Lee Odden

10 Resources on Google Instant & What it Means for Search Marketing

Google InstantYesterday Google implemented their new search experience, Google Instant and the SEO and Tech blogs lit up like a Christmas tree. It’s nice to see something get these folks excited for a change. While the notion of instant search isn’t new, Yahoo had it in 2005, Google commands the vast majority of search engine market share so such a major, public change to the Google interface warrants attention.

Essentially, in Google’s quest to improve user experience and increase speed, they’ve already lowered the time it takes to return results on a query.  The actual act of searching and refinement of queries by users is what takes time, so Google Instant is designed to shorten the time it takes for users to find what they’re looking for by showing search results as you type. If you’re logged in to Google, those results are personalized as they have since personalization was implemented.

TopRank Ranks for Search Engine Optimization

Personalization has meant that different users searching on the same phrase can see different search results. That change affects the kind of SEO that focuses on specific queries and “ranking” over matching customer-centric keywords with useful content. Good optimization for search has everything to do with holistically viewing the SEO opportunities of any content that can be searched on (digital asset optimization) and presented to searchers. SEO has evolved as marketing designed to engage customers and help make it easier for the search engines to do their job and for customers to buy what it is they’re looking for. Good SEO drives revenue and business growth and is so far beyond the notion of “rankings” that people who say SEO is “irrelevant”, sound a lot like those that say the “world is flat”.

As with any big change there are the FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt) perpetrators when Google announces something new:  (Google Instant could lead to blackhat SEO problems and Google Instant Makes SEO Irrelevant). But there are also clever, interesting and smart insights coming out of the search community. Here are 10 posts that cover all aspects of Google Instant ranging from what it is, to how to get the most out of it as a user, what the impact is on SEO and PPC and suggestions on how to leverage Google Instant as a marketer.

Matt Cutts – Thoughts on Google Instant – Q: Does Google Instant kill search engine optimization (SEO)? A: No!  Q Will Google Instant change search engine optimization? A: I think over time it might. The ability to explore the query space and find out new things will inevitably lead to changes for SEO.

Nine by Blue (Vanessa Fox) – SEO is Dead and/or Irrelevant With Google Instant? – I’ve always advised looking at audience needs and building a site that addresses them holistically rather than fixating on ranking for a single keyword phrase. And that strategy continues to be a sound one in light of Google Instant.

Search Engine Land –  Google Instant: The Complete User’s Guide – Does Google Instant “Kill SEO” or Impact Rankings?  In my opinion (Matt McGee): no chance. As long as humans use search engines (like Google) to look for information online, that content will need to be optimized. A well-rounded approach to content development and optimization should actually benefit from Google Instant.

SEO Book – How Google Instant Changes the SEO Landscape – Google instant only increases the value of a well thought out SEO strategy. Why? Well… it consolidates search volume into a smaller basket of keywords. It further promotes the localization of results. It makes it easier to change between queries, so its easier to type one more letter than scroll down the page.

Google Webmaster Central – Google Instant: Impact on Search Queries – “With Google Instant, you may notice an increase in impressions because your site will appear in search results as users type.”

Fast Company – Why Google Instant Is Good for Microsoft – How could Bing ever set itself apart with Google’s reactionary mindset? The answer now is to simply stay where they are — remaining, in effect, as Google Classic.

AdAge – Google Instant Changes Game for Brands – At first blush, the real-time results appear to give more prominence to the web’s biggest brands. Google execs were quick to note that natural search results, and techniques companies use to land higher in Google search results, won’t change. But Johanna Wright, director of product management for Google Instant, said one difference is that they will direct users to “page two” results faster. “As you continue typing and narrowing your search, the instantly changing and refreshing results below the search box will be giving you more relevant results,” she said. “So if you previously looked on the second page, now those same results come to the top of the pile for you.”

Google AdWords Help – What is Google Instant? – Although Google Instant won’t change the way ads are served, ads and search results will now be shown for a new “predicted query.” Google Instant might increase or decrease your overall impression levels.

Search Engine Watch – Google Instant – 10 Things Marketing Teams Need to Know – Google Instant is of equivalent significance to marketers as the Universal Search update, which previously amalgamated their video, news, blogs, maps and image search properties into one search engine results page (SERPs). As was the case then, lost real estate for organic search results presented new opportunities for the savvy marketer. The same is likely to be true now.

FeedBlitz – SEO: Three Things you must do NOW with Google Instant – Disable Search Personalization, Search for your company / product / service and for pages you don’t control, make a comment that links back to your site, Repeat for competing companies, terms and products. Start a quick-hit SEO project and Tune your site for these terms.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the preference towards brands and the change in impressions will have on marketers ability to leverage Google Insight in new ways.  Some marketers have already published tips on how to track Google Instant using Google Analytics, which will assist in developing insights on what has impact and will be instrumental in learning what to refine.

What do you think of Google Instant?  As a user? As a marketer?

A few additional posts worth checking out:

TechCrunch – Google Spam Fighter Matt Cutts Weighs In On The “Death” Of SEO (Or Lack Thereof)

Outspoken Media – Dear Mainstream Media – Please Remove Foot From Mouth

PoorSo SoOKGoodAwesome (3 votes, average: 3.67 out of 5)

Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Gary Woodfine says

    Leo. I totally agree with the premise that Google Instant will not kill SEO. SEO is still as relevant as it has always been when developing a website. What I do think is that google instant will actually assist in improving the quality of the inbound marketing the companies have to perform to achieve the results required. I have only been using the GIR for an hour and I love it. The fact that it is personalised is great, I am assuming that over time Google will learn what my browsing habits are, and should index my favourite search queries and will be able to further improve on the results delivered. This is great from a user point of view, but I would say alot more work from a “marketers” point of view as you now need to break through the users “comfort zone” to penetrate. I am hoping that this will lead to general improvement in quality on the web and alot less reliance on “black hat” tactics

  2. I believe that Google Instant will negatively affect revenue from Google Adwords. Google may have shot themselves in the foot with Instant. As for SEO, i believe it will be business as usual. If anything, branding and SEO will become even more important as companies realize the significance of ranking high with Google search.

  3. haha.. Bing should indeed rename itself to ‘Google Classic’…. Damn…. domain name already taken by.. Google.. LOL @goodwebsitesnz

  4. Ugh, Instant Search. I get a satisfaction from typing my complete search phrase out, even now when Google tries to guess what I’m searching for. I imagine others will do the same before even looking at the search results. It may be a quantum leap forward in search technology, but I don’t think it adds much to the average user’s search experience.

  5. Nice job Lee: The sky is most certainly NOT falling. The most salient matter on hand, to our mind, is how few actual physical organic results show up in many commercial SERPs. Try Google Instant for the word “Contact Lenses,” an obviously commercial query, and there’s like 1.5 organic results at the bottom of the browser at most. Of course that’s dependent on browser resolution and how man add-ons the browser installation has etc..

    It’s interesting to think about how this may or may not affect the long tail. I think users who NEED long tail SERPs will be forced to type because short tail sexy suggestions just won’t cut it for many 4-5 word queries, especially in b2b or legacy b2b product spaces.

    Anyway, thanks for the resources Lee and see ya’ at ‘East or PubCon. Enjoy Hong Kong dude.

  6. I was actually wondering how this will affect the results in the Google Keyword Tool. Since people don’t have to finish typing in search queries, wouldn’t this make it more difficult for Google to track what people are searching for?

  7. I agree with Matt Cutts that it will change the way people search. I recently wrote an article on the behavioural implications of Google Instant ( http://www.alanmitchell.com.au/discussion/the-laziness-of-google-instant/ ), and argue that people may learn to limit the extent of their searches to Autocomplete suggestions.

    If this is the case, the long-tail is not necessarily dead, but very much limited to the comprehensiveness of Google’s search suggestions.

  8. Every change is an oportunity. Now SEO must be seen letter by letter. On of the reason for Google doing this is to increase the number of impressions. Before instant, you typed your query and got some impressions. Now, as you type and you see the results, and if takes you 3 or more seconds, that will increase the number of impressions, so the Google’s income.

  9. In my opinion, Google Instant Search is not good for SEO. Because due to it, a person can get results by typing every single word. if we optimize a site on a 3-word keyword and then due to Instant search, user will start to search its result by typing 1 or 2 word. Then your site will not appear in the results as you optimized it on 3-word keyword. User will rely on those results and will not type full keyword. Can anybody understand my question? If so then can explain it to me?

  10. Great summary. Regarding the effects of Google Instant, I agree that only time will tell. Chances are, if content and ads are well optimized for targeted keyword audiences, users will only get to their desired queries and relevant content quicker. I don’t see how this can hurt SEO or PPC. Stick with the fundamentals. I do not recommend taking a step backward to try and optimize content for generalized keywords in hopes of getting on the Instant map. Track traffic for sure, but again, we’re already doing that, right?

  11. I’m fine with everyone believing SEO is dead because that means less competition for those of us who know how to adapt and change with Google. Thanks for the post and the links!

  12. I used google instant last night and I loved it to bits. Am still not sure how it will affect my websites but like any SEO expert I would have to adapt according if this had an impact on my sites.
    The thing I like about google instant is that I see my results as I type and can stop if need be. The shortcuts also help so if I am typing longer words and it suggests them I just hit tab and it completes that word for me. It obviously speeds up my search, and overall, Google Instant is awesome for the end user.

  13. From a user’s perspective I think it’s great. From an SEO’s perspective I see more upside than downside to Google Instant. Let’s face it the landscape will continually change and will always necessitate innovative new on & off page tactics. In the end, it’s all about search relevancy and this is a positive step forward.

  14. Amazing read, Cant seem to understand if Googles aiming at SEO or PPC. It seems as if they are just concerned about the Search result speed than anything else as of now, As for the impression count, we will need to wait and watch how that changes!

  15. I wonder how Google instant will affect non broadband users. Even if my internet is a bit slow when I am downloading, Google instant seems to really slow down my searching, to the point that I avoid their homepage and only use the search-bar within Firefox.

  16. Great comprehensive list. I commented on Matt Cutt’s post and really think the changes will normalize keyword traffic data so searchers will more likely click on pre-loaded sites based on suggestive search keywords, or more likely to click on one of the matching suggestive searches and then clicking on a site.

    More than ever… it’s all about the top 3.

  17. How will behavior change? Will long tail keywords retain their value? Links to prominent sites will certainly still hold value, as will relevant well written content. One more thing to keep us on our toes. Thanks Google!

    Ty Palmer :: Founder

  18. nice to see such a great blog,thanks for sharing about google…

  19. We can see if Google instant is an instant hit… or spells an instant death to SEO companies and service providers. For now, just sit back and enjoy the show at the speed of type – that is, if you’ve got broadband connection or something faster and better.

  20. Avatar Richard Chidike | Africanary says

    thanks for this great post. i am loving it all the way.

  21. Awesome ! Like it but it is more about what others say not all about what Lee thinks.

  22. great overview! thanks 🙂