Google Instant, an innovation the company is touting as “search before you type,” is here. This new technology is basically an extension of the Google Suggestions box; it takes the current top suggestion and provides immediate search results for that term.
As soon as the announcement was made, the blogosphere started going crazy, with some going so far as to proclaim SEO to be dead.
What does instant search mean for long tail keywords? Should we start optimizing for letters rather than words? And why does Google Analytics have a scary post warning that certain keywords may see significantly more or fewer impressions going forward?
See Instant in action by watching this video.
Is it time to panic? I didn’t really know, so I took Instant out for a spin this afternoon. After playing with the search engine and doing a little more research, this is what I’ve come up with:
• We’ve gone through this before. Many of the people who are panicking today are the same people who screamed when Google introduced Caffeine, Local and Universal search. These are the people who see SEO as a trick to be perfected rather than a philosophy to live by. If you’re constantly looking for ways to game the search engines, you’re missing the point of SEO. Quality traffic comes from great content, not cheap tricks.
• Google Instant isn’t really a new way to search. Instant’s purpose is simply to help people find what they’re looking for quicker. Google search results are the same whether Instant is turned on or off. Therefore, if we’ve done our job and created quality content, Google Instant will simply make it easier to find.
• Top rankings do seem to get more exposure. Time will tell, but the one change Instant does seem to have on search strategy is that it gives the top results more exposure. Thanks to the Google Suggestions box, only the top two or three results are visible without scrolling.
• Long-tail keywords are resilient. Google has said in the past that about 20 percent of its queries each day are completely unique, and that more than half are more than three words. Anyone who suggests that Instant spells instant doom for long-tail keywords only needs to look at the minimal impact that the Suggestions box has had on these types of searches. When people know what they want, they will type it out; no matter how many words they have to use.
Instant is now the default search experience on Google.com for Chrome, Firefox, Safari and IE 8. Over the course of the next couple weeks and months, Google promises that its new way to search will become available to all geographies and platforms. Instant is here to stay, so instead of forming a new brand strategy to take advantage of its weaknesses, it’s time to return to an SEO campaign built on fresh, compelling content.