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 Google Instant Search

Google Instant Search – Fast and Fatal!

August 24, 2011

Last year, Google introduced its ‘Google Instant Search’, a new feature that displays suggested results as soon as you start typing your search phrase. The service also sports improved ‘predictive’ search queries – much like predictive text on mobile phones – for example when you start to type ‘Apple’ into Google, it may suggest ‘apple store’, ‘apple trailers’ and ‘apple TV’.

The aim is to save users’ time, and supply results faster than before. All well and good for consumers, but how does it affect businesses?

One impact is that it is likely to change the way people search. A key idea behind instant search is to help users formulate a better, more accurate search term for what they are looking for by giving them feedback on the fly. This affects the terms users might otherwise search for, and has implications for SEO.

Andy Beal from Marketing Pilgrim, highlighted how, with Google Instant, searchers don’t have to commit to any search query. The way people carry out research will change as there is no longer a need to follow the traditional ‘search and then refine’ process.

A likely knock on effect is that fewer people will scroll down the first page, instead focusing on the top few results, and simply refining their search as they type if what they are looking for does not rank highly.

In a blog post, describes it as ‘the death of the second page’ – SEO has become more important then ever. Keyword research needs to be thorough, and long tail keywords are now much more beneficial.

Reputation Damaging Predictions

Another major implication Google’s predictive search is to do with online reputation. The experience of  some businesses is that bad press can lead to negative predictions when searchers type their company name into Google, potentially causing lasting damage to their reputation. There have even been instances of legal action brought against Google to remove certain suggestions.                     

A blog piece by Danny Sullivan in search engine land highlighted some of these. One case involved a request that the French word for scam (arnaque) not appear after the name of a long distance learning company. Google appears to have complied with this request however, as noted by Sullivan, this change was not global as both ‘arnaque paypal’ and ‘arnaque groupon’ appear as suggestions when typing ‘arnaque into Google.

I decided to carry out some searches myself to find other suggestions which might leave businesses in a bad light, and noticed that when typing in ‘Treyarch’, the name of an American video developer company, the word ‘sucks’ appears as a suggestion. I also found a complaint in Google’s help forum that Google’s predictive search was hurting a client’s reputation as the words ‘scam’ ‘fake’ and ‘forgery’ appeared after the company’s name.

Google predictive search makes it even more important to monitor online reputation. As search technology develops, and new features emerge, businesses will need to be ever more vigilant in terms of their SEO strategy to ensure they are able to manage their risk and maintain a positive online reputation.