What Does Instant Search Mean For SEO?
Yesterday Google implemented their new search experience, Google Instant and the SEO and Tech blogs lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s nice to see something get these folks excited for a change. While the notion of instant search isn’t new, Yahoo had it in 2005, Google commands the vast majority of search engine market share so such a major, public change to the Google interface warrants attention.
Essentially, in Google’s quest to improve user experience and increase speed, they’ve already lowered the time it takes to return results on a query. The actual act of searching and refinement of queries by users is what takes time, so Google Instant is designed to shorten the time it takes for users to find what they’re looking for by showing search results as you type. If you’re logged in to Google, those results are personalized as they have since personalization was implemented.
Personalization has meant that different users searching on the same phrase can see different search results. That change affects the kind of SEO that focuses on specific queries and “ranking” over matching customer-centric keywords with useful content. Good optimization for search has everything to do with holistically viewing the SEO opportunities of any content that can be searched on (digital asset optimization) and presented to searchers. SEO has evolved as marketing designed to engage customers and help make it easier for the search engines to do their job and for customers to buy what it is they’re looking for. Good SEO drives revenue and business growth and is so far beyond the notion of “rankings” that people who say SEO is “irrelevant”, sound a lot like those that say the “world is flat”.
As with any big change there are the FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt) perpetrators when Google announces something new: (Google Instant could lead to blackhat SEO problems and Google Instant Makes SEO Irrelevant). But there are also clever, interesting and smart insights coming out of the search community. Here are 10 posts that cover all aspects of Google Instant ranging from what it is, to how to get the most out of it as a user, what the impact is on SEO and PPC and suggestions on how to leverage Google Instant as a marketer.
Matt Cutts – Thoughts on Google Instant – Q: Does Google Instant kill search engine optimization (SEO)? A: No! Q Will Google Instant change search engine optimization? A: I think over time it might. The ability to explore the query space and find out new things will inevitably lead to changes for SEO.
Nine by Blue (Vanessa Fox) – SEO is Dead and/or Irrelevant With Google Instant? – I’ve always advised looking at audience needs and building a site that addresses them holistically rather than fixating on ranking for a single keyword phrase. And that strategy continues to be a sound one in light of Google Instant.
Search Engine Land – Google Instant: The Complete User’s Guide – Does Google Instant “Kill SEO” or Impact Rankings? In my opinion (Matt McGee): no chance. As long as humans use search engines (like Google) to look for information online, that content will need to be optimized. A well-rounded approach to content development and optimization should actually benefit from Google Instant.
SEO Book – How Google Instant Changes the SEO Landscape – Google instant only increases the value of a well thought out SEO strategy. Why? Well… it consolidates search volume into a smaller basket of keywords. It further promotes the localization of results. It makes it easier to change between queries, so its easier to type one more letter than scroll down the page.
Google Webmaster Central – Google Instant: Impact on Search Queries – “With Google Instant, you may notice an increase in impressions because your site will appear in search results as users type.”
Fast Company – Why Google Instant Is Good for Microsoft – How could Bing ever set itself apart with Google’s reactionary mindset? The answer now is to simply stay where they are — remaining, in effect, as Google Classic.
AdAge – Google Instant Changes Game for Brands – At first blush, the real-time results appear to give more prominence to the web’s biggest brands. Google execs were quick to note that natural search results, and techniques companies use to land higher in Google search results, won’t change. But Johanna Wright, director of product management for Google Instant, said one difference is that they will direct users to “page two” results faster. “As you continue typing and narrowing your search, the instantly changing and refreshing results below the search box will be giving you more relevant results,” she said. “So if you previously looked on the second page, now those same results come to the top of the pile for you.”
Google AdWords Help – What is Google Instant? – Although Google Instant won’t change the way ads are served, ads and search results will now be shown for a new “predicted query.” Google Instant might increase or decrease your overall impression levels.
Search Engine Watch – Google Instant – 10 Things Marketing Teams Need to Know – Google Instant is of equivalent significance to marketers as the Universal Search update, which previously amalgamated their video, news, blogs, maps and image search properties into one search engine results page (SERPs). As was the case then, lost real estate for organic search results presented new opportunities for the savvy marketer. The same is likely to be true now.
FeedBlitz – SEO: Three Things you must do NOW with Google Instant – Disable Search Personalization, Search for your company / product / service and for pages you don’t control, make a comment that links back to your site, Repeat for competing companies, terms and products. Start a quick-hit SEO project and Tune your site for these terms.
It remains to be seen how much of an impact the preference towards brands and the change in impressions will have on marketers ability to leverage Google Insight in new ways. Some marketers have already published tips on how to track Google Instant using Google Analytics, which will assist in developing insights on what has impact and will be instrumental in learning what to refine.
About the Author: Lee Odden is CEO of TopRank Online Marketing, a digital marketing and public relations firm in Minnesota that specializes in search, social and online PR consulting and training for companies worldwide. Odden has been cited for his internet marketing expertise over the past 10 years by the Economist, Forbes and U.S. News and contributed a chapter to the book, "Online Marketing Heroes" published by Wiley. For the past 5 years he has also been the editor of TopRank's Online Marketing Blog, a Technorati 100 favorite blog and one of the top marketing blogs according to Advertising Age.