Does it Affect Google Search Results?
Earlier this month Google shook things up a bit & introduced “Google Instant”. And unless you’ve been living under a search engine rock the past 2 weeks, you’ve noticed that your search results screen is looking different with each new character you type.
As with anything new in the Search Engine Optimization arena, we need to know how this truly impacts our client’s results, and ignore the paranoia. I’ve been asked “How will it affect the SEO on my site?” no less than 20 times over the past 2 weeks, both by clients & friends. There has been so much hype & ‘this is the death to SEO’ hysteria in early articles I’ve read, I wanted to clear the air a bit & give you the sound and correct answers to questions like these. Good news: The sky is not falling.
There is no better place to go for answers than Google itself. And here I will review what Google says, but also help to give you a better understanding of what Google Instant is, and how it affects what people see when they search for Lawyers locally.
What is Google Instant? Google Instant is a new feature that ‘predicts’ what you’re trying to search for, showing new and different results as you type additional characters. Using Google’s autocomplete technology, it not only shows different results in the results pages, but it also shows the searcher predicted search terms in the drop-down box below the search box. Initially I am finding it to be a very interesting tool.
My belief is that Google Instant is a direct retort to Microsoft’s newer Bing search engine. When Bing first came out, the initial reviews were very good, and scored very high results for ease of use. And because of that, their market share of searchers has risen, surpassing Yahoo’s search users and even cutting into Google’s share too. When you type in a query on Bing & click SEARCH, you get their version of the most relevant results. The unique feature on Bing is that you can simply hover over the results to see more information without even having to click on the result to get it.
Google Instant does the same thing, however it doesn’t even require the searcher to click the SEARCH button to see what results come up! Despite what Google says about ‘faster searches’ it is more sizzle than steak, but frankly so is Bing’s result page too. As you type more characters, both the predicted queries and the search results change, all without having to click the search button.
Google says there are three benefits to using Instant: faster searches (it saves 2-5 seconds per search according to Google research), smarter predictions that help guide user searches, and instant results that let the searcher see results without clicking a search button or pressing enter.
Does it Impact my SEO Rankings? No. Go right to the source: Google specifically says that nothing’s changed: The basics of Google search are the same, including how results are ranked and how Google determines relevant results. Google has stated that there is nothing different in their algorithm.
At least for our clients, we have seen no difference in rankings for attorney keyword searches in our client’s rankings. They had #1, or Page 1 rankings before Instant, and still have #1, or Page 1 rankings for the same terms after Instant.
Google Instant is simply a different way to visualize & give the same results to the users. We have seen no impact positive or negative on rankings, and have found that our clients are getting the exact same placements & results as they were before
What are the Benefits of Google Instant? Google says Instant is automatically localized. Because Google knows where you are (Los Angeles or California), if you are typing in “Divorce Attorney”, the drop down box will automatically provide options for “Divorce Attorney Los Angeles” for you to select. My personal experience is that it is hit & miss, but because Google knows the ISP you’re searching from, it is something that, if perfected, can benefit local search.
It is personalized if you are logged into Gmail. Most people don’t know that their search results are different from when they are logged into Gmail, and when they are logged out. Try it out: Do a search when you are signed into Google, then do the same search when you are signed out. Your results will change dramatically. The same is true for Instant.
Does Instant affect my PPC ads? Not in the results shown on the Results Page, but it may affect your PPC Campaigns in terms of statistics on the back end. You will see the same PPC ads as you did before Instant. However, the way Google see’s & tracks “Impressions” will change dramatically. That in turn, could affect your Quality Score.
Since each typed character produces a different result for each ‘predicted query’, each impression of any PPC ad will change. Google says ad impressions will only count in three situations (much like the organic impressions listed above):
- Any click – If the user starts typing, then clicks anywhere on the page, an impression is counted. Whether that’s an ad, spell check, or link, it’s counted.
- Search Selection – An impression is counted when the search button is clicked or a user selects a query.
- 3 Second Rule – When the user stops typing and does nothing for 3 seconds, an impression is counted.
If it takes only 3 seconds for an impression to count, then your impression results may increase, even if your ad is low on the page and is unseen ‘below the fold’ of the screen. For PPC, this would result in your CTR (Click Through Rate) declining. This reduced CTR could negatively affect your Quality Score, which would result in increased PPC costs. I don’t want to scare you too much, as it’s only been 2 weeks, and this would affect everybody, not just you. However, the way Impressions are tracked/counted could be the most profound effect of Instant.
Can Instant be disabled? Yes, by the on/off button on the right of the search box. However, it is cookie based, so if you ever clear your cookies, the Google Instant will be active again.
Google also says Instant will be automatically disabled when they can detect that a searcher has a slow internet connection.
Is Instant available for Mobile? Not yet. Right now, Instant is not available yet for mobile searches, although Google promises that this is coming soon.
Our overall recommendations are: Monitor your traffic more closely and Optimize for your “Core Keywords”. Go into your log files & see how people are finding you. If anything, this puts more of an emphasis on optimizing the ‘core keywords’ of your practice. Optimize for “Divorce Lawyer Los Angeles” not “I need a Divorce Lawyer in Los Angeles, California”. If Instant results in people typing fewer words make sure you are being found high for those core words. Long-tail keywords are extremely important for being found, and convert very well, but if you optimize for the ‘core keywords’ first, then the long-tail will be found too as a result. Not the other way around.
Hope this helps, and feel free to reach out for more clarification.