As you may have noticed, Google Instant was released last Wednesday and the online community has been buzzing about it ever since. As Google puts it, Instant is a “new search enhancement that shows results as you type.”
As with any new functionality or tools, how this affects people’s search behavior, search engine choices and the internet marketing industry remains to be seen. But, we have some initial thoughts on Google Instant– pros, cons and a few side notes. How will Google Instant affect SEO? How will it affect website and PPC analytics? We asked you what you thought as well; read on for these online marketing community views.
Google’s Big Announcement
During their live Search Event, Google announced Instant and demonstrated the new user interface of Google.com. When a user begins typing a word into the search box, results come up instantly below, as long as the word is not a Google censored word.
More on Google’s new censorship policies later.
Google says Instant will bring users three main benefits:
- Faster Searches Google says that since they are showing results before you even finish typing, they will save you 3-5 seconds per search.
- Smarter Predictions “Predictions help guide your search.” Matt Cutts explains that Instant will help users refine their search during their search process with the suggested links that come up as they type.
- Instant Results Although Instant on mobile has not released yet, Google Instant is supposed to enhance the mobile searching experience because you may not have to type the entire word before the result you are looking for comes up.
So that’s the Google explanation. This is how we see it so far:
A Better Ad Opportunity.
Google is a business, and at the heart of everything, they are an ad business. With Instant, they are able to serve many more ads to users and make more revenue. But, you can’t blame a business for trying to be profitable.
Early reporting is showing that Google Adwords accounts are seeing their ad impressions increase. Of course, this could also be a good thing for businesses doing PPC on Google, since their ads will have an increased chance of getting clicked on.
As @adamlefever tweeted, “So far, regarding Google #Instant & Adwords, nothing’s changed much. Slightly elevated impressions (about 15%), steady spend/conversion.”
Was Search Really Too Slow?
Google has certainly been focused on speed lately. In June 2010, they released their new search index update, Caffeine, which increased Google’s ability to index the web by 50%. With this, they also released Google Page Speed, which helps webmasters diagnose and fix their own website’s page loading issues.
We know that slow-loading pages are an irritating issue with a lot of websites. But was anyone complaining that searching on google.com took too long? Not that we’ve heard. So, while Caffeine and Page Speed seemed truly user-focused, Instant seems again to be more revenue-based.
We only heard one tweet about slow search, and it was actually about Instant. @UrbanBacon tweeted, “ehhhhh – it doesn’t load before I finish typing, so what’s the point?”
Unsuccessful Multi-Taskers, Sufferers of ADD, Users Over 50
One has to wonder if Google had any of these people in mind. While in some cases, searchers may not know exactly what they want to search, but this was an issue solved less intrusively with Google Suggest (which is the drop-down suggested searches that come up as you type in a search word.)
But, now with Instant results coming up that include pictures, videos, social media updates and more, falling down the rabbit hole of random clicking is even easier. “I actually find it more distracting than helpful.” is the judgment call from @hirejameson on Google Instant.
Erin “Loudfinity” Steinbruegge points out:
I find it somewhat distracting at this point – I don’t necessarily want to see all the results Google holds for each letter that I type into Google. If I want to search for “cute dog collars” then I want to see the results for cute dog collars. I do not want to be distracted by the results for Craigslist, currency converter, cute quotes, cute pdf, cute dresses, cute dog names, and BAM! finally I’m at cute dog collars.
Damage to the Long Tail
Long tail PPC and SEO refers to when businesses optimize their websites and run PPC ads for keyword phrases that contain more words, which often leads to more targeted traffic because the searcher has a clearer intent with their longer search. For instance, searchers that type in “good gifts for a 5 year old’s birthday” are going to be more targeted traffic for a kids’ toy company website than users that search “good gifts”.
It’s smart SEO and PPC practice to optimize for these searchers that are further into the buying cycle. So, Long tail keyword phrases are a great way for organizations running PPC and SEO campaigns to control costs and regulate ROI.
Aaron “Dr. Loudweiser” Stevens calls attention to the fact that now with Instant, not only will this strategy be less effective, it will be interesting to see what spammers try to optimize for. Chances are you may start to notice title tags of spammy websites changing to half-written words, as they try to rank their websites.
Alternate Search Options
As @danco tweeted about Google Instant, “I have barely encountered it. 99% of my searches come from the AwesomeBar or the search box”. We suspect there are quite a few people in this camp that rarely go to google.com and then type in their search. More commonly, users use the top right-hand search box on their browser to search, which does not have Google Instant capabilities.
However, as Google said, mobile users may find Instant more helpful on their smartphones, where typing can be a pain. Personally, I use the voice search option on my iPhone Google app, which eliminates typing altogether. And smartphones are usually slower, which could make waiting for Instant results irrelevant or irritating.
It will also be interesting to see how this affects the use of Bing. It would be a good thing for use of Bing to increase and come minutely closer to being a search competitor to Google. Monopolies of anything are never good, so leveling the search engine playing field is good for searchers, businesses and the internet marketing community.
Google Now Censors Results
One thing I am concerned about is that now censorship is acceptable with Google Instant. There have also been a lot of amusing tweets about what you can and cannot type into Google to receive Instant results. Online marketing industry expert, Michael Gray, tweeted from @graywolf, “so google gives instant results for [murder] and [how do i kill] but not [naked]” and “google instant ok with [underwear] [boxers] [thongs] not ok with [lingerie] [panties] it’s so arbitrary”.
It is troubling that Google is allowed to censor at free will what will and will not come up in Instant Search.
Follow the Cheese?
As we learned in the story Who Moved My Cheese?, change is often hard but necessary. So, The Loud Few jury on Google Instant is still out and these are just our first observations with the new functionality. This seems to be the case with a lot of users. As @rwbennet tweeted, “I think I’ll like it soon, but right now it’s annoying the crap out of me”.
About the Author
Lisa Keller is the Marketing Project Manager at The Loud Few and specializes in online marketing strategy and management. You can follow Lisa on Twitter.