Search Marketing

Google Instant Brings Results with Each Keystroke — But For Now, Won’t Affect SEO or PPC

September 9, 2010


Today at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, Google announced a significant user experience update called Google Instant Search which transforms traditional search engine result pages (SERP) from a static list of results to an AJAX powered result set that updates with every keystroke.

Similar to the recent integration of social media sites Twitter and Facebook into the search engine result page, this update take another leap forward combining the speed and efficiency of Google Caffeine’s infrastructure update (which allows search results to be 50% fresher), Google Suggest (which anticipates/predicts your query as you type) and the use of Asynchronous JavaScript which eliminates the need for a page refresh — allowing content to change dynamically in real-time.

For example, typing B into Google will generate results for Bank of America or Best Buy, however once you type L Google quickly updates the top results to reflect a Blackberry result set. Google explains how Instant works in the clip below.

The move to AJAX should come as no surprise as Google has been known to test AJAX powered results in the past; however, moving forward Instant Search will be the default user experience for all googlers in the United States (using Chrome, Firefox, IE 8 & Safari) depending on internet connection speeds. Slower connections will default to the traditional static search results that may display a small error message notifying you as to why instant search was deactivated. Instant Search will continue to leverage any available historical search data to personalize and improve its ability to accurately predict the users query intent.

For marketers wondering how Instant Search will affect paid search campaigns, SEO or analytics? The quick answer: It does not. Google confirmed that no algorithmic changes were made to their natural search relevancy score, and that traditional SEO tactics should remain a core focus for SEO technicians. In addition, Google stated Instant Search will not interfere with paid search ads in any way- including impressions, quality scores and the number of paid listings displayed per each keyword query. Based on our 360i’s internal test, referral data is still being passed and should continue to be captured by web analytics tools such as Omintiure, Google Analytics and Coremetrics.

Most importantly, it should be noted that although no major changes were directly made to relevancy and quality score algorithms for natural and paid search, the method used for counting impression has changed significantly due to the launch of Instant Search. As per the recent post on Google webmaster Central blog:

1. Your site is displayed in search results as a response to a user’s completed query (e.g. by pressing “enter” or selecting a term from autocomplete). This is the traditional model.

With Google Instant, we also measure impressions in these new cases:

2. The user begins to type a term on Google and clicks on a link on the page, such as a search result, ad, or a related search.

3. The user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of 3 seconds.

Expect to see impression counts inflate as more users (signed in or anonymous) are defaulted to the Instant Search platform. Although Google emphatically says ‘No,’ we can’t help but wonder if this change in impression counting will indirectly impact paid search quality scores…hmmm.

Instant search is confined to the United States but Google expects to roll out the new service to other languages/countries, mobile devices and browsers search boxes (e.g. chrome, Firefox, IE) in the coming months.

Although few would argue the merits of an Instant Search experience for mobile devices, the use of instant search via the desktop is open to debate. Google insist this change will improve the speed at which users interact with search results (saving 2-5 seconds per query) and may even contribute to more exploratory experiences, whereby users spend more time exploring topics associated with their keyword query as opposed to one-off search and click experience. We here at 360i are just as excited as Google, and expect search behavior to shift as more and more begin to experience Instant Search for themselves.

– Chris Humber, SEO Director at 360i