A new twist has emerged on the Google search engine. It’s called Google Instant. Now, as you type in your search request, results begin to appear before the request is completely typed in. The goal seems to be to make things faster for those doing the search. In the article on The Wall Street Journal’s website, they’re making the point that advertisers are worried about these changes saying that there will be a “reduced number of clicks” and changes in rankings.

It’s up to the consumers

Of all the things I love about Google, the fact that they really want to take care of their consumers is a big one. The change will truly help consumers who are in a hurry and not particular about the specific search they’re conducting. If they’re particular, they’ll learn to type in the precise phrase. Google Instant is one more way that consumers will get a better search result…or will they? Usually Ion Leap are unabashed fans of every move Google makes. This one, however, we’re not so sure about.

Is it bad for rankings?

The way this will affect rankings is absolutely fascinating and somewhat troubling. To understand this, you have to think about how key phrases are structured. The “short tail” key phrases – those with fewer words – are about to do much better than long tail key phrases. Also, those key phrases with what I’ll call the “prime word” early in the phrase will be far more valuable.

In testing this, I was searching on phrases related to the disease of cancer. My test began with the key phrase “disease cancer” which gets 33,100 requests on Google per month. It’s a valuable key phrase. If you search for the precise phrase “disease cancer,” you’ll start to see results pop up immediately as you’re typing, except they have nothing to do with cancer.

  • When you’ve typed in “di” you’ll see “dictionary” at the top.
  • When you’ve typed in “dis” you’ll see “Disney.”
  • “disease c” you’ll find “disease control.”

Conversely, if you take the short tail approach and go for the more valuable key phrase of “cancer disease” which gets 550,000 requests per month, you get a much better, more rapid result.

  • When I had typed in “canc” I was already in the ball park with the Cancer wikipedia page, the American Cancer Society, etc.

My conclusion is that this change to Google Instant will reward the short tail key phrase more quickly.

Those of us working in content writing for companies who are trying to climb the search engines often end using long-tail key phrases because the available key phrases are become scarce. (See previous blog post)  So the winners here will be the more established companies and this may actually make life much more difficult for newer companies trying to stake a claim on search results. Is this good for consumers or bad? I believe any change that limits a free market in search is bad, and this one may have crossed into that area.

It will likely change consumer behavior

Consumers have a funny way of adapting. I believe this one will change how consumers search in the long run. They will learn to put their “prime word” in the front of their search and companies who rely more on long-tail key phrases will have to adapt or die. In other words, the available key phrases which actually get a result will get exponentially more scarce.

It will make Adwords more accurate

The Wall Street Journal article, Google executives said that it won’t really affect paid search results. I don’t agree. I think it will make paid search more accurate. As customers learn to put their “prime word” up front in their search, they’ll get more accurate results. Those buying Adword phrases will have to adapt and ditch those phrases with the “prime word” in the second or third position.
Example – keep “cancer disease” and ditch “disease cancer.”

The net result here, too, will be fewer available phrases and far higher prices for this more scarce real estate. Shortages cause higher prices.

It doesn’t “learn.”

After conducting a few searches, I tested whether there was memory built into Google Instant. There’s not. And I’m glad there’s not, for two reasons –

  1. It would weight me down with cookies
  2. I might want to send my search a different way the next time

Google fan is very worried

I am an unabashed fan of Google. I love what they do to improve their product. But this one has me pretty upset; not just for my work in the keyphrase world, but for competition and the free market economy.

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