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SEO – The impact of Google Instant Search on Search Engine Optimisation

Written by Brett Sidaway, March 1, 2011

SEO – The impact of Google Instant Search on Search Engine Optimisation

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What is Google Instant Search (also known as predictive search)?

Google Instant Search attempts to predict your search queries as you type.

Depending on the query, Google Instant Search (also known as Google Predictive Search) will predict your query and place the paid advertisements or sponsored listings at the top, followed by the universal search listings (Google Places results) and then finally the organic search results. This is a big mistake in our opinion as organic search results should always take precedence.

What does this mean for SEO?

This now means that top ranking is now more important than ever. Users are less likely to scroll down the page and on to subsequent pages as related results are instantly reconfigured as the search query is completed. If the results don’t match the users expectations, they are more likely to just hit the backspace key and retype then search query. Prior to this change a user would type in a search query, check the results, refine the search and then repeat the process until they found what they were looking for. Users were more likely to scroll down the page and click on page 2 if needed. Fundamentally Google Instant Search is changing human behaviour and they way we interact with search engines to get results. From an SEO perspective – Google Instant Search means that positions 1 and 2 will achieve more clicks at the expense of positions 3 and 4. This means that SEO tactics must change. Traditionally, we’ve seen that users tend to spend a good portion of their time examining meta titles and descriptions. However, with results changing so quickly, users spend less time examining the results and will rely more on those parts of the result they can examine quickly.

Google Instant Search and long tail keywords

Perhaps the biggest impact of Google Instant Search is the function it will have on long-tail searches (longer, multiword search terms).  Let’s say a user goes to Google and searches for “Turkey Hotel Deals”. After typing in just “Turkey” the user sees a paid ad for thomson.co.uk and the organic entry for the Turkey Tourism website. What is the impact of those impressions on the user’s search behaviour?  How likely is it that a user will abandon their search and click on one of those? Or, are users more likely to finish their search and ignore the populating results? Will the page populating with results just become insignificant noise to searchers as they continue to use Google as they have been for years? All of these are questions that SEO consultants and business owners now need to take into account when carrying out SEO. We would suggest that you continue to incorporate your long-tail keywords into your SEO strategy, but closely monitor the before-and-after performance to see how user behaviour has adapted to these changes. Monitor the performance of your long-tail keywords over 30 days, then, if the performance degrades, you know that SEO tactics also have to change.

Summary

We believe SEO techniques and strategies are likely to remain the same, but your choice of keywords may change. Many are also suggesting that it will reduce search volumes for niche and long-tail keywords. Big brands that usually do well on single word searches on the other hand are likely to benefit. While it is clear that SEO will not start to rely on single letter or partial keywords, it will increase competition around a smaller selection of keywords – most likely the ones which attract the highest search volumes anyway. This will make the choice and sequence of keywords even more important than it was previously. Careful keyword research will therefore become a must for all organisations hoping to make an impression on page 1 of the search results. In addition, existing keyword choices may need to be revised. Use the Google Keyword Tool to monitor keywords and the search volumes they attract as your keyword choices may change as a result of Google Instant Search. The change also places emphasis on an entirely new aspect of the search process. If users are seeing results even before they finish typing in their search, it’s important that you analyse what users are likely to see as they type in terms or brand names that have importance for you.

Getting SEO support

For those just getting started with building an online presence, developing a successful SEO strategy can be a very difficult process. It is essential to look for reliable search engine optimisation consultants who can help you to get your business website to the top of the search engines in an ethical manner. You could even consider SEO training courses to help develop your knowledge in this area. Opace Technology Solutions are a successful SEO Birmingham company who study keywords to know which ones will work and which ones won’t when formulating your SEO action plan.

Over the next few weeks we will be covering a series of topics in more depth. Please follow us @opaceweb on Twitter and Opacewebdesign on Facebook for information on blog updates, please feel free to subscribe to our feed.
Image credit – Paloma Gómez
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