Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.
Steve zeroes in on the “Smart Predictions” feature as a matter of concern for marketers and SEO practitioners:
Smarter Predictions: Even when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, predictions help guide your search. The top prediction is shown in grey text directly in the search box, so you can stop typing as soon as you see what you need.
Steve also goes on to highlight that Google is saying to expect traffic fluctuations around organic keywords.
While I’m still not sure I agree wholeheartedly with Steve that this might end up “making SEO virtually impossible” – I can certainly rally around the fact that this changes the game quite significantly. If anything, I can see this changing the emphasis from mere search-ranking obsession to more quality content marketing efforts – i.e. creating great content that people will want to search out. If it’s awesome, the word-of-mouth buzz generated will happen both online and offline (because human beings still meet up face-to-face!).
Some of the comments to his post are also quite enlightening. These are the ones that caught my attention:
- Gabe Taviano: I’d have to disagree with the “no one will see the same web” thought. Like books, good content will always be needed, and searched for. When people find good content, they share it. Just because the search is faster doesn’t mean that good content won’t be indexed.
- Kate Reuvers: People haven’t been seeing the same results for years – personalized search ring a bell? This in no way equals the death of SEO, it just has the potential to add another level. If you’re an SEO that purely focuses on rankings then you’re not doing your job properly.
- Brett Tabke: It makes SEO INFINITELY more possible. SEO’s are licking their chops over this. We can now rank for ‘letters’ instead of just words. It opens the door to a whole new type of optimization.
- graubart: I agree in part as users will see results to partial searches. BUT the auto-complete aspect of Google Instant means that there will likely be fewer distinct searches, so more users will cluster around certain searches.
For example, suppose I was going to search for mergers & acquisitions. In the past, I might have typed “merger and acquisitions”, “mergers”, “mergers and acquisitions”, etc. Now, as I type merger, I’ll see “mergers and acquisitions” pop up and I select it. So, there will be fewer variations in similar searches
Cory Huff: uh…Steve, you’re a smart guy, but I think you’re off base here. Google has previously said that about 25% of their search queries are unique, but that means more than 70% are repetitive. People search for the same stuff. Not only that, but Google has to index content and suggest it to people, and there are factors that Google will use to determine those suggestions.
What do you think? Is this the end of SEO? Or is Steve missing something?