The best way to understand Google Instant is to view the Google Instant Video Demo.
Google Instant starts suggesting search results as web users type each letter into the search bar. At the moment, this option is only available if you are searching from Google and logged in to your Google account. Whether this feature will roll out completely, we are not yet sure.
One thing is certain: the business and digital marketing community is up in arms. For companies that are spending thousands of pounds on either pay per click/Google Adwords advertising or search engine optimisation, there are implications.
The biggest worry for Google Adwords users was if it would affect how they were charged and how the impression metric would be calculated. Before Google Instant, a single search-results page would appear, with a paid advert showing, which would be counted as an impression. Google would then calculate how many impressions it would take before someone would click and, along with other factors, calculate your cost per click and where you would appear. It has been clarified that an impression is only counted when someone actually clicks the search page and goes to a static page. These look, and work, exactly the same as before. We could argue that paid search results will actually get better, as all the refining of the search happens before your impression is counted, so the visitor may well be more relevant.
Companies using search engine optimisation shouldn’t worry either. Although the way people search for pages will change, the way Google is calculating who goes where is not changing (for now). This means the same rules still apply. However, it’s no secret that Google is looking to personalise the results pages in the future according to individual preferences, which will make things interesting.
A change which will affect users of paid search and search engine optimisation is a phenomena called the “head” and “long tail”. More visitors are at the “head” of the search. This is for really generic keywords such as “insurance”. However, as the keywords are so broad, the buying intent is often very low. The “long tail’” are searches such as “car insurance for classic cars”. These have less searches but are often people who are ready to buy. Without Google Instant, people would do a number of searches (usually about three) to go from the “head” to the “tail” – now this can happen directly in Google. This means the people targeting the big broad terms will probably suffer. Google say it has done this to reduce the time it takes to search.
So, to round up, the way we search has changed – but the way results are generated has not. The same rules apply but I would advise you to keep a close eye on Google Analytics to make sure nothing is going wrong, especially for big Google Adwords users. I am not sure if this is the latest income generation strategy from Google aimed to boost pay-per-click revenues (which is where most of Google’s revenue comes from) to lift flattening stock prices, or really aimed at the users. I guess time will tell.
Guy Levine is CEO of digital marketing agency Return On Digital.
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