How Does Google Instant Affect Your Site’s SEO?
Google recently introduced a fundamental shift to the front end experience of using a search engine. The change, titled Google Instant, displays search results as you type out your search query without requiring you to hit submit through the use of AJAX & DHTML.
Does Google Instant Affect SEO?
Yes and no. Matt Cutts, principal engineer at Google, was quick to respond to concerns over Google Instant stating that Google Instant was a change to the front-end experience and not the search engine ranking algorithms. Matt’s right, there have been no major shift in rankings reported, however, many experts are theorizing that by changing the front-end experience you will change the way people search; essentially changing the SEO world.
Less Organic Results?
The new search suggest region requires about 100px of vertical real estate which results in pushing the search engine results down on the page. The sponsored links on the sidebar stay in the same space, but the sponsored links & organic results in the center column get pushed down.
The image above, courtesy of SEO book, shows a snapshot of the new search engine results along side a pixel based ruler indicating screen resolutions.
The end result, as much as 20% of the organic results get pushed off the page making the sponsored links that much more inviting to click on. Good for Google, who profits from each sponsored ad click, good for PPC advertisers who could get additional traffic/exposure and bad for sites that are in the #4-10 search engine result placements.
It’s plausible to consider that we may see AdWords advertisers and SEO experts optimizing for partial variations of keywords. In theory, half a keyword should be easier to rank for than a full, very competitive keyword. The jury is still out on how effective this would be. More info on keystroke optimization for Google Instant.
More Long-Tail Keyword Searches?
After using Google Instant myself for the past week, in addition to reading dozens of articles on the subject, I’m leaning towards the school of thought that the biggest SEO change we will see from Google Instant is that users will be more inclined to search for longer search strings (known as long-tail keywords).
Google Instant is just an interface change. It suggested keywords that pop-up as you type have been there since 2004; now they are located under the title of “Google Suggest”. Google Instant is the next evolution of Google Suggest basically.
Sometimes The Suggestions Will Benefit You
Now that users can examine the results that appear as they type, in theory they may be more inclined to utilize Google Suggest or to type a longer search result in general. If they can see for themselves that their search for “inventory management”, for example, is going to produce unsuitable results, they are more likely to keep adding keywords to their query until they or Google Suggest, finds something that’s a good fit.
Sometimes The Suggestions Don’t Work In Your Favor.
It could also work against you, however, if you’re in the market for selling “inventory management software” and Google keeps recommending “inventory management software free“.
Big Brands Getting Bigger?
In some cases, it can help benefit the more popular brands. However this could also expand the gap between big players and small players in an industry, geographical location, etc.
The search engines are constantly working to provide the best experience for their customers in order to gain market share in the lucrative search advertising industry. It won’t be long before we see Bing & Yahoo adopt something similar. There is already a YouTube Instant out there.
With time you will be able to statistically say that instant results, combined with suggested keywords, have made a positive impact on your organic and paid search traffic. At this point, one week in we haven’t noticed any trends that we can attribute to this change. If your search traffic has increased/decreased since Google Instant has been implemented, please post a comment and let us know.
Bonus: Disable Google Instant?
We would advise against it, but you can disable Google Instant on your computer. We recommend that marketers try to view the search experience through the mainstream users eyes as much as possible in order to recreate their experience.