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Google Instant & Organic Keyword Research
Monday, September 27, 2010
So now that the dust has settled and Google Instant has changed the way we search (I'm kidding), how have you been impacted by Google Instant? 
  • Traffic down?
  • Long-tail not converting?
  • Branded searches up?
Well chances are the impact on your site has been minimal.  That is providing that you have a clean site that is easily crawled by the search engines and that the content that you are serving up to your visitors is useful and informative.

That's not to say that Google Instant will not have an impact on how people find your site in Google.  While I personally find Google Instant a tad distracting, it has made me change my search habits albeit slightly.  I consider myself a pretty savvy searcher, after all I work in the Search industry, so chances are if I have changed my search habits perhaps the typical Google searcher will have as well.  I should mention that for the most part I have Google Instant turned off.

So what does this mean for SEO and keyword research efforts?  Here are a couple of areas of impact that I think Google Instant has had and will continue to have, specific to Google search results.

The prime organic real estate within Google's organic search results has become even more important.  Being in the top three in Google is ever so important now (not that it wasn't in the past).

Blended Search or Universal Search has again become even more important.  Items such as videos, news releases, images, local search results will now attract eyeballs more than ever.  As you type your search query into Google, you can expect to see various universal search results populate your results.  Chances are people may be more inclined to click these items.  Was this part of the mandate with Google Instant?  To get users to engage more with Universal results?  Your guess is as good as mine, but

Page titles and page descriptions (read: title tags and meta descriptions) are extremely important and probably more important than ever.  Google still bolds related keywords in their results, so having optimized page titles and descriptions is a must.

What is the Impact of Google Instant on Organic Keyword Research?

I'm glad that you asked.  The impact of Google Instant on organic keyword research is actually a positive one.  Here are five areas where Google Instant will have an impact on organic keyword research.
  1. Keyword Education - If anything Google Instant will force users to pay more attention to the search suggest functionality.  However, just out of curiosity, I wonder how many people look at the keys as they type as opposed to looking at the search suggestions or search bar?  Regardless, people will be taking note of the search suggestions that appear.  For site owners and marketers this means leveraging this as a keyword research tool.  For searchers, this means being educated on related topics as they search.  It is really a win-win for everyone.
  2. Slight Shift in Keyword Strategy - where it once made sense to optimize for head, torso and long-tail, the focus might shift to an in-between aka torso strategy where the phrases being optimized are not too general in nature but are not necessarily five or six word long phrases either.  I still believe that long-tail is important even after Google's MayDay update.  Head phrases will always drive a lot of traffic, but the trick is to find the sweet spot.  At the end of the day, you need to provide content that your audience is seeking.  Incorporating proper keywords does not change, you just have to get smarter with your keyword selection and optimization efforts.  Optimize for your user first and the search engines second.
  3. Page Titles must, must, must be Optimized - once your conduct your keyword research, you need to focus on proper keyword placement within the title tags of our site's pages.  Important and relevant keywords should appear near the beginning of your titles.  Your page titles should be reflective of the page copy and where possible leverage secondary key phrases to support your primary phrase.  Finally, ensure that each and every page that you optimize has a unique and compelling title.
  4. Page Descriptions Need to be Well Optimized - your meta description needs to be optimized and not just optimized, but well optimized.  Keyword placement within your page description is important, but do not get carried away.  Avoid diluting your descriptions with too many key phrases.  Remember, meta data is simply data about data and the engines do use this in part to determine the topic of a given page.  Try not to confuse them.  Place relevant keywords near the beginning of you description and try to make every description somewhat unique.  Remember that typically the engines will display around 170 characters, but Google in fact will index upwards of around 1,100 characters from the meta description.
  5. Integrate Paid and Organic Keyword Strategies - is your left hand working with your right hand?  If you have not yet started doing this, ensure that your paid and organic keyword baskets compliment each other and work together.  Google Instant means that if you’re not in the top three, you may have to leverage paid initiatives to gain the visibility that you once had, even if you are found on the first page of results.  Frankly, I find it annoying that Google may indirectly be forcing the need to rely on paid tactics when users still click on an organic results 60-70+% of the time.  Relevancy of results can suffer as the outcome.  While your organic keyword list may be a variation of your paid keywords, it is important to cross reference both.
As you can see Google Instant does not necessarily have a profound impact on your organic keyword research efforts.  Google Instant simply heightens the importance of good old fashioned keyword research and the need to really pay attention to exactly what it is that your audience is looking for.  Providing informative keyword rich (but not spammed) content will continue to drive qualified traffic to your site, which in turn should help acquire and generate the leads that you are so tirelessly working for.

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posted by Jody @ Monday, September 27, 2010  
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