With the recent introduction of Google Instant, a lot of people have been asking: Will this affect SEO? And if so, by how much?
To answer this question it is first important to understand exactly what Google instant (GI) is. Accessible from the Google.com.au interface, GI means that search results are now displayed as you type, that is, before you push/click ‘search’. Previously, Google would suggest search terms, but would not display results until search was clicked.
The speed at which these results are displayed is surprisingly quick on a modern internet connection. It is that speed that makes this latest addition a useful function for searching the web. Search engine users are able to refine their search on the fly in order to skim through and pick results that grab their attention.
So how will this affect my SEO?
Firstly, I think people will be more likely to start modifying their search habits to include longer search terms. As a user starts searching their topic of interest, they will be exposed to search results once they start typing the first word. You can test this yourself. As I start typing the word “Instant”, after I enter the letters “In” Google adapts to show results for the most popular search term currently that begins with “In” is “Inception” (a popular movie).
In my experience, it’s very easy for Google Instant to throw users off their original trail. I started off searching for “instant” and the very first results I see (if I flick my eyes down while typing) are about something completely different (a movie in this case).
This leads me to the second effect. While people are more likely to starting lengthening their search terms, people are also likely to be influenced by the more popular key words that appear automatically during their search. From an SEO perspective, ranking for the popular keywords will have an increased importance as you’re more likely to capture new customers who previously would have searched for something different, but whose search string was influenced via the Google interface.