Google Instant And SEO

Earlier last month, we published an article about the launch of Google’s new search service, Google Instant. This is the new “real time” search service that provides results as you type, and in which Google effectively tries to predict what you’re searching for, and displays results that change as you type more letters.

Predictably, it’s already had its share of people both praising and condemning it, and speculation ranging from claims that it won’t last, to ones that it’s the new future of search.

In our industry though, the real question on everybody’s minds is what effect the new search will have on search engine optimisation.

Effects On Search Engine Optimisation

Right now, the only honest answer is that we don’t know. Some people claim it’s the end of SEO, and others claim that it’s not going to make a difference, but right now, it just hasn’t been available for long enough.

There are a few things we do know about it though. For a start, it’s not available in South Africa yet. For another thing, it’s not the default standard. In order for Google Instant to work, you have to be logged into a Google account when you search, and you have to have switched it on in your preferences.

Furthermore, it’s automatically switched off for “slow” connections, and in general, we in SA only have slow connections. By Google’s standards anyway.

For a start, this suggests that we’re unlikely to have to worry about it right now. By the time it’s even generally available to us, we’ll have a much better idea of how it has affected SEO in other countries, so we’ll know what to expect.

For another thing, I would guess that the majority of users in this country are fairly casual ones, so they’re unlikely to log into their Google account in order to search, and that means most searches will be done with the standard interface that we’re all used to.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be any changes either.

Implications Of The New Search

Technically, nothing much should really have changed. Google might be predicting the results it thinks you want, but the only difference is the way that they’re presenting them. In theory, those results are still based on the usual principles of relevance and credibility.

The only difference now is that they’re not just displayed on the basis of their ranking, but on the basis of what Google thinks you’re looking for, and they’re not telling anybody how they decide.

We don’t yet know what long term effects this will have on search engine marketing, but there are bound to be some. It will no longer be enough to know what users are searching for. Instead, you’ll need to pay attention to the keywords that Google targets for display for your target market.

Another potential issue is the fact that the amount of screen real estate available above the fold, (visible without scrolling down in other words) appears to be reduced. This means users will see fewer organic rankings in these suggestions.

Finally, the still important long tail keywords may be affected, since users will probably be faced with several pages of potential results before they’ve finished typing, and if something relevant appears in the results while they’re doing so, there’s a good chance that users will click on it.

This new search interface has also changed the influence that Google has on search results. They’re not just going to be giving results that match what you typed in, instead, they’re going to be giving you results based on what they think you’re searching for. How much this will effect the chances of being clicked on, we don’t know yet. It seems though that at best, your chances of getting that important click has dropped just a little bit.

The Final Point

No matter how the results are displayed though, and no matter how fast they appear, or how accurately they predict your requirements, these results are still drawn from the same pool of sites, and selected based on good SEO tenets.

Using the right keywords, having relevant, good quality content, and building quality back links will still make it more likely that Google will select your site to be displayed in the results.

The only question is how many of those results will be affected by any individual users own history, and Google’s opinion of what the user is searching for.

Right now, though, it’s not something that we in South Africa have to worry about too much for the immediate future. After that? We’ll have to wait and see. But you can rest assured that as soon as we learn more about the SEO implications of Google Instant, we’ll let you know.