Google Instant Is Here. Is it Time To Panic?

By September 8, 2010 SEO 4 Comments

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.

Learn more about building an effective SEO campagin by browsing our Knowledge Center.

About Paul Richlovsky

Paul purposefully merges a creative writing and teaching background with his decade-long marketing career. He advises clients on content strategy, editorial direction and PR/distribution. He is a perpetual critical thinker who has written/edited hundreds of blog posts and multiple long-form marketing guides, including those aimed at audiences as varied as healthcare, higher education, financial services, B2C brands and manufacturing. With a BA in English from the College of Wooster, he is also the author of a collection of poetry, "Under the Lunar Neon."He gets really excited about the science of elite performance, usability, brand voice, headlines, digital governance, ballroom dancing, bachata, racquet sports, and romping with his niece and nephews.

4 Comments

  • Scot Lowry says:

    I agree with your conclusions. This is just another opportunity to “make order from chaos”…. Something we do every day at Fathom.

  • Dustin, nice post. I completely agree with you on all accounts.

    I find myself growing a little tired of reading content that claims “SEO is dead” every time an innovation is introduced by the engines. Search engine marketing is a constantly changing industry, and because of this, one of the most important services we (Fathom) provide to our partners is the guidance that helps them navigate through these types of changes. When considered in this light, I would argue that changes like Universal Search, Caffeine, and now Instant don’t kill SEO, but make it even more relevant.

  • User Removed says:

    Google “Instant” is supposed to help end users “think” or predict how they think (less effort).

    But demographics, upbringings, cultures, careers, beliefs, memberships and even national media “persuade our thinking.”

    Plus, with each new generation, technology profiles change as well.

    I don’t see human thinking static. We always move forward and evolve – adapt. So thinking and the keywords we would use constantly changes. Right?

    With all the different combinations, I would think finding “consistant instant key words” will be the challenging part for Google. I suppose they go by trends….

    But “if” Google periodically changes those keywords for refinement, how would a company be able to man SEO/SEM without a full time expert or agency?

    So I think I would have to agree based on critical thinking.

    Thoughts?

  • Hi (User Removed),

    Good question! I would say that any good SEO program should be open to shifting keyword focus.

    At Fathom, we’ve always put a lot of time into creating an initial keyword list. However, after measuring the performance of those keywords after several months or years, we often make tweaks based on how certain words perform.

    I don’t think that Instant does a lot to change how we go about selecting or refining keyword lists. Keyword decisions should be based on which words are driving quality traffic, not necessarily which words are showing up the most in Google Instant suggestions.

    When evaluating our keyword list, we should be focused on our target market and how they think and search. Their habits may shift from time to time, but not enough for us to dramatically change our keyword focus every couple months.

    Over the next several months, Instant may have a subtle effect on how people search, so we should definitely pay close attention to analytics; but I don’t think this effect is going to be so strong that we’ll have to overhaul entire keyword lists.

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