Google Instant: Almost 2 Weeks in, What Does it All Mean?

By September 21, 2010 SEO No Comments

The sky is falling! It’s the end of the world! Say your last goodbyes!

No, it’s not the next Armageddon people are talking about. It’s just Google Instant. Ever since the new user interface (UI) was launched a little less than two weeks ago, people all across the search engine spectrum have been speculating about its effects – some more dramatically than others, but most everyone in the industry has an opinion.

The name of the game is localization and personalization. The big concerns are that search queries will no longer be predictable, that users will start redefining their search terms on the fly and that site visibility will be negatively impacted, especially for smaller name companies. The most drastic fear is that Google Instant will render SEO irrelevant, but most people who have taken a moment to think rationally agree that’s not likely.

Industry expert Matt Cutts has concluded, however, that Instant may change SEO over time. As stated in his blog post:

  • “The search results will remain the same for a query, but it’s possible that people will learn to search differently over time.”

    He expands upon this further by saying:

    • “When I was in grad school, I had a professor who mentioned that peoples’ information needs often change over the course of a search session. Google Instant makes that process even easier: people can dig into a topic and find out new areas to explore with very little work.”

    For those of us determined to succeed in the SEO industry, change is something that must be both expected and embraced. Matt Cutts stated this plainly in his blog when he said, “The best SEOs recognize, adapt, and even flourish when changes happen.” Other industry players agree.

    Jonathan Allen of Search Engine Watch wrote:

    • “Google Instant is of equivalent significance to marketers as the Universal Search update…As was the case then, lost real estate for organic search results presented new opportunities for the savvy marketer. The same is likely to be true now.”

    Over at Search Engine Land, Matt McGee stated:

    • “As long as humans use search engines (like Google) to look for information online, that content will need to be optimized. A well-rounded approach to content development and optimization should actually benefit from Google Instant. More than SEO, it should impact how users search and find valuable information and/or the products and services they’re seeking. Good SEOs will adapt to any changes in searcher behavior that Google Instant brings about”

    So, yes, Google Instant may require a certain amount of adaptation, but as stated in a previous post by Fathom’s Dustin Brady, it doesn’t need to be the cause for a total industry meltdown.

    Instead, it should be motivation to revisit the fundamental factors that make great websites rank in any situation – regardless of the UI being used to find them.

    So what’s one of the major factors that keeps websites consistently ranking in the top spots on Google? Fresh, relevant and engaging content that’s search engine friendly, of course.

    Google Instant hasn’t changed that fact; it just may have changed the way people go about achieving it. In addition to standard keyword research and optimization, companies may also have to:

    1. Target the terms that show up around their primary keywords in Instant searches.
    2. Ramp up their social media efforts in order to capitalize on the lighting speed of Instant and capture more of the real-time traffic that’s available.
    3. Pay extra attention to page titles as a means for attracting users’ attention in an ever-changing sea of search results.

    At this point in the game it’s hard to say how much of an impact Instant is going to have, but it’s definitely something that deserves the attention of professionals all across the SEO industry. It makes much more sense to embrace its possibilities than try to find tricks to work around it. Instead of focusing on the havoc Instant is going to wreak on your site’s visibility, direct your efforts toward developing high-quality content that’s going to be relevant to your users – in any search situation.

    Learn what it takes to develop a quality search engine marketing strategy that will hold up against Google Instant and any other industry changes that come along.

    *Image provided by Nancy Wombat on Flickr

    About Abigail Birmingham

    Abigail Birmingham is a Creative Leader for Fathom's education team specializing in video production, creative design, and content strategy. She is passionate about helping clients tell a great story and engage with their audience. She is a strong believer in the power of captivating and creative content as a driving force in an effective marketing strategy.

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