POV on Enterprise Marketing Impact of Google Instant


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POV written by iCrossing digital strategists concerning the impact of Google's Instant results feature.

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POV on Enterprise Marketing Impact of Google Instant

  1. 1. DRAFT ICROSSING POV: GOOGLE INSTANT Written by: Holly Jacobs, Director, Natural Search Reporting, iCrossing Jon Maxson, Director, Natural Search Optimization, iCrossing Jason Stinson, Manager, Natural Search Reporting, iCrossing Reid Spice, Vice President, Search Media Insights, iCrossing Rob Garner, Senior Strategy Director, iCrossing GOOGLE INSTANT IS UNVEILED On September 8, 2010, Google unveiled an enhancement to its search engine, named “Google Instant” that will fundamentally shift the way people search. Essentially, Google will now display search results as you type, making it faster and easier to find what you are looking for. This development is expected to change some behaviors in the way people search, and also redefine the meaning of an “impression” in search. There are three main features to Google Instant: + Instant Results – results are displayed as you type. + Predictive Text – predicts what you are intending to search for. There is no need to finish typing your query – predictions are shown in grey text. + Scroll to Search – Use arrow keys to scroll through predictions – results are updated instantly. WHERE IS GOOGLE INSTANT AVAILABLE? Google Instant will be available in the U.S. as of September 8, 2010 on Chrome 5/6, Firefox 3, Safari 5 for Mac, and Internet Explorer v8. Internationally, the initial rollout includes the U.K., France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Russia. Google Instant functionality is only available to queries performed in the Google Web search box and results pages. Google Instant is not available via toolbars or built-in browser search bars. Users will be able to turn off this new feature if they choose by selecting "Instant is on", or "Instant is off" to the right of the search box. By default, Google Instant will be on. HOW WILL THIS IMPACT THE USER EXPERIENCE? Google Instant will make searching much easier and faster than before. Google Suggest became a default feature of Google in May 2008, when Google began offering suggestions in a drop down menu as the user typed. Google Instant is expanding on this by serving search results with predictive text. If the user sees an option that more closely matches their© ICROSSING. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 1
  2. 2. ICROSSING POV: GOOGLE INSTANT DRAFT search intentions, the user can scroll to an alternate suggestion. But now they will see the search results for those terms automatically update on the page. The additional functionality, like “tab” to accept the predicted phrase and the ability to type just one letter to bring up an entirely new set of predictions, will help to quickly narrow down the search results as well as allow the user to view and explore related queries with a key stroke instead of having to type another query. Users have the option of turning off Instant, though it is set as the default from the home page of Google.com. HOW WILL THIS IMPACT SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION AND PAID SEARCH MEDIA EFFORTS? Google says there have been no changes to the algorithm, and from what we see, things are identical when comparing the two. Below you see a "home furnishings" query, one with Instant on and one without Instant – the natural search results are exactly the same. The only difference was the time to serve the page. We have also begun to notice that paid ads for major brands are appearing for fragments of search terms, and single letters. SERP with Google Instant SERP without Google Instant With regard to SEO and paid search media, Google Instant does: + Impact user search behavior. Will users accept Google’s suggestions more quickly now that they see instant results, and stop refining searches? Or will users see interesting suggestions as an incentive to keep typing until a longer-tail suggestion matches their intent? + Benefit big brands that appear in broad suggested queries as searchers first start typing. Expect these top brands to at least increase impression volume, if not actual click-throughs from exploring searchers. Brands that tend to already be high traffic destinations, or viewed in a user’s personalization profile will benefit from upstream letter searches, such as single letters of the alphabet, and some two-letter combinations. There is no specific way to "optimize" for this type of search. Major brand and online destinations such as Best Buy, Facebook, Hotmail, and Walmart are receiving the benefit of first letter visibility. + Increase impression and click volumes for certain terms. iCrossing has observed that paid ads are appearing on single letter terms for major brands, and this may increase clicks for these respective companies. For example, ads for Walmart.com are appearing for the letter ‘W,’ Amazon.com ads are appearing for the letter ‘A,’ and so on. This could potentially deliver ads on terms with little or no relevancy, and also potentially impact impression counts and CTR.© ICROSSING. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 2
  3. 3. ICROSSING POV: GOOGLE INSTANT DRAFT + Raise more questions about the future accuracy of Google search volume numbers, and the impression numbers in Google Webmaster Tools. Will partially-entered user queries count, or will the suggested term get the credit? Shortly after the September 8 demo, Google released an "Impact of Search Queries Post" admitting that impression numbers will be inflated. There has also been recent "unrelated" news about Google updating their Keyword Tool, however the question still remains. During the process of developing Instant, Google also reevaluated its definition of an "impression." Google states that, in Google Instant, an impression occurs when: — The user begins to type a query on Google and clicks anywhere on the page (a search result, an ad, a spell correction, a related search) — The user chooses a particular query by clicking the Search button, pressing Enter, or selecting one of the predicted queries — The user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of three seconds + Position aggressive content creators for improved performance. Google Suggest has long been a good driver of ideas for content creation and optimization. Site owners who create new content based on search demand are now likely to reap benefits from that content’s "instant" exposure to searchers as they refine their queries. Ranking on the first page of results may be more important than ever before. + Mimic content delivery in other social spaces. Rather than being limited to strict intent-based returns, the "results before you type" aspect is similar to the ambient information discovery that happens in social streams such as Twitter, Facebook, or even Foursquare. The result is that a once intent-based medium (search) now has an ambient discovery feel, not unlike the way information is delivered and digested in formal social spaces as well as dynamic AJAX type interfaces. On the other hand, Google Instant does not: + Change the natural search ranking algorithm. The same core natural search strategies should still be employed to achieve top visibility. + Change the effects of personalization/localization. Your suggested results may be different than those of someone next door or across the country, just as search results have been personalized and localized in the past based on several factors. + Affect data sent in the referrer string to your analytics. Preliminary testing indicates that you can discern both the ‘partial word’ a user typed as well as the full ‘suggested’ keyword that drove the result set displayed. The exact position your site ranked in the search results is also still passed with the "cd=" parameter. iCrossing expects that this latest innovation from Google will greatly speed up the process of searching, and that we will continue to closely monitor the impact to both paid and natural search campaigns for any spikes or declines in traffic, CTR, CPC, and other key metrics. Many big brands may have gains from results appearing on newly suggested terms, but it remains to be seen whether or not this traffic positively converts to various metrics and goals. For more insight into the impact of Google Instant, visit the iCrossing Great Finds blog and read, "Google Suggest Evolves Into Google Instant," by Reid Spice, vice president of search media insights at iCrossing. STAY CONNECTED Find out more at www.icrossing.com Follow us at twitter.com/icrossing Call us toll-free at 866.620.3780 Become a fan at facebook.com/icrossing© ICROSSING. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 3