09Sep2010

What does new Google Instant Search mean for PPC and SEO?

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If you’ve performed a search on Google lately (and, well, who hasn’t?), you might have noticed that it yesterday launched one of the biggest changes to their search function in years. Ladies and gents, welcome to Google Instant.

You need to be logged in to a Google account to see it, but if you are, you’ll see that results now start to complete before you’ve even finished typing your query. Google uses what you’ve typed so far, combined with where you are and what you’ve searched for previously, to predict what query you’re trying to make and returns search results accordingly. These results will likely change as you finish typing your search term. The aim is to make it much faster to find the information you’re after by delivering the answer Google thinks you need before you’ve even finished asking the question – Google predicts that Instant will shave between two and five seconds off the average search query.

If search results – both paid and natural – are being returned before a query is even completed, though, what impact will that have on your pay-per-click advertising (PPC) and search engine optimisation (SEO) efforts?

For PPC, let’s take it straight from the horse’s mouth. Google says that ad impressions will be counted in these circumstances:

  • 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.

So, their thinking seems to be that impressions will still only be counted if there’s a reasonable chance that the person performing the search could be interested in your ad. Great!

At this stage, it’s too early to predict exactly what sort of effect the new system will have on your PPC campaign as a whole. Google’s expressed hope is that things will improve for you as Google Instant “helps people search using terms that more directly connect them with the answers they need”, but the best course of action is to continue to monitor your pay-per-click advertising campaign closely and adjust if necessary.

SEO can be a trickier beast to predict. Google Instant may make it more challenging for SEO experts to use search engine results pages (SERPs) to inform their activities, but at the moment, it’s not thought within the industry that Instant will have a tremendous impact on what you should actually do from the point of view of optimising your website. If you need a refresher course on SEO best practice, take a look at our Bibliography of SEO Resources and our  SEO Tips blog series.

So, for now, it’s carry on as you were but keep a close eye on your campaigns (we hope you do that anyway, of course!). We’ll keep you updated if we find Google Instant has really changed the landscape.

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