Google Instant is the biggest news to hit the World Wide Web in months. This latest enhancement means Google will search the web as a user types, predicting their intended phrases and providing real-time streaming results – ultimately shaving seconds off every search performed.
Google’s Marissa Mayer has described Instant as “power steering for search” – designed to make the process faster and more fun. It remains to be seen how popular Google Instant will become with searchers – while slower typists may appreciate the instant suggestions, other users might find them annoying or presumptuous. Meanwhile, the question circulating in every SEO agency the world over is: How will Google Instant affect search engine optimisation and pay-per-click advertising?
Webmasters from top agencies have been exchanging their opinions and expectations regarding Google Instant since last week’s launch, some predicting greater changes than others. Of course, Google Instant will only function when enabled by an individual user, and adoption of the feature will be a gradual process. Some SEO insiders are predicting a surge in impressions due to Instant’s new methods of measuring impressions, but only time will tell.
A few bloggers responded to the Google Instant launch with panicked posts predicting “the death of SEO”; these were soon dismissed as those in the know explained that while Google Instant means a change in the presentation of results and users’ search behaviour, the demand for valuable, compelling content will never change. Rumours that Google Instant would ruin PPC advertising are also unfounded. Pay-per-click ads continue to show as usual, and relevant ads will also be shown for predicted queries.
Search Engine Land’s Danny Sullivan attributes the “end of SEO” predictions to a fundamental misunderstanding of what the process is really about. SEO is all about “building good content and understanding the ways people might seek it” says Sullivan. Content that is both user-friendly and search engine-friendly will always be popular, with or without Instant search features. As always, the agencies that are not afraid to evolve their processes and adapt to changing industry conditions are those who will come out on top.
Of course, it will take a while to gauge the Google users’ response to Instant – will it become a hit, or will the feature fail to see a substantial rate of user adoption, as happened in the case of Google Buzz and Google Wave? Either way, this is an intriguing time to be involved in SEO.
MediaVision’s CEO Louis Venter says the Instant development is “absolutely not the end of SEO, far from it”. He goes on to say “We need to take time and understand the difference and tipping point where the results become relevant enough for a user to make a selection. My thoughts are that the long tail will get longer with people getting far more specific. Conversion rates from that type of traffic are generally very good so id expect to see an increase in ROI from SEO activity as this gets rolled out.”
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