Google Instant and what it means for customer publishers

Google logo If you are in the business of producing content based websites then you will probably know at least a little about search engine optimisation - or SEO as it most often referred to. 

Essentially SEO is way of ensuring that content is picked up by search engines like Google and appears as high on its pages as possible. 

There are two parts to SEO. One is technology lead - making sure that all the links are working and that search engine bots can access and index the site. There is also a second part - organic SEO - which is shorthand for making sure that the content that is produced features the right key words in the headline and text to be picked up by the search engines. 

Yesterday Google changed the way in which people search and obviously sent the SEO industry into a major flurry. Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. So each time you make a new keystroke the results on the page changes. Google believes that it speeds up searches and makes them easier. 

On its blog the company says ‘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.' 

The issue for brands is how is this going to impact on the way in which people search for their websites and content. Well the dust is still settling but some trends are starting to emerge. 

Several journalists and bloggers have suggested that the way in which the results are delivered means that users are drawn more closely to the area underneath the search terms than before.

For example former Financial Times journalist Tom Foremski, who attended the launch, writes:

During the 90 minute launch Google executives showed off the result of an eye-tracking study of users interacting with Google Instant. The dynamic nature of the search page forces users to look at the suggestions offered as they type, and user's eyes are drawn the area just below the search box towards the best choice in the results.

The eye tracker did not show any activity on the right side of the page where Google text ads are placed. 

This may impact on search in several ways:

1 It will make the top five searches very important - It will be those searches that catch your eye. The importance of a top five placing on Google will become even more important. This will become crucial when the service reaches mobile phones later this year. 

2 It will devalue second and third pages - There is apparently a growing trend for people not to move beyond the first page of search engine results. I suspect that people won't actually get that far with searches now. Rather they will just change what they are typing and get different first page results. 

3 It will deliver even more Google News traffic - Search for a product or a company and the top search is almost always via Google News. This is the same as in previous searches, but I wonder if the speeded up search system will mean users are more likely to click on the first story that comes up. If it does, and I suspect it will, this is great news for publishers. 

An issue for customer publishers is getting their content on Google News. There are some customer publishers on Google News and this delivers a significant amount out of traffic to their sites. It is now even more important for customer publishers to get their content on Google News. 

4 It may effects long tail searches - Long tail content refers to editorial that isn't produced with a current issue in mind and is designed to be relevant over a long period of time. For example ‘How to' features. 

As Andrew Girdwood of Bigmouthmedia points out, ‘It will change the shape of the tail; some long tail terms will become less frequent as searchers will reach them less often however as Google Instant may make re-crafting search terms more attractive to searchers we may see a greater number of final searches per searcher.' 

5 It might make Ad Words less effective - Google Ad Words are those ads that sit on the right hand side of the page. If if Google Instant is too effective at drawing the eyes of the searcher to the suggested search terms it might make them less likely to look at Ad Words. 

One very interesting question that will affect how much Google Instant changes search is how many people search using Google toolbars or using iGoogle. These people obviously won't be affected by Google Instant as it only works on the Google home page.

Posted in Digital
9thSep 2010

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