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Google Instant’s Effect on SEO and Search Behavior

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Every so often a product comes along that is touted as the new “SEO killer.”  Google Instant was seen as perhaps the biggest threat when it was launched in September 2010.  Instant provided results before the searcher even finished typing the query.  Google claims that this shaves precious seconds off of searches, and in fact, they boast of “11 hours saved. Every second.”   Besides those 11 hours, what else is Google Instant doing for searchers?

Google Instant faced criticism from the moment it was released and was predicted to have dire consequences for SEO and marketing, as well as decreasing search quality for users.  Several months later, though, Instant has an opt-out rate of only 2 percent.  When conducting a search, users have the option to turn Instant off and go to a standard search, which does provide search predictions.  Does that mean 98 percent of people love Instant?

Not necessarily.  It could be that many are unaware that they can opt out. Others complain that even if they opt out, Instant is reengaged.  Still, most searchers seem to be happy – or at least not dissatisfied – with Instant.  Instant’s lead engineer, Ben Gomes, says, “We kept an opt-out, and in fact made it really prominent.”  According to Google, searchers have to type 5 percent fewer characters and they get their results 10 percent faster.  A searcher saves about 4 to 5 seconds with Instant over non-Instant search.

Fears that Instant would be an SEO killer have not borne out either. Jake Hird of Econsultancy says, “We just put out our SEO buyers guide and although it is something to be aware of, it doesn’t actually change how the algorithms rank pages, that’s the key point that a lot of people overlook sadly.” 

Fluid SEO campaigns can adjust to changes like the introduction of Google Instant, and because there are always changes afoot, flexibility is essential.

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