I’ve just spent the past hour watching the Google Search Event. In my opinion, it was the most exciting news to come from Google in a long while.
What was it about?
Google’s new innovation: Instant Search.
Some of you might have read a bit about this; certain individuals have had access to it prior to today. Google’s aim with Instant Search is to give you a result for every letter you type. As your search query lengthens, you will see different search results displayed below, which helps you to decide whether your search query will bring up the results that you want.
How does it work?
The are three parts to Instant Search:
- It does what it says on the tin: it’s instant! Each letter that’s added brings up instant search results as you type.
- Predictive search – like with suggested search, you will see predictions for what Google thinks you are looking for. These will change the more you type.
- Scroll to search – you can scroll through the suggestions and see what results each brings up.
A couple of user tips include using the tab button to choose a predictive search result and using the down arrow for scroll to search. You can also carry out a normal search by hitting enter or clicking search after typing in your keyword.
Google search is now powered by an AJAX application rather than standard HTML. This gives them the ability to offer instant search.
What does the future hold?
Google’s co-founder Sergey Brin made some pretty bold statements about this update in a recent Q&A, including, “we want to make Google the third half of your brain” (let’s just ignore the part where having three halves of one whole is impossible!) and that Instant is “a new dawn in computing”.
It really is a major change, and will definitely impact the way that we search. To start with, people are likely to stick to what they know, but over time behaviour will begin to change. It’s going to be fascinating to see how things shape up!
Google also claims that Instant Search will save 2-5 seconds per search, and that in the coming year “over 3.5 million hours of users’ time will be saved”.
Changes for online businesses
For Add People, and for our clients, there are 2 major considerations: what will happen to PPC, and what does this mean for SEO?
The first part, Google answered pretty well. The basic premise of AdWords is not going to change. It’s the impression count that could be impacted the most. Google will only count an impression if the searcher pauses for 3 seconds or more after beginning to type their query, or if they do a standard search. It is likely that AdWords users will see their click through rate decrease, while impressions are increasing. My advice is to keep an eye mainly on the number of clicks, while adjusting to what impact this change has on click through rates.
The question of SEO is more complicated. Google are not changing their ranking algorithm so if you previously ranked on the first page for a keyword, you still will. However, the way that SEOs adapt to the myriad of potential search suggestions – and therefore results that come up – is going to be key.
I would imagine this will also alter the way that we approach keyword research: knowing what Google predicts a visitor is looking for is going to be key.
Looking to the future, Google mentioned three ways they expect search to change:
- Interaction – how people search.
- Comprehensiveness – making more content available offline, and being able to accurately answer more queries.
- Understanding – building up a greater understanding of web users and the web as a whole.
My initial reaction to this announcement and playing about with it live is that it could make long tail search more important. The predictive feature will make it easier/quicker to do long tail searches, and will prompt users to go for the more specific phrases when they see that generic ones are not yielding the results they expect.
As for the impact on SEO, I know that here at Add People, we’re going to have to keep a very close eye on everything, and do a lot of testing to make sure that we stay at the top of our game. We’ll also make sure that we communicate closely with our clients during this time, to keep you as up to date as we are.
Only time will tell what the true impact of Google Instant Search is.
UPDATE: This is an as-we-speak roll out. Seems to be mostly available on google.com, but less so on google.co.uk. Keep checking in to see it!