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Google Instant: More Relevant Results or Not?
Thursday, September 09, 2010
Well at least Google is trying. Trying that is to deliver the most relevant results. Apparently Google feels that users need help with their questions and search queries or at least when it comes to typing them out. With the release of Google Instant, Google has launched "a new search enhancement that shows results as you type... pushing the limits of their technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster." Well ok better search results sounds good. Faster? Are we not already considerably faster in the digital age?

About Google Instant

Who:  Google
What: Search-before-you-type results dynamically generated by a user's search query
Where: Google Search Results

When: September, 8, 2010
Why:  To assist searchers in finding the information they are looking for faster.  According to Google:

  • Before Google Instant, the typical searcher took more than 9 seconds to enter a search term, and we saw many examples of searches that took 30-90 seconds to type.
  • Using Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search.
  • If everyone uses Google Instant globally, we estimate this will save more than 3.5 billion seconds a day. That’s 11 hours saved every second.
  • 15 new technologies contribute to Google Instant functionality.
Google's Official Announcement on Google Instant.

Personally, if there is one thing I cannot stand it is a pushy salesperson. I am not sure how much I like a "pushy" search engine either. You see I like to think that I am a pretty savvy searcher. In fact for the better part of the past decade I have worked in the Search industry.  I am not so sure I need assistance with search suggestions or Google Instant.  Do I always find everything that I am looking for via search, well no, but quite honestly I never will.  Google or any other search engine for that matter can serve up what they think are real-time search results, but if a site has artificially inflated it's link inventory/popularity it may appear within these results.  It still might be irrelevant to what I am looking for.

Google Instant's ability to present different results as we type is cool technology, no question.  I just wonder if it will provide more relevant results or more "noise".  Perhaps I do not want real-time Twitter results populating my search results.  Maybe I'm looking for a how to video (which chances are, I would go to Google-owned YouTube and not Google Search).

Some are already suggesting that Google Instant has caused the death of SEO.  Am I missing something here?  I mean I guess it depends on how you define SEO. The fact is that you will still need to produce content that the search engines can find and that your audience finds benefit in.  SEO has evolved, it is no longer about “optimizing” a page for rankings in the search results.  The search results have evolved.  SEO now simply means ensuring that the content you produce can be found by the search engines, that the search engines treat your content as an authority for a given topic and that other people find your content as an authority by linking or mentioning it (read: link popularity).

The question is why did it take so long for the search engines to come up with dynamic population of search results based on what the user is typing in the search box?  At first I thought that Google Instant was going to be annoying, but now I see the value in it… providing that I find the results that I am looking for.

Here is Google Instant in action as I typed ``Las Vegas``... then appended my query to become ``Las Vegas hotels`` as seen in the second screenshot:

Las Vegas Hotels
Dynamic search results appearing right as we type.  

So how will this impact organic search results and SEO?  Well many have chimed in and there have been some interesting comments:
  • might make the short tail appear artificially more profitable by attributing long tail demand to the short tail
  • As for SEO, I am concerned that results below the fold will be affected, making the need for solid SEO effort ultra important, will be interesting to see what happens!
  • The implication of that will be, that the CPC for the suggested terms will go up, because more advertisers will bid on those “predefined” search terms. Which means more profit for Google and less profit for the advertisers.
  • Long tail won’t be dead, but it will lose importance.
  • Won’t you also agree that Google is deliberately reducing the visibility on Organic results by:
    • Using the drop down suggestion tab to push away organic results.
    • Making users quickly go through the first results (paid search area) to access if they should continue their query or not.

One thing that I find interesting is that this will have a negative impact on engagement with organic results.  Yet the majority of time users click on an organic result.  Over the years research has shown that the split on where people click on a search results pages was typically 80% organic vs. 20% paid.  It is now more likely around 70/30 split.  So why then is Google "modifying" the organic area of the results page?  The easiest or quickest answer that comes to mind is $$$.  To get more engagement with sponsored ads, not necessarily the most relevant or trustworthy (organic) results.  Could it be that Google and other engines appear to be having problems in returning the most relevant results for a given search query?  I personally equate part of this problem due to the focus on link popularity.  Just because a site has a lot of links or even a lot of quality links does not always mean that it is the most relevant result for a given search query.  The link popularity piece of the algorithm needs to be revisited in my opinion.  This is another topic all together.  For now, Google Instant does look like a de-emphasis on organic rankings.

The folks at Search Engine Land have produced some great posts about Google Instant beginning with Matt McGee`s post on the complete user guide for Google Instant.


More About Google Instant

How Will Google Instant Impact Analytics?

Does Google Instant Mark the End of SEO?


Google Instant Impact on Search Queries

Google Instant - 10 Things Marketing Teams Need to Know


posted by Jody @ Thursday, September 09, 2010  
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