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As an SEO, my fear is that some cunning paid search guru is going to steal my clients' business before searchers get to my handiwork. So now I have to optimise earlier words. The early word gets the worm?

What this means is targeting across the keystrokes in linear fashion from first letter until the search is either complete or a relevant result set presented. With everyone flapping about the who's and why's of Google Instant there are some of us thinking about how to game the system.

Far from making SEO irrelevant; Google Instant allows us to use the next tool in our SEO arsenal. This might be linear targeting of search results.

As someone types in a search phrase there is a high chance they may never complete the phrase. The search results presented may be good enough for the searcher to click on a listing or an advert. This means SEOs and paid search advertisers can now target the words that form the search in order of typing and not just the phrase itself.

For example, if I want to type 'sports spread betting' I can start pecking at the keyboard and the results flow into the screen.

At 's' I get 'sky' suggested and shown in the result set.

At 'sp' sports direct is suggested and shown.

'Sports' is the next change in suggestions but not the result set shown.

This is because it was already showing the results for 'sports'.

Add a space and the suggestion changes again.

At 'sports s' more suggestions so I have another phrase to target. Each target it the one that gets preference in the suggestion tool being the first suggested phrase. (So maybe this gets called preferential term targeting?)

Sports s

Finally safety for my client at 'sports sp' with a result set of sports spread betting companies. As a searcher though, after all those result sets I'm less inclined to scroll.

I'm exhausted from looking at all the choices prior. For the client, being #1 is going to matter more and more on the most relevant searches.

sports sp

As an SEO, my fear is that some cunning paid search guru is going to steal my clients business before searchers get to my handiwork. So now I have to optimise earlier words. The early word gets the worm?

What this means is targeting across the keystrokes in linear fashion from first letter until the search is either complete or a relevant result set presented.

So my first target is to advertise next to 'sky'

My second target is to advertise and optimise my site to 'sports'.

Spaces now matter though it may take a while to understand how we target them. Maybe a URL .... /sport_/.

It will be a boon for paid search as 'sky' and 'sport' are great opportunities to get in first now.

It presents challenges for SEO as we have to broaden to a new long tail of shorties.

Winning the linear targeting, or preferential phrase battle is going to be a key new strategy for paid search and SEO in the coming months.

Julian Grainger

Published 10 September, 2010 by Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger is an internet consultant and cotnributor to Econsultancy.

9 more posts from this author

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Stephen Logan

Stephen Logan, Senior Copywriter at Koozai

Adapting to Google Instant is going to pose many challenges for online marketers. Whilst I can see the logic in adapting PPC and SEO efforts to incorporate the searches that appear prior to any long tail keywords you're targeting, surely the practicality of doing so will put off most advertisers. You'll be attracting impressions from unrelated terms, surrendering quality score and probably not getting all that many clicks - certainly not of any worth. If I'm looking for Sky, would I really then actually want sports spread betting? Probably not. I think it's easy to overreact to this update at the moment. I've already switched mine off and others who don't have Google accounts can't even access it, then of course there are lazy people (like me) who never open Google and just use the toolbar which also isn't instant; so I think investing in increasing PPC campaigns exponentially at this point would be potentially damaging. The theory is sound, but I think in practice it might struggle a little. It certainly won't be achievable for sites with smaller budgets. These should really benefit from actually being more targeted; as the pages they appear on (if using long tail or niche phrases) should now attract fewer unrelated searches and leave them with more budget to bid for a more lucrative top spot here. Anyway, that's my two cents for what it's worth - very interesting angle though Julian, enjoyed the read.

almost 6 years ago

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Chelsea Blacker

Interesting points Julian.  Instant search is allowing users to expand their query subject matter to new suggestions and possibilities; this way users are becoming much more well-rounded about a given subject matter.  

I'd say that it's more important to optimise pages for an increasingly diverse range of keyterms.  This may mean building out more content heavy pages with long tail phrases - not the "three letter" optimisation as you suggest. 

Additionally, I believe social media buzz will be a major influencer in what terms are suggested higher up in the drop down menu. 

almost 6 years ago

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Laura

I think this will work because you have to predict dinamically not only the keyword you have to rank, but also all the keyword flow that that keyword will be generating. @Stephen: as you said there will be a lot of peopel turning off this feature or not using google accounts, but one of the most important SEO quality is to have a general overview about what it could happen in the future and how to adapt to it. I'm pretty sure this is a massive change not only about how result will be displayed, but also about people behaviour. If Google is also announcing instant will be on mobile this fall, and it was saying "HTML5 rocks" long time ago...maybe we would have to be prepared to have instant like default option. And if it weren't like that, we'll can use this analysis for whom switched it on.

almost 6 years ago

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Stuart McLennan

I agree with what is being said about the potential for PPC to cannibalise natural traffic as agencies target further up the search query, but I disagree with your suggestion for SEO to target further up the search query. In terms of SEO, it would take a huge effort to push a sports spread betting site to the top of Google for the term “sports”, especially with the natural “linkability” and regularly updated content of media sites which have well structured sports sections. As an agency, it would be highly irresponsible of Tamar to recommend this to a client. You are better off continuing to target the terms which produce the best conversion and ROI

almost 6 years ago

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Daniel Tangen

Always nice to read well thought out articles on interesting subjects, and Google instant makes for some interesting scenarios for search marketers. For now i still believe that the key for content producers and website owners is to focus on delivering quality, well optimized content, targeting your key terms. It is also a good idea to test searches in instant in advance to see what optional linear terms might compete with your ultimate goal of getting the traffic. It is also important to keep in mind that most people are not professional searchers like us, and are still likely to complete to a large degree their search query, with the time saving coming in not having to do any button press following the search. 

almost 6 years ago

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john

Seem to have a mistake above. 

You said that the second term to target is "Sports" after you typed "sp" but the serp being displayed is for the phrase "Sports Direct". So you need to optimise / rank on the phrase "Sports Direct"

Your theory is correct but you need to optimise to the suggest term, not what's typed in or just one word. 


One problem is, the suggested term could and will change over time, for example if tomorrow we found space aliens on Mars then typing "sp" would auto suggest the phrase "space aliens". As that would be the most popular thing to display after typing "sp"

It depends on the phrase and the likelihood of a big news story gaining momentum. For example typing "way" a few weeks ago would have generated "wayne rooney", "wayne rooney goals", "way rooney video", things are a little different today when typing "way".

If you spent money on targeting those terms, all of a sudden the suggest changes and you'll no longer have any visibility. It could be a risky method of key phrase selection, some won't change e.g. "cheap.... will always display the same suggestions.

almost 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.”

almost 6 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

@ Stephen Yes, it will depend on how deep your pockets are. In terms of administering this, then bid management software may come into it's own.

@ Chelsea, not three leters, the firts word, it was a coincidence :). But yes, you also have a valid approach

@ Stuart, I take on board what you say; targeting within capabilities or pushing the envelope is an old debate. For me it depends on how much risk you and your client are willing to take on. Where your client has a reasonably sophisticated understanding and the risks are clearly explained then there is no reason not to try and maybe fail. Success though is where advances are made.

@ John, thanks good spot on the error. The rest, read again, we are in agreement.

almost 6 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

@ John, that is interesting but kind of spammy and self promotional. That's my job ;) Can you highlight a bit more relevance to the conversation please?

almost 6 years ago

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Steve Wheatley, Managing Director at Zen Web SolutionsSmall Business

@Julian. If you're saying that as an SEO working for a company that does 'sports spread betting', you're going to try and optimise their site for the word 'sports' - then I personally don't agree with that angle, for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, I imagine it's highly unlikely you'd get them to the top of the first page for that phrase (which is where you'd need to be to catch their attention whilst typing) without a huge amount of investment, and to be honest it's just not relevant, users won't expect to see your site appear there, let me explain why.

For the most part you shouldn't worry about what results begin to appear as you enter your targeted keyword phrases. Here’s an different example to show what I'm getting at:

Target Phrase: red widgets

Start to type ‘red widgets’ into Google Instant and you’ll see results for ‘rightmove‘ as you type 'r' and then results for 'republic' as you continue onto 're'. There’s no point trying to optimise your red widget site for either of these phrases (rightmove or republic), firstly as i mentioned above it’d be an enormous task and secondly, someone who’s actually looking for ‘red widgets’ won’t see the results for ‘rightmove’ or ‘republic’ and think “yeah, that’s what I’m looking for” and begin to look for a red widget site within them - they'll expect to see sites relating to 'rightmove' and 'republic'.

It’s actually more likely they’ll continue to enter more of the phrase, but probably not the whole phrase because by the time they’ve entered ‘red widg‘ Google has already suggested and shown results for ‘red widgets‘. They'll recognise those and choose a relevant site to visit.

In your example, 'sports' and 'sports spread betting' are more closely related than 'red widgets' and 'republic' or 'rightmove', but the same principle still applies in my opinion.

What I do agree with is what Pete Wailes said (through John Courtney) about it potentially changing keyword research and which keywords companies choose to optimise for. We have a client who ranks for the plural and singular forms of a phrase, Google Instant is now showing results for the singular before the plural and so we're going to make some changes to improve their ranking for the singular phrase. In my opinion that makes sense.

almost 6 years ago

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Vinod Nambiar

While 'Google Suggest' was a good innovation, this one IMHO is a complete loser, pardon the language. It is a complete reversal from Google claim to be "user friendly". The Genie is trying to guess what Alladin needs, and goes a step ahead and brings it, but it changes with every alphabet of the wish. Dumb Genie, right? 

But yes, the collateral benefit is Google can claim an exponential increase in page impressions. Will help them in the Comscore battle against Facebook ;) 

Vinod

almost 6 years ago

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James Moffat

Interesting point above - but I don't thin this this takes into account how people will actually use instant search. It assumes people will change hoe they search - which is a BIG ask. So far i have used it in two ways: 1. To experiment and play - not the way a user looking for a particular product or service would use it 2. To do actual searches. In effect unconsciously. When Ive used it to do actual searches I don't type slower and check each key strike - I still just type in the full phrase i'm searching for. This tells me i'm not going to change my behavior any time soon - so why should other later adopter users? To get an advantage from linear targeting, you need users to change their behavior - and I don't see that happening - at least not any time soon.

almost 6 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

@Eamonn I don't think it is an easy task but not an impossible one for related words and good content.

@Vinod, keep it related to the topic please.

@ James it is far to early to categorically say how people will use it, and even then the norm will usually correlate to about 30% as usual. Instant is the default and generally people don't know to change it or can't be bothered looking to change it. The jury stays out on that one.

almost 6 years ago

Mark Selwyn

Mark Selwyn, eCommerce and Multi-Channel Retail Consultant

So my first target is to advertise next to 'sky'

As soon as Google starts personalising instant search results based on previous search history, as it will, you might get Sky, but your daughter might get School, your son Soccer, and I might get Sex.

almost 6 years ago

Mark Selwyn

Mark Selwyn, eCommerce and Multi-Channel Retail Consultant

@Julian - my point was that Im not sure Instant is doing personalised results now (as everyone seems to get Sky - I may be wrong tho on this), but will do in the future, and therefore "advertising next to Sky" may not be effective use of funds targeting "sports spread betting".

almost 6 years ago

Julian Grainger

Julian Grainger, Director of Media Strategy at Unique Digital

@ Mark, sorry I see what you mean. The default Suggestion might become personalised. It's a very good point and definitely something to look out for. It provides even greater emphasis on paid search as there is greater flexibility to target.

Along those lines at the moment it seems to be the term with the most volume in sktool that defaults at the top. So this will change with seasonality for many searches as well.

For paid and natural search this is going to mean even greater time spent on keyword research. For SEO it puts greater emphasis on building domain strength and a flexible CMS to chop and change.

almost 6 years ago

Mark Selwyn

Mark Selwyn, eCommerce and Multi-Channel Retail Consultant

I'd be interested as to the before/after clickthru % on the various Virgin adwords campaigns, as Im sure theyre now getting much lower clickthru as Instant is displaying them every time someone enters just the letter V

almost 6 years ago

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Terry Hogan, Managing Director at Motoring.co.uk

IMHO,

Will suit large brands much better. A quick flick through the 1st letters of the alphabet gave me Argos, Amazon, Asos, Asda, BBC(fair enough) Currys, Comet, CBBC, Debenhams, Ebay,Easyjet, Expedia, Google Maps, Gmail, Hotmail, HSBC, Halfords,Ikea, John Lewis,KLM,Lotto,MSN,Matalan, Next, New Look, O2, Paypal,PCWorld,QVC, Quidco, Rightmove, Ryanair, Sky Skynews Skysports, Tesco, Utube, Virgin, Vodafone, Weather, Xbox, Youtube, Yahoo,Zara.

Anybody would think we're a nation obsessed by watching TV, shopping online, travel and the weather.

The flip side of it is more granular search and instancy, what happens when you change the search time frame to latest, last 24 hours etc?

There is opportunity here.

almost 6 years ago

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