexperienced AdWords users out of the market.

over 6 years ago

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Jack

I think more general keyword will get more traffic, for example, if you want to search "web hosting", when you will type "Web", you will have lot of variations with combination of "Web" Keyword...

Long tail keyword traffic will reduce for sure....Paid search advertisers need to be more careful while bidding

over 6 years ago

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Dr. SEO Haley

I noticed that we also have the ability to turn it off, next to the search bar, if we don't like it. One thing is for sure - from an SEO perspective, this changes the way we have to think when we target keywords in the articles we write. I see the results from short words preceeding the long tail phrases. I want to grab the persons attention first with the short words... I love it!

about 6 years ago

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Minna

Personally, I think people will get annoyed with Google Instant.  When I'm searching, I already know what I have in mind.  It's not like facebook or twitter where I want to browse around to see what people I know are saying.

about 6 years ago

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Amy Moore

Does anyone know what % of people search from the Google home page as opposed to using the toolbar or browser search box. I always search from my toolbar & saw someone else comment yesterday that they do the same...people using these methods for search will not see the "instant" results until they do another search from the SERP.

about 6 years ago

Artur Jach

Artur Jach, Technical SEO Manager at MPG Media Contacts

So GOOGLE.COM has now introduced Instant as a default way of searching - even for those who are not signed in to gmail. Any differences in rankings?

about 6 years ago

John Courtney

John Courtney, CEO and Executive Chairman at Pay on Results SEO, Content Marketing, Social Media, Digital PR, PPC & CRO from Strategy Digital

Our Digital Straegist Pete Wailes comments: “The big change with Instant is what it does for the keyword research game, and to PPC bidding. We’re going to see more attention paid to the suggested queries, as people start to use them more, and paid search marketers vastly increasing their negative keyword lists as they strive to stop their ads appearing for terms that may be vaguely similar in spelling, rather than in relevance, to terms that they bid on. Potentially, this could also have a large impact on long tail searches, as people refine queries on the fly, rather than conducting a search, evaluating the results, conducting another and so on. My guess is that we won’t see the data in terms of the impact that it has for a few months, whilst the technology rolls out (and the inevitable versions for browsers come around) and people get used to it and start adapting to how it informs their searches.”

about 6 years ago

Steve Harvey-Franklin

Steve Harvey-Franklin, Director at Attercopia

1 big concern is the fact that the suggested phrases drop down is pushing the results down the page leaving practically the top 3 PPC results even more prominent and pushing organic results well below the fold.

This will make the top 2-3 organic spots even more sought after and push up the click thrus (not ctr) of the top PPC results.

So Google is essentially taking over more of the visible real estate with PPC

Another concern is that results become skewed to what Google suggests, even if Google suggests based on user activity, it actually becomes self limiting if people rarely get to the end of their own search string.

That said, Google's proved they are masters of speed once more with their economic programming and pure processing power.

about 6 years ago

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Stuart Ritson

Going around our office and getting 20 logged-in Google users to type in a couple of search queries, their behaviour was identical. None of them looked up while they were typing and so did not even see the Google Instant results appear. So I think it will actually have very little effect.

about 6 years ago

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David Lakins

It is interesting what Google displays when Google Instant is switched on. The chaps in the office have had a bit of a play and it is clear that the big brands are doing quite well out of Instant - although Argos appears before Apple !

Be interesting to see what impact Instant has on PPC given that a 3 second pause is enough to count as a PPC advert impression.

about 6 years ago

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Mark Scott

What is a bit mad is how much the results change even if you just put a space after what you are typing.  From a reputation management point of view what could have been a page full of positive results can suddenly turn negative with just an extra space.

Does this mean we should look at adding a space at the end of our anchor text on back links?

about 6 years ago

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Craig McGregor

So, we're all guessing really!

The point about less visible organic results is very telling though. I think it's a general trend for google to pre-empt (control) the resutls we see, which gives them yet more leverage for PPC. I think Instant V2.0 will be the revealing evolution...

about 6 years ago

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Dom K

If I open up Google to search for a blue car, I'm not going to be distracted by a blue card, blue carrot or blue cardigan (you can probably ignore the 0.001% of ppl who are). This also makes me think - what's the point in giving me search results along the way? - especially if after each letter I press I get search results that are completely-and-still out of context? The number of times that typing provides back-to-back, in-context results will be rare (yet I realise it's something with limitless possibility). Agreed however on ppc - this could dramatically change things on my ppc campaign - but again, it depends if I want to over-complicate and overspend by competing on letter variations of words and phrases that are only tentatively related to my product. If I was a blueberry company paying for "blue", I'd now reconsider. Time to employ an etymologist...

about 6 years ago

Mark Fleming

Mark Fleming, Digital Marketing Manager at Kuoni Travel

In full agreement with @Artur Jach - Google Suggest becomes a very, if not the most important keyword tool if Google Instant is rolled out. Advertisers will be paying for 'suggestions' that appear which may be absolutely nothing to do with their business. Google score!

Big Brands will be seeing more traffic with some companies appearing after just one keystroke and Google may just happen to have a few of these too. A - Amazon, S - Sky, and Y - Youtube appears ahead of Yahoo. OK, I'll let that go but looking a little further at this U - Utube which again brings up Youtube! Google score!

@Mark Scott - I also found dramatic changes in search results by adding a space to my search term. I would definitely suggest this is something that needs further investigation.

about 6 years ago

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Polly P

I guess the search engine users behaviour will be divided. Those who type without looking at the keyboard and look watch the screen would pause for Google Instant, those who watch what they type on the keyboard will remain unaware.

My guess is that long tail searches will be effected segnificantly.

about 6 years ago

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John Straw

Anyone care to speculate why, when you type "A" into Instant, Argos get to top of the list whilst Amazon comes second?

By any stretch Amazon has to rate more highly than Argos on any of the algo signals AND I've previously clicked through to Amazon (but not to Argos).

about 6 years ago

Manfredi Sassoli de Bianchi

Manfredi Sassoli de Bianchi, VP Marketing at jobinasecond

I wonder, does it open opportunities to use search in a disruptive fashion. Whatever the case I find it takes away part of the beauty of Search: before it was all about finding out what consumer were looking for, now this is suggested to them. The medium has become slightly more "push".

about 6 years ago

Crystal Rose

Crystal Rose, Owner at Onvi.com

Mac users to Google: we haven't used your homepage since 2005.

Chrome users to Google: we haven't used your homepage since 2008.

Mobile device users to Google: we will never use your homepage.

In...effective for some users. In...stant for others. The tech savvy will either love it or hate it. Then the others: There's still a large group of people who don't look up from the keyboard until they are finished typing (the group that still doesn't realize your browser bar will auto-complete a URL) and I don't think this will change anytime soon, especially with the introduction of touchpad keyboards reverting everyone back to single finger hunt-and-peck typers. Advertisers should not pay for these premature pauses or fractions of phrases.

Good for Google, less good for advertisers. I'll stick with my 3-word key phrases in AdWords for now until some effectiveness has really been proven. I'm interested to see how it will play out.

about 6 years ago

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a

"many may see this as a good time to give Bing a try instead. "
PWAHAHAHAHHAH BING?! LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL this kid is out of touch! Good thing nobody uses SEOptimise IMO!

over 4 years ago

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