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As you may have noticed, Google Instant was released last Wednesday and the online community has been buzzing about it ever since. As Google puts it, Instant is a “new search enhancement that shows results as you type.”

As with any new functionality or tools, how this affects people’s search behavior, search engine choices and the internet marketing industry remains to be seen. But, we have some initial thoughts on Google Instant– pros, cons and a few side notes. How will Google Instant affect SEO? How will it affect website and PPC analytics? We asked you what you thought as well; read on for these online marketing community views.

Google’s Big Announcement

Google Instant

During their live Search Event, Google announced Instant and demonstrated the new user interface of Google.com. When a user begins typing a word into the search box, results come up instantly below, as long as the word is not a Google censored word.

More on Google’s new censorship policies later.

 

Google says Instant will bring users three main benefits:

  • Faster Searches Google says that since they are showing results before you even finish typing, they will save you 3-5 seconds per search.
  • Smarter Predictions “Predictions help guide your search.” Matt Cutts explains that Instant will help users refine their search during their search process with the suggested links that come up as they type.
  • Instant Results Although Instant on mobile has not released yet, Google Instant is supposed to enhance the mobile searching experience because you may not have to type the entire word before the result you are looking for comes up.

So that’s the Google explanation. This is how we see it so far:

A Better Ad Opportunity.

Google is a business, and at the heart of everything, they are an ad business. With Instant, they are able to serve many more ads to users and make more revenue. But, you can’t blame a business for trying to be profitable.

Early reporting is showing that Google Adwords accounts are seeing their ad impressions increase. Of course, this could also be a good thing for businesses doing PPC on Google, since their ads will have an increased chance of getting clicked on.

As @adamlefever tweeted, “So far, regarding Google #Instant & Adwords, nothing’s changed much. Slightly elevated impressions (about 15%), steady spend/conversion.”

Was Search Really Too Slow?

Google has certainly been focused on speed lately. In June 2010, they released their new search index update, Caffeine, which increased Google’s ability to index the web by 50%. With this, they also released Google Page Speed, which helps webmasters diagnose and fix their own website’s page loading issues.

We know that slow-loading pages are an irritating issue with a lot of websites. But was anyone complaining that searching on google.com took too long? Not that we’ve heard. So, while Caffeine and Page Speed seemed truly user-focused, Instant seems again to be more revenue-based.

We only heard one tweet about slow search, and it was actually about Instant. @UrbanBacon tweeted, “ehhhhh – it doesn’t load before I finish typing, so what’s the point?”

Unsuccessful Multi-Taskers, Sufferers of ADD, Users Over 50

One has to wonder if Google had any of these people in mind. While in some cases, searchers may not know exactly what they want to search, but this was an issue solved less intrusively with Google Suggest (which is the drop-down suggested searches that come up as you type in a search word.)

But, now with Instant results coming up that include pictures, videos, social media updates and more, falling down the rabbit hole of random clicking is even easier. “I actually find it more distracting than helpful.” is the judgment call from @hirejameson on Google Instant.

Erin “Loudfinity” Steinbruegge points out:

I find it somewhat distracting at this point – I don’t necessarily want to see all the results Google holds for each letter that I type into Google. If I want to search for “cute dog collars” then I want to see the results for cute dog collars. I do not want to be distracted by the results for Craigslist, currency converter, cute quotes, cute pdf, cute dresses, cute dog names, and BAM! finally I’m at cute dog collars.

Damage to the Long Tail

Long tail PPC and SEO refers to when businesses optimize their websites and run PPC ads for keyword phrases that contain more words, which often leads to more targeted traffic because the searcher has a clearer intent with their longer search. For instance, searchers that type in “good gifts for a 5 year old’s birthday” are going to be more targeted traffic for a kids’ toy company website than users that search “good gifts”.

It’s smart SEO and PPC practice to optimize for these searchers that are further into the buying cycle. So, Long tail keyword phrases are a great way for organizations running PPC and SEO campaigns to control costs and regulate ROI.

Aaron “Dr. Loudweiser” Stevens calls attention to the fact that now with Instant, not only will this strategy be less effective, it will be interesting to see what spammers try to optimize for. Chances are you may start to notice title tags of spammy websites changing to half-written words, as they try to rank their websites.

Alternate Search Options

As @danco tweeted about Google Instant, “I have barely encountered it. 99% of my searches come from the AwesomeBar or the search box”. We suspect there are quite a few people in this camp that rarely go to google.com and then type in their search. More commonly, users use the top right-hand search box on their browser to search, which does not have Google Instant capabilities.

However, as Google said, mobile users may find Instant more helpful on their smartphones, where typing can be a pain. Personally, I use the voice search option on my iPhone Google app, which eliminates typing altogether. And smartphones are usually slower, which could make waiting for Instant results irrelevant or irritating.

It will also be interesting to see how this affects the use of Bing. It would be a good thing for use of Bing to increase and come minutely closer to being a search competitor to Google. Monopolies of anything are never good, so leveling the search engine playing field is good for searchers, businesses and the internet marketing community.

Google Now Censors Results

One thing I am concerned about is that now censorship is acceptable with Google Instant. There have also been a lot of amusing tweets about what you can and cannot type into Google to receive Instant results. Online marketing industry expert, Michael Gray, tweeted from @graywolf, “so google gives instant results for [murder] and [how do i kill] but not [naked]” and “google instant ok with [underwear] [boxers] [thongs] not ok with [lingerie] [panties] it’s so arbitrary”.

It is troubling that Google is allowed to censor at free will what will and will not come up in Instant Search.

Follow the Cheese?

As we learned in the story Who Moved My Cheese?, change is often hard but necessary. So, The Loud Few jury on Google Instant is still out and these are just our first observations with the new functionality. This seems to be the case with a lot of users. As @rwbennet tweeted, “I think I’ll like it soon, but right now it’s annoying the crap out of me”.

What do you think? Please let us know in the comments!

Related Posts:

PPC Questions — Does Anyone Click Those Ads?

Pimp Your Search with Advanced Operators

 

About the Author

Lisa Keller is the Marketing Project Manager at The Loud Few and specializes in online marketing strategy and management. You can follow Lisa on Twitter.


 

Comments »

7 comments on Google Instant: Does This Change Everything? For Good? Or Evil?

Adam Lefever says:

Good summary Lisa…

1) Revenue – Erin, I’m really unsure about how Google makes more revenue on simply presenting more ads. I would think if this was strictly for generating revenue, they would be more concerned about generating more clicks vs. impressions. Sponsored ads are so easy to ignore. The more query-focused Instant puts more attention to the getting the right Organic results you want to the top. Myself like most PPC users only pay per click, not by impression, so as long as it’s not costing me more and my conversions are consistent, *shrug*… so far my Adwords campaigns haven’t suffered… we’re all still makin’ money.

3) Aaron, IMO, not too worried about spam for partial words. I don’t think anyone would click a partial result if they intended something else, they’ll keep typing until Instant fetches it for them in query or results. But secondly I don’t think Google will index badly written content with partial words. I have a lot of bad content, written with full words they don’t rank, so I really think Google will sort this out. :-)

3) I can see why many people would find it more distracting than helpful in some cases. It’s made searching look and feel different. Google is a glorious money-making, shopping and research tool for me so I’m biased. I’m more concerned with public perception. Overall the folks I know have given me a quite positive reaction. We’ll see how users adapt over time or if they really care at all.

4) This is really about Google making assumptions for your based on intent. I’m glad Google doesn’t assume I’m typing in, say, “penis” as a popular search when I’ve typed in “Pen” and start throwing its most popular assumed results up. And while everyone would laugh and blog about it if it did happen, I’m pleased this doesn’t happen. Presenting results without actually executing a query requires some level of responsibility at the high profile public level that Google operates at. (Consider: Children and anyone else who would be offended by such query flubs) And if you want to search for these, they’re not really censored, you just need to actually press the ENTER key to execute the query. Imagine the bad press they’d receive on the contrary. It is a smart decision to ensure the right intention, not an evil one to block you from seeing “Penis” results. :-)

Cheers guys, hope to see you at Hop in the City this weekend!

September 14, 2010 @ 11:56 am


Adam Hallas says:

Its an interesting point of view into Google’s latest “toy”. I, too find it distracting, as I don’t need the search results for each letter as I type in “KU National Champs 2011″.

September 14, 2010 @ 12:04 pm


Aaron says:

Thought this would be a good addition to the post. It is an article about the creator of YouTube Instant. He started a bet with another student that he could create the instant version of YouTube in an hour. Well, it took him three, he lost the bet but landed an immediate job offer from Google.

http://news.cnet.com/8301-1023_3-20016172-93.html

September 14, 2010 @ 12:30 pm


Adam Lefever says:

@Aaron – wow, very cool & brilliantly clever. That one is going to get sent around the office today for sure.

September 14, 2010 @ 12:53 pm


lisakeller says:

Adam L.– thanks for the bright side of things comment! As you noted in 3), I think the distraction factor will be the biggest issue that we hear about. @dgcooley just clued me into this great little ditty about Google Instant http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pFdDosIrrSA. Either users will adapt or they will move to Bing. But then would we say we’re going to “Bing” something? That just sounds awkward.

I see your point with obvious censorship of possibly pornographic words, but it’s the random inconsistencies that worry me about other words (like how they censor lingerie but not murder?) Who makes these decisions?

Adam H.– I feel the same way about “Cleveland Browns Rock”

Aaron– if that really only took 3 hours to build, that guy is a genius. Maybe he should fix Google Instant– since it’s only working for Chrome for me now and not Firefox!

September 14, 2010 @ 1:02 pm


Erin Steinbruegge says:

Thanks for all your thoughtful feedback Adam. I think there are multiple opportunities for Google to generate additional revenue from Instant. They’ve created the ability to serve up ads at a greater frequency, which allows them to pump more ad inventory through the system. By pumping more inventory (especially for highly competitive phrases) through the rotation, they’ll be able to make more money. When you’re talking Google levels of volume, even a small change has a big impact. Second to that, think of adjustments to bidding strategy that advertisers will make. If Instant does modify search behavior enough to cause a certain percentage of users move away from long tail searches and query shorter phrases, then it will drive up the costs of shorter, broader search terms, which are already highly competitive and costly, as more advertisers adjust their strategy to accomodate that behavior. And verdict is still not out on how this will affect quality score (more impressions but potentially the same or lower CTR) which could drive up costs for advertisers if it has a negative impact. Final thought – Just because bidding on the search network now is all CPC-based, that doesn’t mean Google couldn’t shift to allowing advertisers to bid on a CPM level too. Maybe they will offer CPM bidding for some of the newer ad formats they’re testing/rolling out that are “catchier” to the eye such as product extension ads or in-ad forms?

September 14, 2010 @ 1:58 pm


Adam Lefever says:

Touche!

Ads Served At Greater Frequency – I just don’t think that serving up ads at greater frequency necessarily leads to generating more clicks on PPC ads by users – they’re serving up everything at greater frequency & each set of results already shows like 8 paid ads every time I hit a friggin’ key. As a user, I couldn’t possibly read them all or want to click them all, & I only click on Paid Ads if I’m shopping for something, anyway.

Less Long Tail Driving Competitive Costs Up – This is possible and yes, Google Adwords is ungodly expensive in many industries. From a Searcher standpoint, you may be more inclined to click ads on broader terms. However if I really, really want “Cute Dog collars” I’ll type it in and probably ignore “Cute Dog” along the way anyway. That seems to be the searcher sentiment from all you haters. :)

As a business, if I do not profit on these more competitive terms (which my business never does enough to justify the spend anyway), I’m still not inclined to advertise here any more than I was before. I’ll still bid on the more precise terms, even if it means less spend and conversions, as long as my conversion rate is profitable. This balance must be found in any CPC model.

Quality Score – I’m admittedly clueless on this one, I do not know how it will affect the Quality Score, or if Instant will matter at all in Google’s scoring.

Google Changing It’s Ad Model – while I’m still not convinced that Instant itself was made simply as a revenue generator… these things you mentioned would certainly be considered Google trying to make more money. :)

September 14, 2010 @ 2:46 pm


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