Things have been very busy over at the Googleplex! Hot on the heels of the launch of Priority Inbox, yesterday evening Google announced a major update to search functionality: Google Instant.
Introducing Google Instant
In a nutshell, Google Instant dramatically speeds up searching by displaying results ‘as you type’. At the moment it is only live on Google.com, it will roll out on the UK site next week.
Google clearly lays out three key benefits for users:
- Faster Searches: By predicting your search and showing results before you finish typing, Google Instant can save 2-5 seconds per search.
- Smarter Predictions: Even when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, predictions help guide your search. The top prediction is shown in grey text directly in the search box, so you can stop typing as soon as you see what you need.
- Instant Results: Start typing and results appear right before your eyes. Until now, you had to type a full search term, hit return, and hope for the right results. Now results appear instantly as you type, helping you see where you’re headed, every step of the way.
Why the change?
Google is keen to stress that the new functionality is driven by user feedback and insight:
“Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.
“The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you 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. In time, we may wonder how search ever worked in any other way.”
What does it mean for businesses?
While Google Instant won’t actually affect how search engine optimisation works, there will be an impact for brands that use both organic and paid search strategies as part of their marketing.
Essentially, Google Instant can be viewed as a series of mini searches. Every time someone adds a letter or character in the search bar, the search results change and different companies will be displayed.
Google has said that a three second pause (by the searcher) will now count as an impression. This means that search impressions are likely to skyrocket, but click throughs will stay pretty much the same. This will clearly impact on the ratio between impressions and click throughs.
For example, imagine you were searching for Google Instant. Type in ‘Google’ and the search field automatically shows results for ‘Google Maps’. Type in ‘Google I’ and the search field shows results for ‘Google Images’. It’s only when you type in ‘Google In’ that you get the correct results. Now, if Google wanted to give more prominence to ‘Google Instant’ in searches, then they could consider buying some Adwords against the term ‘Google’ and ‘Google Images’ or optimising organically for this.
The demise of the long tail?
If this example was applied to other businesses or keywords then you will probably see brands potentially having to spend more money on more expensive PPC terms to increase visibility.
If you are number one for a particular search term, type in half of that term and see if you come up. If you don’t, then you’ll possibly need to rethink some of your keywords. The other downside is that these more common keywords will become more competitive.