Google Instant Search and SEO

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Google Instant

There’s been a lot of chatter lately about Google’s new instant search function and what it means to SEO. Some have already begun the somber SEO funeral procession, with casket and a trio of horn players and all. They are, perhaps, jumping the gun. Google Instant Search is absolutely not poised to kill SEO, however we all must expect a certain amount of transformation.

First of all. What is Google Instant Search? It’s a new functionality Google unveiled a couple of weeks ago that reinvents how the engine processes and shows search results. It begins searching as you type and starts showing you results well before you are done. It analyzes possible outcomes for what you are typing, as well as previous searching habits, to create a reasonable approximation of what you’ll be searching for. To some it seems psychic. There is no magic here, folks. It’s just the usual smart algorithms in place. They are just unleashed a bit sooner than usual.

Just because your searches are yielding faster refinement times doesn’t automatically change the nuances of SEO. However, it may create some quirks in the stream. First of all, users are going to start receiving feedback immediately, right from their first letter. Human nature dictates that if they are given information, they tend to refine their search accordingly. This also means that no two people could receive the same links for essentially the same information. It’s these two points that have naysayers in an uproar. They claim the days of the homogenized Internet is over. SEO is dead because everyone’s net experience is heretofore going to be absolutely different. After all, even Google is saying to expect fluctuations around organic and heavily used keywords.

But hey. All is not lost. There is certainly some smoke with accompanying mirrors going on here.

SEO contributor Stephan Spencer has this to say about the new feature in regard to SEO, “Google Instant isn’t anything to get stressed about. In regards to SEO, Google Instant is not a ‘game changer’ or a ‘disruptive technology.’ I’d argue it’s not even a major SEO development. It’s nowhere near the impact of Bing powering Yahoo’s results, for instance.

Basically, it’s business as usual. The algorithm hasn’t changed, so how users are driven to your site also hasn’t changed. The whole thing just flies by at a different speed now, thus giving the illusion of change. Webmasters need to keep doing what they do best, focusing on content, traffic, and conversions. If anything, consider it a call to arms for SEO practitioners to up their game, to amp their speed in the same way Google has.

“Google Instant demands that practitioners become more aware of what Google Suggest is recommending to searchers, how to influence Google Suggest’s recommendations, and how to win at the more competitive terms that are being predicted by Google.” Spencer adds.

One thing, though, that webmasters must account for is the new-found important of CTR. CTR  is the new ranking. The click-through rate for organic listings becomes more important than pure rankings since users will see many more search results in each session.

Also, Google Instant does modify how eyeballs move around the screen. The traditional Golden Triangle theory regarding those eye movements on search result pages is no longer true. You used to perform a search, sit back and study the results and the ads before either clicking on a listing, or modifying your query. This will now be substantially different as eyes will wander up and down between the query field, listings, Universal Search entries, and AdWords ads. Not sure how exactly this will modify SEO but it is definitely something to keep an eye on.

So as you can see, SEO is most definitely not dead. If anything it’s more interesting than ever before. It may just be entering a new golden age. The prize is there, if you are willing to take it.

Be on the lookout for the Instant functionality to be rolled out across the entire Google platform, including news, images and mobile devices. More information as it becomes available.

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