Thursday, September 09, 2010

Google Instant - Thoughts on SEO and User Experience

Google has announced Google Instant yesterday. With the new change, as you start to type your search terms at, Google Instant automatically shows results for a popular search that begins with those letters. If you don't see the results you want, just keep typing and the results will dynamically update.

Searcher’s Take

Though it is supposed to help with search experience, it could drive the average search user crazy.

So far, I have seen many complaints from users such as these:

- Using Firefox 3, and occasionally getting blank screens when I search and then hit enter/right click/"search." Go back, enter search term again, hit enter, get blank screen.

- When correcting a search using the backspace key, I am being slowed down by pages results being displayed again.

- Google Instant limits the search results to 10 (even when I have set the preferences to show more that 10 results in one page)

So, there is some “getting used to” needed from the searcher, and some tweaks needed from Google to improve user experience.

Impact on SEO

Google Instant only affects the searcher’s experience, and does not affect SEO. While the searcher gets a preview of many search results as the query progresses, websites need to stay optimized in order to get better rankings with Google.

One minor issue I anticipate is with the keyword research process. If you are using the Google tool to get the keyword search frequency, beware that Google might inflate the numbers due to the way it calculates search frequency. I.e, Google might count it as a search if a user takes an action to choose a query (for example, presses the Enter key or clicks the Search button), or clicks a link on the results page, or stops typing for three or more seconds. As we have always stressed, Google search frequency numbers should only be treated as directional, and not as the absolute.

Opt Out

If you don't want to see results as you type, you can opt out by clicking the link next to the search box on any search results page, or by visiting your Preferences page.

But you need to note that, when you opt out, Google saves that preference on a cookie, so you'll stayed opted out until the cookie is cleared. Also, the preference will only apply to that particular computer and Internet browser, and it is not tied to your Google Account.

If you're concerned about seeing inappropriate content, you can enable SafeSearch at the "strict filtering" level to help avoid sites that contain pornography, explicit sexual content, profanity, and other types of hate content.

Finally, if you have any questions or thoughts about the impact of Google Instant on search marketing, be sure to contact your search marketing partner. As always, the team here at DBE, our team is prepared to answer our clients’ questions and help them navigate the ever-changing search arena safely.

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