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The Ultimate Google Instant Roundup: 6 Things (We Think) We Know

“Instant karma’s gonna get you
Gonna knock you right on the head
You better get yourself together
Pretty soon you’re gonna be dead”

    John Lennon, Instant Karma

Don’t know if you heard, but the big G introduced Google Instant yesterday, which, as it turns out, isn’t just the lifespan of Google Wave. Instead, Google Instant allows people to get their results as they type. But what does it mean to you? Well, here’s what the Web thinks about it:

  1. SEO is dead. Steve Rubel thinks Google Instant makes SEO irrelevant. I’m not sure I agree and it’s awfully soon to make a prediction one way or the other. Not that that’s stopping these folks over on The Atlantic from having their say. Matt Cutts doesn’t exactly agree, though this comment caught my attention:

    “Q: Will Google Instant change search engine optimization?

    A: I think over time it might. The search results will remain the same for a query, but it’s possible that people will learn to search differently over time.”

    Obviously, anything that changes consumer behavior could easily change the rules of the SEO game.

  2. Or maybe not. Read/Write Web doesn’t seem to think SEO is dead. They offer this quote from former Product Manager of Search Quality at Google, Avichal Garg, who says, “It will have a tremendous impact. User behavior will change. And good SEO is all about understanding end user behavior.” [Emphasis mine]. To be fair, I agree with Garg on all parts of that statement. SEO exists today to get the best business results from customer behavior. Now we’ll just have to re-learn what that is.
  3. Google knows way more about consumer behavior than we do. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think it’s a great idea to try to outsmart Google. Instant provides a great case study. The whole premise of Instant is really fast search, right? Well, as it happens, Marissa Mayer told the BBC that Google figured out how important speed was to its customers over 10 years (!) ago:

    “We took the logs [from testing 10, 20 and 30 results as the default for searches] and tried to understand how the experiment group was different from the control and the answer was time. It took us about 500 milliseconds more to do 30 results instead of 10.

    “But if you can imagine 500 miliseconds of increased latency is about 25% of Google search traffic over 6 weeks. They probably weren’t able to articulate that 500 millisecond difference yet it made a big difference in their overall behaviour. We think speed really matters.” [Emphasis mine]

  4. Your traffic numbers will change. The Google Webmaster Central blog explains what’s going to happen to your impressions. They also seem to suggest that long tail terms may change over time, noting, “…because Instant is helping the user find results faster, your site may see an increase in impressions for shorter terms as well.” In any event, you will be able to figure out how much Instant affects your traffic, because…
  5. You can track Google Instant. I love this post from Semetrical on how to configure Google Analytics to report on Instant searches. Awesome.
  6. Consumers seem to love it. Business Insider has a round-up of early reactions, most of which appear positive. Yes, you can turn off Google Instant if you choose. But will your customers? For instance, Jonathan Allen at SearchEngineWatch thinks it will really take off when the mobile version launches, noting, “Mobile users tend to be signed into their Google accounts so theoretically it should massively increase the number of mobile ad impressions served”.

That’s what we know for sure (we think) about Google Instant right now. What do you think? Do you like it? Hate it? Plan to turn it off immediately? Or, will you give Instant some time to shine on? Let us know in the comments, OK?

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Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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