Google Instant: Launch Day Reaction

Today marked the release of Google’s latest update to their search results. As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Google Instant provides real-time, dynamic search results as you type your search query. It essentially guesses what you are searching for and displays the results as you type.

As you can see, I have typed the word “Los” – and as indicated by the gray text, Google is guessing that I am searching for the phrase “los angeles”. As I continue to type “angeles” and my query becomes more specific, Google offers suggestions of things relating to “Los Angeles”: Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Superior Court, and Los Angeles Zoo. You can use the up and down arrows to scroll through Google’s suggestions and almost instantly, the results for each individual query will show up.

Google claims that the impetus for the project was to attempt to save searchers time. According to their statistics, the average search takes nine seconds to type and another 10-15 seconds to scan the results. With this new update, Google looks to slash those numbers. They claimed that Google would instantly save its searchers a combined 350 million hours in the first year of searching.

In addition to saving its users time, Google Instant will also enhance the searching experience through three “gears”. As explained by Google, the first gear is the dynamic, instant results provided as the searcher is typing.

The second is suggestions. The suggestions that Google provides not only saves the searcher time in typing, but also helps identify the proper keyword phrase to find what the searcher is looking for.

The third gear is the scroll functionality. This allows the searcher to view and scroll through the search results for the suggested queries instantly.

This will lead to a more in-depth understanding of the topic you are researching as many different relevant search results are instantly available. In Google’s words, this will make search fun, fluid, and interactive.

Impact on SEO

This question was asked specifically during the Q&A session at the end of the event. The answer, given by an engineer that worked on the project, was that there would be no immediate impact in the short term. In other words, the ranking system has not drastically changed, only the manner that the results are displayed. That is not to say that the SEO industry will not be affected by this fundamental change in the industries biggest player.

Over the long term, this will be the catalyst for a profound shift in search habits. Google Instant will have an impact on both keyword research and the way we measure impressions. For example, because it is no longer necessary to press enter or click “search”, Google will consider a three second pause on a search query displaying your website an impression.

It appears that AdWords campaigns will not be drastically affected either. The PPC ads will be displayed as usual with the dynamic search results.

Some Thoughts:

• My initial thought was “who uses Google.com anyway”? I personally search from the URL bar in Chrome or the search box built into the browser in Firefox or Safari. Will the dynamic results make their way to these places?

• How does this benefit me? I can type relatively fast anyway and generally, I know what I am looking for. This feature may be helpful for the remaining hunt-and-peckers of the world, but they are a dying breed. Maybe this feature will be helpful for when you can’t quite remember the exact title of a song or movie, but Google already made suggestions. I don’t need search results for that.

• The constant changing on the page can be distracting and will lead to increased Internet ADD. As if it’s not easy enough to get distracted on the internet already, it will be abundantly easier to get sidetracked by search results that have nothing to do with the information that you’re searching for.

• I have noticed that the search results take your search history into account. For example, there is a list going around Twitter that has the search results displayed for one letter queries. According to the list, when you press “B”, Google assumes that you are searching for “Best Buy”; however, when I press “B”, Google displays search results for “Bank of America”. This is most likely because I frequent their website to check my bank account.

Google Instant also takes into account your location. The letter “W” displays the weather for your area. This also figures to play a much larger role in the mobile application of Google Instant, which is due out later this fall.

Conclusion

Although I am not completely sold on the advantages of this upgrade, I don’t expect it to go anywhere. It feels like a natural progression of search (Apple’s Finder has been doing this for years). It will, no doubt, evolve and bring about new ways to interact with search engines. In several years, we will be laughing about the days that we had to press enter and wait while Google found what we were looking for.

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