Expert Opinion: How Google Instant Changes SEO

September 15, 2010
There have been a number of articles lately talking about the impact of Google Instant on the world of search engine optimisation. Dramatic claims like “Google Instant Makes SEO Irrelevant” by Steve Rubel are reactionary and unfounded. But that is not to say that there will be no affect for SEOs. Matt Cutts seems to conclude that Google Instant might change SEO. Well here’s my two cents: Google Instant will change SEO right now because it teaches searchers how to better search.

Let’s use a specific example for a specific industry. Imagine a small business owner is investigating setting up a website. The most used search term is “web design” which gets 12,100 exact searches each month in Australia and 301,000 world wide.

That makes ranking “Web Design” on the first page a pretty lucrative keyword to rank for since it will attract a great deal of searchers. However with the introduction of Google Instant, more searchers will modify their search term on the fly. Look at what happens when I enter the term “Web Design”.

There are a few things that happen here. 1) Google Suggest suggests a different keyword “Web Designer”. 2) The search results appear instantly and bold related search terms such as “Website” and 3) More search terms are made available to the searcher such as “Company”. Now since the results are instant and do not require the user to take any action, the user is free (if not even encouraged) to make continual modifications to the search term used. So in this example the user might decide to change the term to “web designer” or “website design company”. Let’s assume the searcher decided to change to “website design company”. Here’s what happens:

As the user nearly completes the term the plural term “companies” is suggested. Now the user knows that there is nothing to be lost by changing the search term mid type since the results are instant.

So here are my conclusions:

  1. Searchers will be educated as they search
  2. Searchers on average will perform more searches than previously
  3. Long tail keyword searches will increase in volume
  4. Keywords that lend themselves to plurals will increase in volume

So how do SEOs need to change their practice? Once they have done initial keyword research they need to start analysing how a typical searcher will behave when entering this search term. Useful questions to ask are, how will a searcher likely modify this search term? And, what long term keywords can be combined to rank for a range of possible modified searches?

5 Responses

  1. Here is what I think about this change. By implementing Instant Google is trying to eliminate top positions of those internet marketers who intentionally were benefiting from “misspeld” keywords, because the search will automatically offer the correct spelled version of keywords.
    I agree that plural search amount will increase.
    Showing up long tail keywords is good but on the other hand might be bad as well because Google has now direct impact on what they want people to search for.
    Let’s see how this evolves further on but it’s clear that IM strategies must be reconsidered starting now.

  2. Hi Aiv, thanks for your response. That’s a good point about misspellings, I hadn’t thought of that. I think you’re right in that Google now has more control over what long tail keywords will be more popular since it is Google that terms what the suggested terms are. However I suspect the suggestions would be an algorithm which attempts to learn ‘what people really want’ as opposed to what Google wants.

  3. One things is for sure, top 3-4 search results will get 80% of the “clicks” with google instant. This means more competition which is nice :)

  4. What about geographic searches? I know that Google already takes into about your IP address to make your search local-specific, but it still is a different set of results when you end up searching locallly…. so, if you were looking for a “web-designer”, and Google didn’t offer “chicago” as a local long-tail option, then the more nationally optimized result would end potentially receiving much more business because you may not add your Geographic modifier based on Google’s lack of a local selection.

  5. I think this change is all about making more money for Google for adwords. Let me explain.

    Rather than encouraging people to type more, by presenting results already before the user has finished typing, it can encourage them to stop typing as soon as they see something relevant. This means that whoever is ranked for the main keywords will end up with more click throughs, but whoever is relying on the “long tail” for traffic will probably end up much worse off in terms of Google traffic. These sites will then have to rely more on Adwords – and thus Google makes more money!


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