Yesterday Google launched its Instant Search functionality, and the Internet was all a-Twitter (and a-Facebook and a-Buzz) about how the new feature will affect Google itself. Some argue the change will kill Search Engine Optimization (SEO); others that it will kill Google’s paid placements.
The reality is, Google Instant affects only the search method itself, and not actual results. Well, sort of…
With Instant, the top results display (what you see before you need to scroll) is adjusted as letters are entered into the search box. An auto-complete feature lets you quickly select (with mouse or arrow keys) the topic you want. Auto-complete is user-friendly for most because it makes the process easier for those who may not know the exact terms and/or spellings.
The real-time results display, however, is what will affect non top-ranking sites. This is because Google’s now made it easier to scratch your initial search by simply hitting the back key. Since people can search without waiting for pages to load, there’s a good chance the number of hits on subsequent pages will drop tremendously.
Here’s what small business sites can expect as a result of Google’s new feature:
- Less incoming traffic as a result of highly common keywords. Large companies and longer-running web sites will get first dibs.
- The need to optimize pages for more unique keywords. This would also result in less incoming traffic (because people tend to search more on common terms), but an increase in conversions since results will be more appropriate to their search.
- The need for a more strategic SEO plan for Google competitors. If you’ve been putting off optimizing pages for Bing and other search engines, Instant should give you the kick you need. Not that these engines garner more overall traffic and recognition, but because they also have users that are loyal to searching outside of Google.
- The need to rethink any Google Adwords campaign. Since there will be less scrolling, the need to be listed in the top half of Google’s pages is more important. Keep in mind that more unique, definitive terms may provide better results per dollar spent than the most common keywords. However, I anticipate Instant will result in a boost in the number of clicks on organic results as opposed to pay-for – we’ll see.
The good thing about Instant is that it enhances the user experience, which all sites and businesses should strive to improve.
There’s one caveat, though. Instant doesn’t support any questionable content. So keywords that resemble anything “sexy” will result in a halt of both auto-complete and real time results.
About Curves (a client of mine) sells plus-size lingerie. Their mission isn’t to sell sex, though. It’s about instilling confidence in women who aren’t portrayed as the “ideal” build in today’s modeling world. Google Instant affects the most commonly used term of “plus size lingerie”, leaving the company to determine additional ways of marketing via SEO.
Typing in a complete phrase and clicking the search button (or pressing the ENTER key) will return results, but as Internet surfers get used to Instant, the number of old-style searches will likely drop. And while anyone can turn off Google Instant, the default setting is “ON”.
For the general population, Google’s just enriched the search experience. Now it’s up to businesses to devise plans to take advantage of these changes and find more ways to cater to their target audience.