Google Instant

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It’s that time again people. Time for another roll out from Google which may or may not change the SEO game. This time it’s not a Wave, Buzz but another beverage based update called Google Instant. It’s the big G’s way of speeding up searches and giving Bing something more to sweat about. Google has been concentrating on producing faster search results previously encouraging webmasters to decrease their page sizes and speed up their sites. Now with Instant they are making a huge leap in the speed that they deliver results.

What does Instant do?
Google Instant is a new feature which displays search results while a search query is being carried out. So if you type “in” into the search box results will immediately appear underneath for Inception. Keep typing so you have the word “Insurance” and now insurance results display underneath. Google will also display a list of possible searches that you are trying to carry out as it has done for a while now.

Who can see it?
At the moment it has been rolled out in the US as well as certain other countries for users who are logged in. If you are in the UK you will be able to see it by logging into your Google account. It doesn’t work for toolbar queries as you might imagine. It is unclear whether this will be available for users who are logged out in the future but if it becomes popular there’s every reason to think it will be. Google seem to have taken note from previous updates and included an option to turn it off which is located to the right of the search button should you not want your search results in an instant.

So who does this help?
Googles users. It speeds up searching dramatically but it also may lead to a change in users search behaviour if it is widely adopted. It could lead to users performing a wider range of searches. If a user is on a fast connection there is no waiting for results. If users are seeing their results for a query straight away they might be more inclined to try out more variations. It could also lead to users scrolling less as typing in a few more words to see some fresh results could be quicker than scrolling through the results being displayed.

If this turns out to be the case it could lead to less clicks for organic search results and more clicks for sponsored listings and localised results. Here’s a screenshot of results for the search term “hotels Glasgow”. There is only one organic search result (marked in blue) seen above the fold but there is an abundance of local search and sponsored listings. This is nothing new of course but if users change their scrolling habit it could lead to a lot more clicks for the sponsored listings. I’m sure Google are quite aware of this possibility being the smart cookies that they are.
google instant search results

A concern from the PPC camp is that instant results will dramatically increase ad impressions and lower quality scores. Google has stated that impressions will only be counted on instant results when the user clicks somewhere on the page, the search button is clicked or there is no action by the user for three seconds.

I’ve used it a bit this morning and I have to say I think it’s a fantastic move by Google that leaves Bing looking a bit useless. It speeds searching up in a big way, even with our BT connection.
Is this a game changer for SEO? No. Google has stated that this change does not affect how they rank websites. It may turn out to alter behaviour but the results the user gets will be the same as before.

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