I actually found it a little shocking. With the official launch of Google Instant last week, most of the comments I read online positioned this semi-new feature as the end of SEO as we know it. If you haven’t heard, Google Instant is the feature that shows in Google’s query box as you type. While you enter the keyphrase you want to search for, Google Instant offers a dropdown list of search terms you can choose from. Very similar to Google Suggest which has been in operation for years.
I didn’t see the connection between Google Instant and the death of SEO myself. Being an SEO copywriter and not a full-service search engine optimizer, however, I decided to contact a few industry friends to get their opinions.
1) What type of effect (if any) do you feel Google Instant will have on the overall SEO process (not the search process, but how you optimize pages from this point forward)?
2) How do you think Google Instant will impact your future keyword research efforts since searchers are being prompted while typing their queries?
Justin Deaville, Wordtracker Keyword Research Tool: “I’ll be interested to see how Google Instant affects pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Many advertisers are surprisingly informal with the organization of their AdWords campaigns. The effect of Google Instant may be to increase competition for particular keywords – pushing up the cost of advertising against them. To make sure you’re getting the best return from your ad spend, it will be more important than ever to run structured campaigns that test a large number of keywords.”
Jill Whalen: “Honestly, it’s much too soon to know, and anyone telling you differently is simply trying to ride the wave of hype that always comes from any change or announcement made by Google. I think we’ll know better once (or if) we start to see a difference in the keyword phrases that bring visitors to our sites. If we lose or gain visitors to certain types of keywords, whether they be longer phrases or shorter ones, we’ll start to have a better idea of how we might change our SEO process.
“I can certainly see it being worthwhile to do some Google searches on our phrases for which we intend to optimize to see what suggestions they’re making and where they’re trying to lead people, as well as what they’re showing in the instant results. But it’s important to note that they’ve been making suggestions for a very long time now and that doesn’t seem to have changed. We’ve already been incorporating a review of the suggestions into our keyword research. For instance, one of our clients showcases “custom made” everything. To research additional custom product areas that they might want to get into which were heavily sought out, I went to Google and typed in Custom then the letter A and looked at what showed up. Then the letter B, etc. You can go even more deeply and type “custom ab” “custom ac” etc.
“This sort of research gets pretty tedious as you can imagine! But again, I don’t see that the instant results showing will make much difference, other than seeing perhaps if your site is already showing up in the top ten.”
Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Land Search Marketing News, “I think you’ll have to pay even more attention to the suggested queries than before, but you already should have been researching them since Google introduced Google Suggest on the Google site in 2008. That’s pretty much the answer to both questions! The fundamentals remain the same. The behavior of how people may get to a particular set of results is changing slightly, through the suggestions. You’ll want to watch those.”
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Bob Gladstein, Raise My Rank SEO Services, “This is really an extension of the functionality we’ve already seen in Google’s Suggest feature. Assuming you’ve been using that as part of your keyword research, Google Instant won’t really change things.
“I think it’s likely that server logs are going to indicate some changes, however. We’ll probably see more searchers accepting suggested keyword phrases, and consequently less traffic coming in from long-tail searches — that is, searches that are long-tail enough that they don’t appear among the suggestions.
“But keep in mind that not every searcher starts at Google’s home page. Chrome users can search directly from the location bar, and users of other modern browsers have a search box in their browsers. I personally run many of my searches via the Context Search extension for Firefox: I select some text on a page, right-click, and select which engine I want to use to search for that text. Searchers who use any of those methods to initiate a search (and I don’t know what percentage of searchers do) won’t see Google Instant unless they run an additional search from the SERP they land on.”
Rand Fishkin, SEOMoz Search Engine Optimization Tools, “It’s hard to imagine that a different optimization process for pages will exist going forward. This change from Google likely will impact what types of searches are performed and may influence searchers to query in different ways, which will alter the keyword demand landscape and mean SEOs/marketers target different keywords. However, the algorithmic changes seem to be very small (if any), and thus the same processes used by SEOs in the past will still earn top rankings for content.
“It really depends on how Google counts these searches – if I start typing “catch me if you can actors,” will Google count that as searches for “catch” and “catch me” and “catch me if,” etc.? Let’s hope they only count a search if it either gets a click on a result or remains in place for a few seconds without an additional character. Otherwise, we’ll have a lot of strange, unusable data in keyword research.”
Christine Churchill, KeyRelevance Dallas Search Engine Marketing, “For a company who prides itself with keeping the search platform clean and easy to use, Google Instant is a step backwards in usability. The changing results are like an animated gif – very distracting and annoying. I don’t like it and don’t see how it adds value to the user. Thumbs down on Google Instant.”
Dan Thies, SEO Braintrust, “The only possible effect of any note would be with keyword strategy, if it changes searcher behavior significantly. As every has probably said already, Google has been prompting users with suggestions for a couple years, and the effects of that are a slight uptick in average query length. It will be interesting to watch and measure whether people change their behavior as the results are revealed quicker, but I kind of doubt we’ll see much movement.”
So there you have it.
(c) 2010, Karon Thackston, All Rights Reserved