Google Instant - Our thoughts on this evolving story...

Keep up with the very latest developments in the digital marketing world

By Guy Levine
on 9/9/10

This blog post will be updating as more information is released and more testing has been done, so please check back. If you have any comments or feedback, leave a comment below.

It all started a few days ago, Google started unveiling a new type of logo on their home page – logos which demonstrated HTML5 and DHTML to show various elements of the logo reacting to user actions in real time.

At first we thought it was just Google showing off what can be achieved with HTML5, JavaScript and Google Chrome – another thought was the logos were some part of their 12th birthday celebrations.

Then, on Tuesday 8th September rumours started to spread that a big Google announcement was imminent after members of the press and the like were informed of a press conference taking place on Wednesday.

Our train of thought was that they were in some way going to address the fact that Facebook and Twitter have started to influence user search habits with the ability for users to push content across the web to other users almost instantly.  I would imagine we spend less time that we did on search engines and Google will want to address this – not via social media though, Wave and Buzz have shown they’re better off concentrating on search.

So what was this big announcement that would revolutionise search as we know it?

Google Instant - Watch the video below to see an example of how their real time search filters search results as you type – which does indeed demonstrate innovative use of DHTML:

As you can see, search results are now displayed dynamically, with the suggest tool giving a guiding hand. If this isn’t your cup of tea, you’ll be relieved to hear this option is only seen if you are searching from Google and logged in to your Google account. Whether this feature will roll out completely, we are not yet sure.

One thing is certain, both the business and digital marketing community is up in arms. For companies that are spending thousands on either pay per click/Google Adwords advertising or Search Engine Optimisation, there are implications. That said, these are not really game changers,  it’s just time to re-assess your campaigns.

The big concern for Google Adwords users was if it would affect how they were charged and how the impression metric would be calculated.  Before the change, a single search results page would be displayed that contained paid adverts, which would be counted as an impression. Google would then work out how many impressions it would take before someone would click though and along with other factors calculate your cost per click and where abouts you would appear in the paid ranking list.   It has now been clarified, that an impression will only be counted when someone actually clicks the search page and goes through to a static page.   These look and work exactly the same as before.  We could argue that paid search results will actually get better, as all the refining of the search happens before your impression is counted, so the visitor may well be more relevant.

Companies that adopt SEO should not worry either. Although the way people search for pages will more than likely change, the way Google calculates who goes where is not changing...for now.  This means the same rules still apply.   However, it is common knowledge that Google is and will look in the future to personalise the results pages according to individual preferences

A change that will affect users of PPC and SEO is a trend called the ‘head’ and ‘long tail.’   More visitors are at the head of the search.   This is for really generic keywords such as "insurance" or "phone", however as the keywords are so broad, the user's buying intent is often very low.   The ‘long tail’ are searches like ‘car insurance for classic cars’ which have less searches, but are often people who are ready to buy.   Without Google Instant, people would do a number of searches, usually about three, to go from the head to the tail, now this can happen directly in Google. This means the people targeted the big broad terms will probably suffer. Google say they have done this to reduce the time it takes to search.

In summary, the way we search has changed, if Google decides to keep this feature, but the way results are generated has not. The same rules apply but I would suggest monitoring your analytics to check nothing is going wrong, especially for big Google Adwords users.  I am not sure if this is the latest income generation strategy from Google aimed to boost pay per click revenues (which incidently is where most of Google’s revenue comes from) to lift flattening stock prices, or really aimed at the users. I guess time will tell!