Though I was at the press conference and have been using it myself since that time I’m still trying to get my “head around” Google Instant’s potential impact on SEO and SEM (and user behavior). I agree with Danny Sullivan that SEO ain’t going away. But there will be a number of impacts on both disciplines. Mostly this will be the result of:
- The biases and preferences in the auto-complete predictive text/queries
- The smaller “window” at the top of the page
- Changes in user behavior that will be inevitable
I also think there will be many more impressions to clicks for ads.
Google has said there will be no changes to algorithmic ranking on the page or ad quality scoring and serving. What will definitely change is how users interact with Google and that in turn will affect SEO and paid-search strategies.
Below a search for “hotels los an . . ” This screen capture shows the “above the fold” portion of my screen minus the ads on the right.
As you can obviously see the drop-down, ads and map-pack crowd out everything else below. The eye will focus more at the top of the page than before, I’m going to speculate. That’s certainly my new behavior. This means that any publisher/vendor not in the ads or map-pack will probably not be seen at all.
As an aside I’m noticing slightly fewer map-based listings on local queries. However I haven’t done any disciplined, systematic searching on local queries to examine this.
I believe that when someone is doing a “name in mind” search he or she is not really going to be impacted. It’s the category searches where the impact may be felt.
Efficient Frontier’s Siddharth Shah argues there’s a “brand bias” in Instant’s auto-complete feature (yet auto-complete has been around for some time). If there is such a brand bias it could funnel category traffic to larger sites and marketers vs. smaller ones. That’s a question that requires an empirical answer, however.
Will Instant cut off the “long tail” or will it generate more tail searches? I don’t know. I do know that some of the quick takes and speculation that came in the first wave of reactions — especially the facile Steve Rubel post on SEO — are bound to be disproved by experience and data over time.
User reaction and behavioral changes will be both fascinating to watch and determinative of the issues discussed above. We’ll have to wait for the data to draw any thoughtful conclusions about the impact of Instant.
In the meantime, however, what do you think about Instant’s potential impact on local and its myriad practitioners and purveyors? For example do you think it forces directory publishers, even more, to find alternatives to Google traffic?