Google Instant: Is It Really and How Will it Affect You?
Google launched a new feature to their search engine yesterday called “Google Instant” that allows users to start entering their search and based on past searches will “predict” what you are looking for. They claim it to be a “search before you type” feature that will make it much faster for users to find what they are looking for. After previous attempts at launching a similar feature in 1999 and 2003, they have decided that Instant is the winner.
Google Instant is search-before-you-type. Instant takes what you have typed already, predicts the most likely completion and streams results in real-time for those predictions—yielding a smarter and faster search that is interactive, predictive and powerful. – Official Google Blog
Is it really instant?
It’s not really that instant. It actually causes several problems. For instance, let’s say you are a Librarian in the New York Public Library which houses 11 million books. Imagine if every visitor who came through your doors asking you for help started their search with one letter and then added the next and then the next and so on and so forth, very much like a “hurry up and wait” scenario. That is what is happening with Google Instant. Each letter now acts as an individual query, pinging the search engine database on every keystroke. Which now means, it is not really that instant for new searches since there will be no prediction and the information you are looking for may actually be delivered much more slowly to you.
Also, there is a usability issue with prematurely hitting the enter button that causes further interruption in getting results quicker. There might be a vulnerability within Google’s automated query detection system. How will they determine which is an actual search query by the user or a script? I’ve been punished already for prematurely hitting the enter button, to which Google greeted me with the “Sorry, we think you are sending automated queries” screen and forced me to enter a captcha code in order to view search results.
Is it really a positive game changer for search engine users? What about Adwords advertisers?
In the past 24 hours, Instant hasn’t made my searching easier or quicker it feels more like the old “paperclip assistant” interruption on Microsoft Word than it seems to be productive.
In USA Today, Kevin Lee, CEO of search consultancy Didit, compares Google Instant to a manic companion who incessantly interrupts you as you’re trying to say something, never allowing you to finish a sentence. Google has set out to “influence what you’re seeing and distract you to view their recommendations,” says Lee. “You start to lose the individuality of what the searcher set out to look for, and you end up with search lemmings.”
How will Instant impact search advertisers using the Adwords program? If indeed, users get sidetracked during their search that means more irrelevant eyeballs on ads which means potentially a higher cost to the advertiser and less targeted visitors to ads.
Is Google Instant going to kill SEO?
No, as long as folks are using keyword based search engines SEO will still be relevant. Google Instant is a user interface change, not an indexation change, you still need to be indexed to be shown. The bottom line is you still should include SEO in your online strategy. Google won’t instantly (pun intended) know what you are relevant for so it is important they know how to appropriately index and categorize your web properties as well as where to rank you in search engine results. If you’re worried about how Google Instant will impact your SEO initiatives, don’t be. As long as you adhere to best practices and provide relevant, targeted content to users you should be fine.
In an article in Adage this morning, Google executives noted that natural search results, and techniques companies use to land higher in Google search results, won’t change. Johanna Wright, director of product management for Google Instant, said one difference is that they will direct users to “page two” results faster. “As you continue typing and narrowing your search, the instantly changing and refreshing results below the search box will be giving you more relevant results,” she said. “So if you previously looked on the second page, now those same results come to the top of the pile for you.”
For SEO and marketing professionals it may in fact prove beneficial as a research tool. “What may be useful is seeing the most common searches and getting results faster than using a SERP rank tool,” said Nathan Burgess, Senior Account Executive at BlissPR, a B2B public relations firm. Burgess also believes Instant may drop site bounce rates, and hits/refreshes to Google’s servers on bad searches and may educate the normal user on how to best use search.
Perhaps, this new feature will indeed change how our brain thinks and uses search. It is too early to tell. But, thinking back on all of the things that are “instant” doesn’t paint a great picture in my mind of quality. Instant coffee (taste), pudding (taste), polaroid pictures (still have to wait for it to develop and the pictures fade with time), fast food (unhealthy). So while Google Instant is merely a few hours old (at least in the public eye) we’ll have to see if it can give “instant” a better name.