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"Google Instant" Google giveth, Google taketh away

Adam Bunn and Matthew Whiteway | Sept. 9, 2010
Googles test of streaming search not so short lived

Google has just announced its streaming search service, Google Instant, is coming out of limited Beta testing and going live for all users. According to Adam Bunn, Head of Search at leading independent search and social marketing agency Greenlight, when it comes to search engine optimisation campaigns (SEO), some websites may now suffer a drop in traffic. This service could also potentially result in complications for rank checking software and impact on search demand figures given by Googles keyword tools. With regards to paid search, Matthew Whiteway, Director of Campaign Management (paid search) at Greenlight, says it could play havoc with an advertisers Google Quality Score. Whiteway also says Googles motives for doing this must be questioned. Given the longtail is becoming increasingly important, with search queries, the cost-per-click (CPC) Google can charge for longtail keywords is significantly lower than that on one or two keyword search queries. Therefore the more people search for longtail search queries, the less money Google can charge the advertiser.

Googles development uses AJAX to dynamically serve search results as you type. Each time a new recognisable word or phrase is typed that changes the results set in a meaningful way, Google will fetch the search results for that word without you having to hit search.  So, if youre intending on searching for scary books suitable for children, Google might first fetch results when youve finished typing scary, then scary book, then scary books, then finally scary books suitable for children.

Bunn says this is a mightily impressive display of processing power on Googles part.  Now, for every search you do Google may have to process anywhere from a couple to half a dozen different searches.  It has got to do this fast enough to keep up with your average typing speed.  This, on top of the fact that retrieving and sorting thousands of documents in a split second is already a modern marvel - admittedly one that few people spend much time thinking about.  

What of the impact for SEO?

According to Bunn, SEO campaigns including long multi-word keyword variants may see a drop in traffic for those keywords as a result of streaming search. Why? Users may now find something to click on before completely typing their originally intended search term (depending, of course, on Google being able to provide accurate enough results at an earlier stage in the search).  Consequently, to be visible/ show up in search results, it may become more important for websites to optimise for the shorter, constituent parts of longer keywords.

For example, if a website has optimised for and holds good rankings for cheap car insurance UK, that term may lose search traffic as UK users find that the shorter cheap car insurance returns several relevant looking results, negating the need to finish their sentence.


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