Thursday, September 09, 2010

What Google Instant Means for Paid Search

You have to hand it to Google; they’re shrewd. The timing of Google Instant’s announcement is no coincidence. It’s a calculated, competitive move designed to draw attention away from Yahoo and Bing’s merger into the Search Alliance.

Google is also extremely talented at finding new ways to squeeze additional profits from AdWords. The jury may be out as to whether or not Google Instant is an improvement to search usability. It definitely has the potential to be a headache for paid search advertisers.

First of all, ad position will fundamentally change. Ads will still be in a top box and right column as they are now, however, those results are all pushed down by the query prediction drop-down. Ads that were previously above the fold may now be below the fold, reducing visibility and click through rate. Bidding for top positions becomes more important. Google makes more money.

Recorded impressions will also be affected. According to Google’s Inside AdWords blog “an impression is counted if a user takes an action to choose a query (for example, presses the Enter key or clicks the Search button), clicks a link on the results page, or stops typing for three or more seconds.” While the first two parts of that statement pretty much fall in line with the way impressions are generated now, the “stops typing” impression is problematic. This will very likely result in bloated numbers of unqualified impressions, reducing click through rate, and thus negatively affecting Quality Score. This, in turn, hurts quality discounts, and forces the advertiser to bid more for better placement to compensate. Google makes more money.

Finally, while Chicken Littles are once again proclaiming the death-knell of SEO, what this truly represents is an assault on the long-tail. A well structured paid search program contains lots of highly detailed, specific keywords. Typically these keywords are high quality and low cost. The Instant method of serving ads will result in more matches on broader keywords which are more competitive and of course, more expensive. Google makes more money.

Google controls the search market and can dictate how the industry develops. If the advertiser doesn’t have the knowledge of AdWords inner workings and experience to adjust to Google’s changes in real time, then they’ll be the ones Google makes more money from.

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