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??

Mike Teasdale

Published 17 September, 2010 by Mike Teasdale

Mike Teasdale is Planning Director at Harvest Digital. Follow him on Twitter, connect on Linkedin or read his blog.

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Comments (2)

Grant Whiteside

Grant Whiteside, Technical Director at Ambergreen Internet Marketing

Google Analytics haven't played ball and gave away the information all advertisers want to know. Regardless of the beta status of Google Instant, there were enough people using it to measure a difference in search patterns. The predictions Ambergreen posted on Econsultancy earlier this week about a rise in the use of generic search terms and a reduction of quality score for long tail queries seems to have come true. We have compared seven years worth of paid search analytics on a year by year basis for one of our luxury retail clients.

One surprise has been the increase in quality score for the use of these generic searches, however click throughs' arent enough, it's conversions that really matter. So it is of no surprise that conversions have decreased and we have responded by reducing the positions for our generic paid search queries, (you can afford to do this when you already have the top spots through our SEO and local search).

Certain types of long tail cheaper, more considered search terms have seen a slightly reduced quality score, this could be something to do with impressions being increased as it takes longer to type in the search query.So it seems that taking 2 seconds out whilst typing in a search query (hence adding another impression) will add up to more advertising funds being spent on Google. However it is fair to say that other types of long tail queries have seen the quality score increase. This means we have had to change strategy for specific long tail clusters.

Long tail search terms PPC conversions are as high as ever, but it is a slightly more expensive average click price. The contribution between all other channels (organic, email, banners, referrers) hasn't changed.

Well that's the story so far, I dare say this will be rolled out to the entire Google audience and it won't be limited to clients that sign in. Google Analytics will eventually show the key statistics that we all want to see after they have worked out how much money they'll make out of it.

almost 8 years ago


Paul Anthony

The original idea actually stemmed from me,

which those guys then ran, improved upon an duplicated the idea

two URL's which show this is the case. Both SEW, and now yourselves attributing the wrong source. Should I shout about it? In an age where links are freaking near impossible to get in the first place? Yes. #sourgrapes? Yes.

Well done Semetrical.  Oh and at the time, the Google cache proved it too, but that's long gone. 

almost 8 years ago

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