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Google Instant Has Advertiser Implications

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September 09, 2010

Google Instant Has Advertiser Implications

By Gary Kim, Contributing Editor

Google (News - Alert) Instant, the new search engine capability just announced by Google, adjusts results in real time (sort of an auto-complete function on steroids) as the user types in the query, is going to affect search, search advertising and analytics.

Google thinks it will revolutionize search. But it is likely to have all sorts of other implications as well. Search engine optimization will be tougher. In the past, a user typing a specific search query would get the same results as every other user typing the identical query. 

But with Google Instant, users will be able to modify their searches as they are entering the key words, or speaking the key words. That will have the result as differentiating searches. Searches will start to be more customized. More custom searches mean it will be harder for content sites to "optimize" their sites, for that reason. 

To be sure, search optimization changes all the time. What used to work no longer does. What remains to be seen is how SEO changes in response to Google Instant. 

Among the changes: for the first time both organic and paid search advertisements update in real time as the query is being typed. For instance: typing “w” returns results for weather, when “a” is added to make it “wa” , Walmart results are returned. That should be relatively better for paid search advertisers. 

From an advertiser’s viewpoint this is a significant change that will need new strategies for both search engine marketing search engine optimization. But it might also mean more exposure, without additional cost. The reason is that Google will not consider an ad an "impression" unless it is shown for at least three seconds. So some impressions will be provided at no cost, to the extent that they are displayed for less than three seconds. 

On the other hand, click-throughs might suffer, as the number of delivered impressions increases even before a user has finished the search query.  The net effect should be to increase reported impressions and a statistically lower rate of click throughs. 

There could be big traffic shifts among paid ads. Say a user is on a mobile and near Disneyland. Say that user types or says "hotel." The returned results are likely to show more results related to “hotels near Disneyland” and fewer results for other “hotels.”

Brand names using paid search likely will get a boost. Google Instant seems to favor brands over generic keywords. Typing "tr" shows ads for “Travelocity” as well as other "travel" related suggestions. Typing "a" returns brands beginning with "a" as well as other organic terms. 

Impression volume for Travelocity and other brands might increase, as a result, but click through rates might suffer as a result. 

There might also be some serendipitous effects. If a brand name is related to an often-searched category, it might have an advantage. "Travel" and "Travelocity" is one example that might not help Priceline or Expedia (News - Alert) so much at the top of displayed results. 

Jason Cooper, Efficient Frontier Director of SEO, says Google Instant will reinforce the emphasis on head terms, the keywords that companies spend years and many thousands of dollars going after because the fewer characters that you enter in the search box, the more likely you are to see search results for a head term.  

It also makes being in the top five search results more critical than ever since those are the positions most likely to be above the fold in the search suggestions as a user continues typing or speaking.

Google Instant obviously means some ads will be shown in the brief moments when users are speaking or typing and refining their searches "on the fly." Some of those impressions might not even count against an advertiser's quota if they appear for less than three seconds. 

Gary Kim (News - Alert) is a contributing editor for TMCnet. To read more of Gary’s articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Beecher Tuttle

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