Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on September 15th, 2010

How Google Instant Will Help Your SEO and PPC

Ever since Google Instant slipped into your browser overnight, it seems everybody is freaking out about it. Some experts are saying that, with Google Instant, “SEO is dead”, while other crystal ballers predict that Instant will make SEO irrelevant overtime, much like Brandon Fraser’s acting career after The Mummy. Furthermore, there are the folks on the complete other side of the teeter-tooter that are waving it off as nonsense. “I like your style, dude.”

It’s been one week, the world hasn’t ended, Brandon Frasier is currently working on The Mummy 4: Rise of the Aztec (maybe we should be worried), and our clients are still ranking strong for all their keywords. While Google Instant is polarizing people’s opinions, Volacci has taken a “calmer than you” approach to assessing the Instant-SEO situation. Here is what we have found:

Google Instant: What and How it Affects SEO

According to Google, their new “Instant” search feature was primarily aimed at getting users to search more. It provides ‘instant’ real-time search results as users input queries into Google’s search field. Here is Google Instant at work with my query, “organic clothing”:

As you can see, not only did Google suggest many keyword phrases to query, but they also personalized the suggestions with local results. Let’s look at how Google Instant affects search in specific areas.

Personalizing Your Web, One Search at a Time

There is one catch, you must be logged into your Google account to receive these instant results. And when you are logged into your Google account, the search engine takes into account your physical location and search history when serving up results. I don’t even have to type in my city for local results to pop up for “breweries”:

As you can clearly see, Google Instant knows I’m in Austin, Texas and populates the results with local breweries that may, or may not, have excellent tastings and tours.

There is some chatter that “no two people will possibly see the same results” when logged in. Even if this is true, it will have absolutely no impact on the everyday needs of a searcher or the way in which a searcher chooses what link to follow. If anything, if someone finds you once with Google Instant, it will be that much easier for them to find you again.

While Instant makes finding information faster, the market for the answer has not changed. As long as the demand for searching the Internet remains, SEO will remain relevant (and important) no matter how personalized the Web becomes.

Rankings and Traffic

Google has made a statement that “rankings stay the same” for keywords and phrases with Google Instant. However, they also suggested that Google Instant will change search behavior overtime. Simply put, Google Instant does not affect your rankings, but it may affect your traffic.

Over the new few months, we may all experience a quick dip in traffic due to shorter keyword phrases and possibly a wild fluctuation of traffic with long-tail keyword traffic as searchers adjust their “instant” search behavior. But this is no reason to go stock up on tuna cans, duct tape, and flare sticks and hide in a cement bunker, as some experts allude to

At this point, the main priority is to closely monitor traffic reports from your Analytics so you can make appropriate adjustments to your primary keywords when necessary. The last thing you want to do is call up your SEO company and demand a broad-sweeping explanation for your campaign. Instead, you and your SEO campaign manager should review your traffic/rankings reports, analyze, document changes, and adjust your keywords, if need be.


Current keyword rankings shouldn’t be affected by Google Instant, but it may be an excellent time to revisit your campaign’s primary keywords to see if any of them have a significant advantage in traffic production.

You may rank very well for: “chicago bankruptcy lawyer” but not for “chicago bankruptcy lawyers”. If Google Instant suggests the latter instead of the former, you could be losing significant traffic, but your ranking for your primary keyword stays the same.

Something relatively new to the SERPs in the left column is “suggest something different”:

This indicates that, based on your current query, Google suggests that you should search these terms if you aren’t satisfied with the current results. How and why did Google determine the terms in this list? Certainly some of these terms have nothing to do with bankruptcy law. Could this be a new tactic in keyword research? We’re not sure right now and are still investigating this development. It is certainly not something to ignore.

SEO Considerations, Suggestions, and Trends

Google predicts and suggests using full keyword phrases. This should have an impact on keyword research because of a behavioral change. Ex: If a person was original searching for “christmas lights” the suggestion might say “christmas light set” while they type . The users then use that therm and see those results.

This could especially be important on mobile searches (and mobile PPC), where users are more prone to select predictions since it is currently more difficult to type on mobile devices.

Google is also using hot trends and brand names to complete many 1-letter queries (ex: ‘I’ brings up “Inception”, “J” brings up “Jet Blue” and “Jersey Shore”. They can also get local as well.

Google is also remembering common phrases and their classification:

When you type in “do unto others”, results related to the Golden Rule pop up. This may be very beneficial to businesses and brands who have very established, well-known tag lines or slogans.

Google Instant: How it Affects PPC

Search Engine Advertising, or PPC, is another major player that could be significantly affected by Google Instant. While not getting as much alarmism as SEO, it can impact how you advertise your business and brand online. Drumroll, please...

Google Instant does not affect PPC results, but can affect impression counts. What’s that rule when you drop food on the ground? Well, Google has one of its own now. The “3-second rule” has been invoked – AdWords counts impressions for every ad served where the user is inactive or stops typing for more than 3 seconds.

With your PPC campaign, expect to see impressions skyrocket, but click-throughs to stay the same. This may be a brutal blow to your click-through rate, but keep your chin up.

As I suggested with SEO, this is a great time to revisit your keyword research and determine how your primary keywords may need to change. Because, with Google Instant, users are learning how to refine their search queries using shorter and more specific keywords - meaning paid search advertisers need to be sharper with identifying and targeting their keywords.

There is a good chance you don’t need to change anything about your SEO or Search Engine Advertising campaigns and all of this “hoopla and hootenanny” will pass, much like the Mayday release.

The first thing you should do is relax, and revisit your keywords over the next month or so, once the change has had time to sink into your data. Just because Google instantly changed the speed of their results overnight doesn’t mean you need to change your entire campaign overnight as well.

For more information on how Google Instant affects PPC, start here.

Google Instant is already available on the latest versions of all major browsers, such as Google Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. But it doesn’t “instantly” come on, you have to activate it yourself. It will also be available on Mobile phones by the end of this year.

Thank You For Reading!

No one likes people who don’t share, especially giant flying cats. So if you liked what you read, please share my post with any of our socially-labeled buttons, or we’ll sick Fluffy after you! Please subscribe to our RSS feed as well so you can receive daily fodder from our blog.