Last week Google introduced Google Instant, a remarkable technology advancement in searching. Now when you are on google.com and start typing in searches, Google will predict what you are searching for as you type it. Additionally, Google shows the results as you type. You can adapt your searching on the fly until you see the results that match your searches.
From Google’s perspective, this enhancement should result in the following:
Faster Searches: Most of us type much slower than we can read, so this could save several keystrokes as a searcher may see the term they were going to search before they are finished typing and click on it.
Better Searches: Google’s predictions may help guides us with better searches. Also since the search results virtually change with each keystroke, you can instantly see results and make adjustments.
From the searchers perspective, Google hopes to make searching a more productive experience, hopefully giving the searcher better results in a shorter period of time.
How will this effect traffic to your site?
It has been clearly stated that this is not an algorithm change – basically your ranking in search terms won’t change from this. However, will this tool modify search behavior? It sure seems possible that the predictive search tool will “guide” searchers to the more common search terms. It also may cause them to rely less on scrolling through the listings of search results and more on modifying search until something pops up near the top that looks good. This implies that ranking near the top of the first page is going to be more important, and that ranking in the more common terms will be more important as that there may be less searching for the “long tail” terms. There has also been discussion that this will make your local search listing more important as some believe that the local maps will show up more with instant.
There is a lot of fear that traffic will drop significantly on websites. I have reviewed traffic on most of my client’s sites, and I have not seen any downward trends. The question should also be: does the quality of traffic change? Theoretically, searchers will be making better decisions and won’t be wasting as much time clicking on websites that doesn’t match their needs. Does this mean that metrics such as conversions, bounce rate, time on site etc will improve? Time will tell.
There are a couple of reasons that make me believe that the best strategy is to wait and see. First this feature is only used if you are signed onto a Google account and are actually searching on Google.com (as opposed to the Google bar on my desktop where I do most of my searching). Secondly, we are talking human behavior, there are many types of searchers in many different modes of search, how this ultimately affects the demographics that you are going after is extremely hard to predict. Many of my clients are industrial clients and the search prediction tool does not impress me at all for those.
I think this change will ultimately require us change some strategies in terms of what search terms you target. Like any major change, one can find threats, but you should also find opportunities.