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Google Instant – The Inside Scoop

1st October 2010

Google’s latest move to re-capture lost search market share sees it re-inventing the nature of how we interact with search engines. With Google Instant searches are now “faster than the speed of type” with figures suggesting time savings of two to five seconds. Of course this all sound great but what’s the effect on websites and the businesses they represent?

From the data collected since the launch 8th September 2010 I have noticed a trend towards the short-tail search phrases with between 4%-12% uplift in unique visits (this has mainly been from phrases with less than four terms i.e. “buy fresh apples”). What this means is that as more people adopt Google Instant results ‘ahead’ of when then would normally have hit the enter key webmasters will see more traffic on these terms. This is great news for “Googlers” familiar with how their searches are being interpreted as they will be more efficient at refining their queries which hopefully means all their extra seconds of ‘free time’ amount to a new public holiday.

For the rest of the Joe Bloggs search audience I believe there is going to be greater focus on branding as comparative phrases such as “cheap”, “easy” or “fast” will be crowded by hyper optimised pages. This means when writing compelling content the short-tail phrases are less desirable as there will be a greater barrier to entry on the first page. Focus should instead be on put on brand (or location where applicable) search phrases which will naturally be more relevant and provide higher click through rates.

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How to optimise for the change

Keyword Research – Find the phrases that have been attracting business to your site and related derivatives of them (Hint: use the Google Keyword Tool).
Maintain Content/Link Velocity – Publishing one press release is good but the value inherited will eventually fall away, keeping on top of your audience with insightful and engaging material will help maintain your online presence.

Succinct Content Titles – Keep titles short and clearly describe their purpose/value to the reader. Keeping key terms such as the product/service towards the head of the text also helps.

What to look for in your web analytics

Click Through Rate (CTR%) drop –there are reports that PPC AdWords ads are receiving fewer click conversions, while this may not happen to you it’s always a good idea to be ready for a switch in audience focus. Past experience has taught me to be sceptical of global conversion rates so get to know what your audience likes before trying to mass-market something performing poorly.

Landing Page Value attribution shift – with the change in the way Google search queries are handled there may be a shift to content closer to the homepage being favoured greater. Since Googlers will tend to click earlier when entering their search phrase the Google Instant suggestion will tend to favour the most commonly clicked phrase.

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