How does Google Instant affect search performance?

At the beginning of September Google introduced a new feature – Google Instant – which allows Google to predict what the user is searching for whilst typing their search query. For example if I was searching for ‘car insurance online’ as soon as I type ‘car in’ into the Google search box, Google will predict that I am searching for ‘car insurance’ and produce results accordingly. However once I’ve typed a space after ‘car insurance’ Google will produce results for ‘car insurance online.’

This is a huge advance in technology as Google is now showing predictably billions more search results per day; each search query has a list of potential search results that may apply to it. However the main question arising amongst SEO experts and webmasters is: how will this new introduction to Google affect their website’s current search performance?

  1. Firstly the main prediction is that companies specialising in particular areas and those whose campaigns focus on searches for long-tail phrases will be negatively affected by the change. They may see that they need to start focussing on more generic (therefore more expensive) keyword phrases – a major cause for concern for small business owners with limited organic or PPC budgets. Google Instant works well for more generic phrases (‘car insurance’ instead of ‘car insurance online’); therefore businesses with higher budgets will be more successful in search.
  2. The shift to more generic search terms also means much stiffer competition. Initially this may sound like bad news but in a sense, it actually makes SEO easier. Rather than having – say, 20 keyword phrases that apply to your website, you can limit your focus to a select few in order to attract more traffic.
  3. It depends on what service the company is offering. For example, if I searched for ‘car insurance’ only, then it is likely that the results shown will also be offering car insurance online. This doesn’t bode well for websites that do well in search for the exact phrase ‘car insurance online’, as they will never get clicked on – the websites doing well for the shorter phrases will get clicked on instead.
  4. However for websites offering – say – SEO Training (such as KPI) once the user has typed SEO into the search box Google Instant shows websites that provide specific information about what SEO is from sites such as Wikipedia. They will not be offering the exact information that the web user wants, and so the user will continue to type in their original search query – therefore these particular companies doing well for long-tail keywords phrases will not suffer.

But, webmasters need to consider that many web users cannot touch type. Google instant will only affect what the user clicks on if they can touch type.  If they are looking at their keyboard whilst typing, then they won’t notice the other results that Google Instant provides before they have completed typing their search query. So in theory, the points mentioned above do not actually apply unless the web user is looking at their screen whilst typing.

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