Google Instant: A New Search Feature

Google has introduced Instant Search. I was just typing in a search query as usual and suddenly the search result page started changing – updating as I typed! This will be very familiar to anyone who has used Google Desktop Search or the Windows Search in newer versions of Windows, or even the instant search bar in Outlook. Still, it’s a new feature in Google and they are just beginning to roll it out to users.

Google Instant Search

Google Instant Search

As you can see, Google anticipates what I’m about to type and auto-completes the query. It serves results based on the auto-completed search, even though I haven’t finalized or submitted it yet, and also serves ads based on the anticipated search.

This brings up several search marketing issues. The first one is that users are now going to be seeing relevant search results before even completing the search query. This may cause issues for SEOs trying to track keywords being searched, or trying to optimize for keywords. The other question is how this will be reported. Is Analytics now going to show the half-spelled query as the referring keyword or is it going to use the auto-completed version? What abuot other analytics packages like Omniture? Will they be able to adapt? This depends on how Google is now going to be passing the search parameter in the URL.

The other major question is what kind of effect this will have on AdWords. Since the ads change based on what Google predicts I may be typing, I may see 3 different sets of ads while typing a particular query. Are all those going to count as impressions for the advertisers? If so, ad impressions are going to start going way up. Unless Google accounts for this somehow, which it very well might.

Another possible outcome of this new search functionality may be that search queries may become more streamlined. Since users are likely to accept the auto-completed phrase when it’s relevant, we’re going to start seeing a lot fewer one-off longtail searches and more searches for the same longtail phrases – the ones being auto-completed. For example, instead of seeing 1 visitor each for “florists brooklyn,” “florists in brooklyn,” “florists in brooklyn ny,” “florists ny brooklyn,” and even misspellings of the words, we’re going to see a whole bunch of searches for “florists in brooklyn ny” because that’s the auto-completed search query for anyone who starts typing any of those phrases.

So far, Google Instant is only available when logged into your Google account, only in several countries and only in modern browsers. I’m sure this functionality will be expanding and will eventually be standard.

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