On 8th Sept 2010 Google have made one of the biggest updates this year to the search results:
Instant search has been rolled out across US, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain and Russia. Instant search does not always show for iGoogle users, but is appearing now for most results.
Over the last few years, update to the Google algorithms have led to users expecting fast, relevant and comprehensive results. Google have been steadily releasing update to increase the speed at which users can see the results they want. The last update was search predictions;
This helped not only users to reach their destination, but advertisers to see relevant queries and expand their reach via paid search.
The official announcement last night of Google Instant takes the speed at which results can be found to a new level. New results are displayed dynamically as the user types, predicting their intent. Google are claiming that Instant Search will save 2-5 seconds per search.
Users can opt in our out of instant search, but it is unlikely that many will choose to opt out.
For SEO, this update further promoted the emphasis on head terms, the holy grail of keywords that companies spend years trying to consistently appear for. As Google suggest impacts the results that are being displayed, the more likely you are to see search results for a head term. Therefore the importance of being in the top 5 is also ever more important to gain those make or break impressions.
Any advertiser working on SEO now needs more than ever a clear strategy for how to improve ranking on these key terms.
For any advertiser running a Google AdWords account, this announcement is raising numerous questions over account performance impact; how will my quality score be affected? What will happen to my click through rate? What will happen to my ad impressions?
We can currently predict what is going to happen to accounts, but it is going to be a waiting game until the hype and novelty of instant search wears off before we see the true effects.
Ad Impressions: What counts as an ad impression? Previously an impression was when your ad had been displayed for a query. Simple! Now, via instant search, there are 5 factors that will create an impression for your ad. Many of these are existing factors; Typing a query and pressing enter or clicking search, selecting a prediction result, clicking on a result during while the results are being dynamically inserted, clicking on a refinement, and finally, the new one, a three second pause.
It is the 3 second pause that will lead to a significant increase in impression volume, especially while everyone is testing out the feature.
Quality Score: With an increase in potential impressions, it will follow that ctr on accounts will fall. As we know, click through rate (ctr) contributes up to 90% of the quality score formula. According to Google
‘This does not change the way we determine the relevance or quality of your ads. As always, we look at your ad’s performance relative to that of the other ads’ for the same query, position, and UI treatment’.
This implies that quality score should not be impacted. This is an area that all advertisers should be closely monitoring over the next few days.
Brand Implications: Google has now gained more control than ever over which results it shows. It can be expected that there will be a strong brand bias in predicted search and hence instant search results to favoured brands.
Our thoughts are leading us to wonder if this is why modified broad match was introduced last month. Modified broad match, finally gave advertisers control of their exposure on AdWords whilst allowing them to appear for variations and misspells. Any keywords still on broad match in theory will now match to an unprecedented number of searches via ‘instant results’, giving any remaining control of an advertisers exposure to Google.
As the hype dies down, we will start to see the true effect of Google Instant Search in both PPC and SEO traffic, but until then, the ripple effect of this announcement is sure to have big implications and case much uncertainty for unprepared advertisers and agencies alike. Many should be reviewing their performance closely over the next few days and assessing ongoing strategy accordingly.