Google Instant – Will this change SEO strategies?

Over the past week you may have noticed a small change in functionality when using the Google search engine. As you commence typing a word/phrase a dropdown will appear with predictive search terms. If you then click on a “search term” the normal Google results relating to that term will appear. This might sound like a basic enhancement but in actual fact could have a significant affect on visitors to your real estate website. In particular, those sites who wouldn’t normally receive visitors for certain search terms.

From the Google press release:

Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. The most obvious change is that you get to the right content much faster than before because you don’t have to finish typing your full search term, or even press “search.” Another shift is that seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term by providing instant feedback. You can now adapt your search on the fly until the results match exactly what you want.

When you think about this section of the press release “seeing results as you type helps you formulate a better search term” means a user is provided options before the usual google alogrithm used to rank sites according to SEO is reached.

As an example, if I am a browser and in my mind I was going to search for “real estate bondi”. When I go to Google and type in the words “real estate bondi” you will see that the first real estate agency to appear in the predictive autocomplete is “mcgrath real estate bondi”. Now, the first search term is “real estate bondi” so if I select this, the search results are domain, c21, ljhooker, raywhite, rea, homehound etc. What’s interesting is, that McGrath is not on the first page of search results but actually on the 7th page. So if i’d typed in my initial search term there is very little possibility a user would have found McGrath (on the 7th page). Through this new search method there is a very good chance I may have been enticed to click on the McGrath search term (in the predictive autocomplete)  which would then display McGrath as the first natural google search result.

Here is an explanation Google provided in relation to the algorithm used to calculate the predictive autocomplete:

As you type, Google’s algorithm predicts and displays search queries based on other users’ search activities. These searches are algorithmically determined based on a number of purely objective factors (including popularity of search terms) without human intervention. All of the predicted queries shown have been typed previously by other Google users. The autocomplete dataset is updated frequently to offer fresh and rising search queries. In addition, if you’re signed in to your Google Account and have Web History enabled, you may see search queries from relevant searches that you’ve done in the past.

This is a very significant change in relation to search functionality. As you can see from the example above, 1 week ago Mcgrath had no chance of appearing in a Google search for “Bondi Real Estate”, now they’re almost a certainty. If this new search trend is here to stay then SEO now has a whole other dimension and the SEO strategies of all businesses will need to be revised.

autocomplete search, Google, Google Instant, Google search engine, Google's algorithm, mcgrath

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About The Insider

Ryan has been involved in the real estate industry for a number of years. During this time he has operated web based real estate businesses along with provided consulting to the real estate software development industry. Ryan operates Agentpoint.com.au and is actively involved with the design and development of real estate systems, software and web sites in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.

32 Responses to Google Instant – Will this change SEO strategies?

  1. Michael September 24, 2010 at 10:11 am #

    Hi,
    That feature has not been rolled out at google.com.au.

    SEOMOZ has done some research and showed that there not huge differences in traffic before and after google instant. I think that everyone is scared but it won’t have as huge impact as most of people think.

  2. Greg Vincent September 24, 2010 at 10:33 am #

    Ryan, it’s going to be interesting to see how it effects long tail keyword SEO strategies.

    It sounds like Google Instant brings up the most popular search and not necessarily the most relevant search. If this is the case do you think the major portals will be the winner or the loser in this move?

  3. Sal Espro September 24, 2010 at 10:34 am #

    It’s just a bloody rort created by the place that is supposed to ‘Do no evil’!

    It is just going to create a lot more searches for Google as people are enticed to vere-off from their original search term by clicking on results from their partly typed query. And then having been side-tracked, come-back to typing-in their total original search query.
    e.g. When you being to type in ‘Nerang homes for sale’, the results that display as soon as the first word ‘Nerang’ is typed include ‘Flood Warning System for the Nerang River’, which enticed me to click and browse a bit. Realising what a waste of tiime this was from my original intent, I returned to retype from whole search query to find some of Glenn’s listings. 🙂

    A nice little increased ad impressions earner for Google there!

  4. Greg Vincent September 24, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Sal, people doing Google Adwords campaigns will need to be very careful with doing Pay Per Impression advertising as opposed to PPC.

    Under PPI advertising it looks like you could lose your money in an instant…is that what Goggle Instant really stands for?

  5. Jeroen September 24, 2010 at 11:11 am #

    Great topic Ryan, please correct me if I am wrong but I believe Google instant is not related to predicting the search phrase as you type but to actually returning instant search results as you type.

    As Michael mentioned, this has not yet been released on the google.com.au URL.

    As far as SEO is concerned, we will have to start focusing on more, short tail search phrases for each landing page. I also believe that ranking on the second page or even at the bottom of page 1 for a particular search term is going to be even less significant then it was before.

  6. Nick September 24, 2010 at 12:10 pm #

    Sal how is it Google’s fault if you have a short attention span? :p

    Infact Google would say that you learning about Nerang’s flood system is a benefit. Would you have known about it before? The fact you clicked it means it captured your attention so you must have been mildly interested in it and if thats the case then Google Instant has succeeded.

  7. Sal Espro September 24, 2010 at 1:10 pm #

    Go back to your tiddlywinks Nick – No time for your immature rubbish today!

  8. Glenn Batten September 24, 2010 at 8:05 pm #

    Weird, I cant get this to work no matter which google site I use and I cant recreate Sal’s experience either.

  9. Jeroen September 24, 2010 at 11:10 pm #

    Glenn, I couldn’t get it to work either but did manage to give it a test run when it was launched on September 8th. the search results appeared freekishly fast, almost faster then what I could type.

    Check this link on youtube for a demo featuring Bob Dylan. it really is quite clever………when it works! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcm0rG8EKXI

  10. Michael September 25, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    Guys,
    you have to use google.com and it should work.

  11. Bill burdin September 25, 2010 at 7:21 pm #

    View http://www.google.com.au/ and then click “Visit google.com” on the bottom navigation. once at google.com it should work. Does for me.

  12. Glenn Batten September 26, 2010 at 8:07 am #

    Michael and Bill… I have done that.. and it did not work for me. It might be also browser related.

  13. Glenn Batten September 26, 2010 at 8:32 am #

    nope.. not a browser issue either.. it does not work on any browser.. Strange. Might try deleting cookies and temp files maybe.

  14. Vic September 26, 2010 at 9:15 am #

    Interesting dilemna.. I guess the outcomes of traffic trends to our sites will be the determinant of whether the google changes are having negative or postive impacts.

    This month we have seen some strange happenings in our trends. UVs have dramatically improved, and time on site average is up to 7.00mins average. I hope this is something to do with the changes.

    Is anyone else experiencing unusual trends?

  15. Ryan O'Grady September 26, 2010 at 11:32 am #

    Guys, I’m using ff and it works for me on this url http://www.@google.com.au

  16. Jeroen September 26, 2010 at 11:47 am #

    Got it working last night. Off again this morning using the same Goole.com URL.

    Looking at the below thread it seems as if there maybe a few little bugs.

    http://www.google.com/support/forum/p/Web+Search/thread?tid=5c0bbea61f64d563&hl=en

  17. Ryan O'Grady September 26, 2010 at 11:51 am #

    Jeroen, If you load the page and type in a search phrase, other search phrases will appear in the dropdown. At this point there are no search results on the page. Search results only appear once you select a search phrase from the dropdown.

    So to me, it appears it is more about the search phrase then the search results. But once you select your first search phrase the search results will appear and as soon as you adjust your search phrase the search results will automatically update. In this respect, search results load quicker.

    Greg, i don’t see it being great for portals. If terms like McGrath Real Estate or LJHooker Bondi Beach are search terms entered regularly then these search terms will appear when a user is searching “Bondi real estate”, distracting the user away from “bondi real estate” where domain and REA would have the first two search results.

  18. Jeroen September 26, 2010 at 12:03 pm #

    Ryan, you are right, that is what is happening at the moment, however when Google instant is working properly the search results will also appear as you type, before you even select a phrase from the drop down box.

    Take a look at the demo video on youtube, I posted a link in a previous comment. It displays the dropdown box populating while a user types but there are also instant search results displaying as the user types.

  19. Glenn Batten September 26, 2010 at 7:47 pm #

    Ryan,

    Instant changes the results on the page as you type. Thats not Google Instant when popular search results drop down from the entry window and you have to click on it. I think you are confusing Google Suggest with Google Instant. Suggest has been around for a little while now but it has been improved a few times.

    Suggest changes the autocomplete feature so you can click on popular searches, but google instant change the search results as you type.

    I am wondering if anybody is actually seeing Google Instant outside the US at the moment.

    Google Suggest is even rolled out to mobiles now http://mashable.com/2010/01/14/google-suggest-local/ but I dont know if Instant will get the mobile treatment because of the higher traffic the Ajax refreshing of the search results create.

  20. Jeroen September 27, 2010 at 12:49 am #

    At the moment, Google Instant is only operational on the .US domain. Google says It has also rolled out to the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia to users signed in to their Google accounts. The rest of the world will follow in the coming months. There are browser limitations too.

    I wonder how it will affect PPC campaigns on Google. Paid and organic results appear as soon as the first letter has been typed. Maybe PPC campaigns in the future will incorporate letter combinations where a company marketing real estate will start bidding for the term “rea” to ensure they come up first. I tested this by typing in only the letter “e”. PPC adds for eBay appeared instantly.

    Google sure knows how to change the ball game

  21. Glenn Batten September 27, 2010 at 7:45 am #

    Jeroen,

    So it seems I might have been right… nobody in Australia is actually seeing Google Instant, Visiting google.com is just not enough.

    The only way to see instant in action here in Australia would be to use an overseas proxy. Unfortunately the delay in such proxies will not give you the best experience but it might be worth checking out.

  22. Bill burdin September 28, 2010 at 7:25 pm #

    Glen, If you haven’t already had the pleasure of personally seeing instant at work I did a screen capture of what was displayed whilst I performed a search for “real estate nerang.”

    When I perform the search in the conventional way I am presented with http://www.nfn.com.au in the first position.

    However when I perform the search with google instant activated I am presented with several results whilst entering the search words.

    In other words because instant cannot determine what my search intention is it gives me it’s guesses.

    I don’t see how this would benefit nfn.com.au because I have no noubt some people searching will be tempted to click one of the listings before finishing their search thus maybe never seeing nfn.com.au

    I see major portals benefiting from search performed on serches starting with generic words such as ‘real estate’

    See the demo video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gm5N4SMC95s

  23. Bill burdin September 28, 2010 at 7:27 pm #

    Sorry I unintentionally posted the link to the wrong video, here is the correct link for the google instant demo http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CxlknGCY7KA

  24. Glenn Batten September 28, 2010 at 10:47 pm #

    Bill

    Thanks for that. I still cannot get it to work at home or at work and I really dont know why.

    My guess is that its because my ISP has a transparent proxy… but that is just a guess. I have logged in and out of google accounts, changed language settings and all sorts of google account settings and still nothing.

    I can’t see how the transparent proxy would cause a problem but I know it does effect a few other things.. so who knows. I just want to play to see how it will effect people searching in our area.

  25. Glenn Batten September 28, 2010 at 11:03 pm #

    Hmmm.. very interesting.. Just did a search to compare the results of non-instant to your video

    We are coming first for Real Estate Nerang but only third for Nerang Real Estate thanks primarily to another business who had the temerity to name their business after that keyword… 🙂

    when I did that search lo and behold our facebook page is coming up as Number 4.

    Thats got to hurt a few others being knocked down one more peg because of a facebook site and just goes to show how Facebook can work for SEO. I guess most people would click on our agency link first but it does block out another space on the first page. The only thing I have changed recently at http://www.facebook.com/FirstNationalNerang is optimised the text box in the left hand column for keywords.

    Lets see if the position sticks to the front page… after a few weeks.

  26. Glenn Batten September 29, 2010 at 12:39 pm #

    Ok.. that did not last long. Its the next morning and our facebook page is now no longer on the first page. There must be some reindexing going on at the moment.

  27. betta fish October 8, 2010 at 9:41 am #

    Which ever way you cut it, this is going to have an impact on PPC. Personally I dont like it, but its no big deal, you have the option to turn it off.

  28. Jeroen October 8, 2010 at 3:19 pm #

    Google Instant is launching today in Australia http://google-au.blogspot.com/2010/10/google-instant-coming-to-australia.html but I can’t see any changes yet.

  29. Robert Simeon October 8, 2010 at 3:26 pm #

    Thanks Jeroen – shall watch with great interest.

  30. Ryan O'Grady October 8, 2010 at 7:17 pm #

    Geez Google are hard to keep up with, thanks Glenn.

  31. Jeroen October 8, 2010 at 8:35 pm #

    Just used Google Instant on the .com.au URL but only while I was logged in to my Google Account. As soon as logged out I could only use the traditional search with predictive search phrases in the dropdown box.

  32. betta fish care November 4, 2010 at 11:33 am #

    Just thought Id revisit this, as its now been a few weeks since its launch. I have to say Im beginning to like it, although what I DONT like is the introduction of Google Places – anyone else noticed how messy local search results are now?????

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