Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Impacts of Google Instant

By now, we are all used to seeing the effects of “predictive search” in the Google search box when we type words and phrases - the more common the word or phrase typed, the more likely the chance it will display prominently in the suggested terms and phrases. In many ways, this acts similar to auto-word typing on your PDA but it goes one step further through suggestive search.

So how does Google Instant impact all of this? Well, the average search today takes around 9 seconds and typically involves three steps: 1.) Type the word or phrase, 2.) Hit the search button below and 3.) Reviewing the displayed search results pages. With Google Instant, the goal is to cut-out step 2 and display the results as you type below the search box. Google claims this will cut the average search time down from 9 seconds today to 2-5 seconds with Google Instant.

Why the Need?

Google generates over $30 Billion a year on their paid advertising and it is all predicated on search starting and ending with Google. Recent ComScore reports show that the market for search is not showing an increase for Google while other search engines such as Yahoo and Bing are growing…albeit very slowing in relative terms. Another and arguably bigger challenge is coming from alternative search vehicles lead largely by PDA’s, social media, and the like. In short, Google needs to protect their search market revenues and the best way to do that is to try to create the best search experience for users. Google Instant is their way in which to try to provide that.

The Impacts on Search

By providing displayed search results below the search box as one types, it is fairly obvious that there are two major impacts as a result of this new search display:

1.) Impressions for both organic and paid search results will increase due to the increase in times a results page is displayed in the search results screen. In short, the frequency of content impressions per search will shoot up dramatically – especially for those pages that score well on the more singular and shorter search terms. For example, if I start typing in “personal injury” in Google Instant results, I am going to see all results before I ever get to adding the geography part of that search. Whatever pages typically score the highest for ALL “personal injury” searches nation-wide will see a dramatic spike in their impressions as a result. The same applies to those firms also paying for Google Adwords campaigns. More impressions for Google Advertisers ultimately translates to more money for Google.

2.) Short search words, phrases and terms (commonly referred to as “head terms”) will outperform the long tail searches. This is analogous to somebody interrupting you while you speak and suggesting an answer before you have finished your statement. The main benefactors here will be the larger more established websites and blogs at the expense of smaller companies and firms with fewer resources to compete. Coincidence? Not when you realize who the biggest spenders on Google paid advertising are.

In summary, we have seen two sweeping and dramatic changes in the Google search interface starting with the May Day release and now Google Instant. This all reminds me of the recent 10 year birthday of Google when they released their search engine interface from 10 years ago with what at the time was a simple search interface and very limited “interruptive” advertising – my how things have changed.

I recently looked up the definition of Google and found this as the #1 result: “a widely used search engine that uses text-matching techniques to find web pages that are important and relevant to a user's search.” I continue to wonder with the recent changes to Google whether or not “important and relevant to a user's search” may need some changing as well…


  1. Google Instant is an enhancement to Google’s search engine that shows you, and changes, the search results as you type, in real time. By implementing Google Instant

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