Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. Not to be outdone by the Yahoo/Bing partnership, Google is now pushing the limits of their technology to help get better search results faster, at near instant speed. Google found through looking at search behavior that people type slowly, but read quickly. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.
The most obvious change is that users get to the right content much faster than before because they don’t have to finish typing a full search term or even press the search button. An added bonus is that seeing results as you type helps formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want. The big question is, how will this impact SEO marketing?
From a technical standpoint, SEO marketing will not be affected by Google’s new Instant Search feature. Phew, right? Not so fast. While actual results displayed will remain the same for each keyword search, over time the internet public may learn to search differently, meaning that predicting search behavior and researching keywords will become much more difficult.
Users are now much more likely to refine their search queries on the fly, based on the instant feedback they’re seeing on the screen — a concept that came up during Google’s announcement of Instant Search. Before Instant Search, most users run a search query then browse through a page or two of results to see if they find what they’re looking for. With Instant Search, it’s more common for them to quickly tweak their query on the fly or to flip through the suggested results by simply hitting the arrow keys. That change is key, as it may make it even less likely that a user will see your site if it’s listed at the bottom of the results page, or a page or two deep.
Also worth mentioning is that Google Instant will have an impact on AdWords advertisers as well. Before Instant Search, it was straightforward to measure an ad impression — the user ran a query, and your ad either showed up on the page or it didn’t. But because of the constantly updating nature of Google Instant, ads will now often appear for a fraction of a second. To account for this Google is changing the way it measures impressions (it only counts if the user hits the ‘Enter’ key to complete their query, looks at the page for over three seconds, or they click on a link from the results page). But Google is also preemptively warning advertisers to expect some fluctuations. With this change, you might notice some fluctuations in AdWords impression volume and traffic for organic keywords. For example, you may find that certain keywords receive significantly more or fewer impressions moving forward.
Only time will tell how Google Instant will ultimately affect the search landscape. Just with any new radical change, much conjecture still exists as to ultimate ramifications for SEO marketing, however we can only sit patiently, let the dust settle, and evaluate the change in user behavior. After all, search engine optimization consulting is not at all about tricking search engines, but rather helping them uncover the best content and web sites. A top ranking position is simply the byproduct of offering the best and most useful material for a given search query.