What is Google Instant?

Google has enhanced the search experience, by showing (ie predicting) search results as you type.

If I type “Ade” per the screenshot below, Google tries to guess what I am going to type.


Then I continue typing, adding a “p” to the “ade” and the suggestions change accordingly,  and so do the organic results AND the AdWords ads. As you can see this is a really big change!


Why has Google introduced it?

They know people type slower than they read/scan, so they believe that Google Instant will get you to your information faster.

Faster, hey? I didn’t think Google was that slow.  How much faster?

Google reckon they will save us 3 to 5 seconds per search (a typical searcher takes 9 seconds to enter a search)

I can’t see it yet – when will they turn it on for Australia?

Google do not have a specific date yet. You can try this URL https://www.google.com/webhp?sclient=psy Or, if you use Firefox, you can get Instant with the ‘Google Global Extension’.

Has the algorithm changed?

No it hasn’t. Google shows the same search results as before but shows the results of the predicted search query – not the partially typed query.

Is it available on mobile?

Not yet, but it will be at some point.

Is Google Instant localised?

Yes. Search suggestions will be based on your IP address. Eg If you’re physically located in “Sydney” when searching for “hotels”, Google will show results for hotels in Sydney. Search results will also include any personalization and include your search history – if you have it enabled.

Are there implications for my SEO strategy?

(It is still very early days – so these opinions have not been backed up by data. So pay close attention to your traffic numbers.)

If users click more of what Google is suggesting, rather than following their own unique searching style, you’d expect your traffic to change. Google Instant may increase the traffic for websites that rank for these popular terms, and decrease traffic for websites that were relying on long tail, more unusual queries (especially misspellings).

So if the competition heats up on popular terms, does that mean that business owners with smaller budgets will be squeezed out by companies with larger SEO budgets? Yes, this is a possibility. (Maybe this will swing things more towards social media as a prime marketing activity for smaller businesses).

Searchers may also refine their search query by changing their typing, rather than digging through a list of 10 or 20 search results. Being ranked in the top 2 or 3 suddenly got a lot more important. Websites with lots of 8, 9, 10 rankings may well see a drop in traffic.

Everyone know that being above the fold is important, and Google Instant, with its 4 or 5 suggestions of your search query just below the search box, pushes organic results further down the visible page. Perhaps it’s another reason why you need to be #1 organically even more so than before.

As Google shows different suggested results for searchers in different physical locations, businesses will need to consider what impact this will have on the keywords they will target for their SEO. This is quite tricky. I expect some tools to emerge to help businesses try to understand what these terms are.

How will Instant affect my own AdWords keyword strategy?

If competition heats up on the terms suggested by Google, we will see an inevitable increase in click prices for these more common terms and, in theory, a decrease in the less frequently searched for terms.

Will this blow out my impression numbers on my own ads, and will this negatively affect my quality score?

As you type, you will see Google tries to match AdWords ads to your query, thus showing lots of ad impressions as I type. But, an impression only counts if:

1.       You click anywhere on the page

2.       You click enter, or click the search button

3.       You stop typing, and at least 3 seconds pass (ie you’re reading stuff)

But don’t throw yourself off a cliff just yet. Whilst your impression numbers won’t necessarily blow out, Google’s official statement describes it best, “your impression numbers could increase or decrease, and you should continue to monitor performance”

If a searcher partially types a query eg “Sydney hot” for “Sydney hotel” is there any sense in bidding in AdWords for the incomplete term “Sydney hot”?

In a word, “no”.

The ads are shown based on the predicted complete search phrase. So don’t worry about bidding on incomplete search phrases.


Most of the comments above are ‘maybes’ and ‘coulds’.

No one really knows for sure the real impacts yet. The only thing we know for sure that this is a big change, and there will be repercussions on your search marketing strategy.

Be alert. Keep measuring.

Some recommended further reading:

Google Instant’s official webpage

Nice article on SEOBook.com

Google Analytics’ official blog post

What are your thoughts on Instant? Are you scared? Do you see opportunity?

By Philip Shaw


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  • I agree that if competition increases on the terms suggested by Google, it could lead to an increase in cost per click prices for popular keywords, and a decrease in less popular keywords.

    I recently wrote an article exploring some of the implications of Google Instant on PPC, which you might also find of interest.

    I guess it really depends on how users change their behaviour with the new functionality. If people keep their existing searching habits, the whole discussion over the SEM impacts of Google Instant could be just hype.

  • Philip says:

    Yeah I agree Alan, a lot of it is wait and see what the data says. It will keep all of us on our toes that’s for sure. Thanks for linking to your post.

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