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Google Instant and its Influence on SEO and PPC

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Last month, world-renowned search engine Google.com released a new feature to its search engine results page or SERP called Google Instant. After hearing about it, people became concerned about the effects it could cause SEO and PPC advertising. They began to question the significance of these Internet marketing strategies now that Google Instant has rolled out.

Yet for those who have been in the search engine marketing business long enough to have understood how SEO works, they know the answer to the question, “Is SEO dead?” and that answer is NO. In fact, SEO will not die, since its techniques are dynamic and can adapt to changes in, for instance, user search behavior, which may have an effect on the SEO strategy.

Before pointing out Google Instant factors that can influence SEO and PPC, familiarizing what the new Google feature is about is crucial.

The Lowdown on Google Instant

Google Instant is a combination of predictive search and real-time visualization in that displays new and different results during your input of a query. It uses the auto complete technology that shows various results in the SERPs and presents the user’s predicted search terms in the drop down box, which is located just under the search box.

The latest search engine feature was made to make queries faster and more convenient. It can actually save people two to five seconds in each search. By basing it on the fact that people can read faster than type, through this, there is lesser time to spend on typing and more on reading. If people all around the globe used Google Instant, they would have saved approximately 11 hours each second, or 3.5 billion seconds each day.

Another good thing about Google Instant is that you can choose whether to activate it or not. Simply click on the link next to the search box to turn the feature on or off, according to your preference. When enabled, the right arrow key becomes the “I’m Feeling Lucky” button, which takes users to the first search result directly without going to the SERPs.

Instant Influences

With Instant, Clickthrough Rates (CTRs), which measure the effectiveness of campaigns, of the first and second ranks will increase in value at the expense of the third and fourth ranks. This means positions one and two are now the two most significant ranks. Due to this, the SEO strategy must adjust to such change.

Conventionally, users used to examine meta descriptions and webmasters would suggest adding calls to action within those descriptions to attract them to those sites. Now, the calls to action should be placed in the title tags, since users won’t be spending time on examining descriptions and will rely more and more on the predicted searches provided for them.

However, the largest influence of the search feature has to be the long-tail searches, as predictive searches suggest different sites, particularly those sponsored ones, prior to keying in the entire query. Users are said to click on such suggested sites and may ignore the initial query.

According to a study, the organic traffic has increased by 5%, while keyword variety has unfortunately decreased in rating by 15%. Thousands of keyphrases are not delivering traffic due to Instant.

Webmasters need to keep a constant lookout on user search behavior changes before changing strategies that best fit Google Instant.

Pay Per Click

Through PPC Internet advertising, sites get marketed and advertisers pay the host each time their ad is clicked by a user. With search engine sites, advertisers usually bid on key phrases significant to their target market.

Changes Brought About by Google Instant

Advertisers will now benefit from the three-second rule for free: impressions are counted if, within the three seconds a user does not do any of the following:

•    Clicks on “Search”
•    Clicks on a refinement
•    Selects a prediction
•    Clicks on a result
•    Clicks on “Enter”

If your brand shows up for all Google Instant refinements when searchers make their queries, what you are selling is relevant. With the three-second rule, impression results will likely increase, despite your ad having a low position on the page and being unnoticed “below the fold” of the screen.

Nonetheless, it could decrease the clickthrough rate, which in turn will potentially upset your Quality Score. This implies that impression count will go down for long-tail terms. This further results to lower awareness and, finally, decreased market share.

If the changes result to shorter queries, AdWords cost per clicks (CPCs) may also increase, now that there is a lower inventory of relevant key phrases. This of course does not bode well for advertises. They will just have to spend more to get the same volume as they did before Instant was developed.

Webmasters are advised not to change metrics and instead steadily monitor the KPIs (key performance indicators) associated with SEM and SEO. Filtering the metrics by browser is also advisable, as there are selected browsers (like lower Firefox and Internet Explorer versions) that are not affected by Google Instant. The feature is supported in IE v8, Safari v5, Firefox v3, and Chrome v5/6.

The main metrics to monitor are the search volumes of the targeted key phrases in AdWords, to understand what Google Instant can do to your targeted key terms. If they are trending down in AdWords, you might need to alter your tactics to emphasize your work on those terms that have more potential. In addition, consider keyword volume as they may trend up with Instant that is now counting the three-second rule.

To sum it all up

This new feature of Google now plays a significant role and webmasters need to monitor zealously the effects of Google Instant. However, it has only been running for about a month. These speculations need to be tested thoroughly.