Google Instant Search – Instant nightmare for SEO strategies?

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The launch of Google Instant Search on Wednesday (Sept 8), which is guestimated to bring about 350 million hours in annual time savings worldwide, is also going to bring about a mini revolution in SEO (search engine optimisation) techniques.  I loved this quote from Marissa Mayer, Google’s marketing maven: “We estimate this will help users save two to five seconds per query… or 11 hours for every passing second.”

I would tend to believe that SEO strategies — brilliantly organized though they might have been in the past — may be turned into an instant nightmare due to the changes in the way Google will manage search requests.

When I played with inputting my brand name in, I only got a hit at the 8th letter : themyndset…

TheMynds-et is what it takes…

With “themynds,” Google gives me 40,000 hits and my sites take up the top 7 places.  However, up until that point, ie. for seven letters input, I was not on the top page.  Interestingly, I get exactly the same number of hits with instant search off.

The combination of location-based responses and immediate search results (on top of the auto-complete function and drop-down menu that already exist) will likely mean that sponsored ads and optimization techniques will need to be rethought. I can only imagine that the advanced digital agencies have spent the last few days debating the impact of the new Google technology.  And, if they haven’t they should!  All is not rosy as far as consumer reaction is concerned.  Witness these decidedly negative comments deposited on Washington Post’s article “Instant search a new option in the familiar order of Google domination.”  It is not just the Europeans who are resenting the Big [Ugly] Brother Google – there are plenty of anti-Googlites in the US.

What does this new search technology augur?

  1. Less time spent on search pages and more time getting to where you want to get?
  2. When contextual ads pop up based on the search, it will be radically more difficult to know WHEN the ad will be viewable (ie. at what stage of the typing).
  3. The way sites will be brought to the top will depend on having URLs that BEGIN with the search request letters.

Instant Search is, at least initially, going to come as an option.  The rollout outside of North America is due next week.  I have certainly had fun playing with it (not much time savings yet!).  We’ll see how the uptake is!   I’m looking forward to seeing how digital agencies tackle this new initiative and how other search engines react.

UPDATE (16/9/10):  Four points that I have since learned about Instant Search:

1/ Google has announced that impressions will only be counted after the 3-second rule (like food that hits the ground).  Thus, if you half type the term you are searching and you then scroll down and ponder the results, that will count as an impression.

2/ Google has said that there will be no benefit to buying keywords of half your term.  I.e. You won’t benefit from buying “Just D” if you’re Nike… The debate seems to be out on that notion.

3/ Google’s Instant Search will not be omnipresent — at least not at the outset.  To start with, it will basically only be available on the Google Classic home page.  It will not be working in the add-on in all browsers other than Chrome.  It will not work on mobile platforms. And, if the bandwidth is limited, it will default back to un-instant search.  That said, Google has announced that they are planning to roll out Instant Search on other platforms around the world in the coming months.

4/ And, finally, I have heard that somewhere around 1/4 of all searches are local specific.  In other words, people need to be organizing their SEO to accommodate the local content.

If you add the effects of real time results (, paid search results and the space occupied by the drop down menu, it seems that the real action is going to happen in the top three results.

UPDATE (27/9/10):  “NO CHANGE TO SEO!” sayeth Google

Listening to a podcast from John Wall and Chris Penn at Marketing over Coffee, I heard that Google has announced that there should zero impact on SEO practices.  We’ll see if theory and practice meet genially.  Meanwhile, I must agree with MoC that this Instant Search mechanism will be most worthwhile for typing on the Smartphone, where typing is materially slower and more painful.

7 Comments, RSS

  1. I gather that you had dinner with two of my great friends yesterday in Paris. If you are ever in London look me up I would be interested to chat about all things search and web.

    One particular thought of mine is about open search engines and indeed the whole idea of open when applied to applications or services. Google's origin was in fast quality search. I now wade through to the double-digit pages sometimes before finding something worthwhile. My feeling is that human reviews or suggestions will come to destroy Google although such services will have to do better than Digg.


  2. Hi James,

    Let's connect!

    Regarding quality information, there is certainly a major opportunity for "intelligent sourcing." I can see media players and journalists evolving into intelligent filters as well as content providers. A good example is or its English based site

    Editorial screening (literally on screen) will yet have its role!

  3. Justin


    I’m glad to find an article on Search Engine Optimization strategies in your website.

    I share your view on this and I’d like to share a proven strategy that could further enhance your marketing campaign using followups. I wrote something about it in my blog and if you are interested, you can visit it.

    I wish you can drop by and see for yourself.

    Have a good day.


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