September 30, 2010 by Alain Saffel
Google Instant is now available for Canadians, but only if you have a Google account. So, if you want to check it out, you need to sign up. I’m not sure if that will change or not.
There’s been a barrage of hype surrounding its launch. Is the hype deserved?
Is Google Instant worth a look?
In one word: no. In fact, having a look at Google Instant reminded me that I should always have my Google accounts off when doing searches. I had made sure Google didn’t collect my search history even when I wasn’t logged in, but it seems you don’t have that option now.
I had a look and there was a partial list of my searches for the past month. Hey, nothing sinister, but that doesn’t matter. I don’t want my searches tied to my account in any way.
If you are worried about your privacy, you’re really not going to like Google Instant because right now you’re forced to have a Google account to even use it in Canada.
It seems that you can pause your search history in your account, but I just don’t trust Google not to collect that information in the background. With the USA PATRIOT Act, all your electronic information is considered fair game to the US government and you won’t ever know.
Google Instant is annoying
Having worked in SEO and in social media for a while now, I’m used to the hype. Oh, I remember when Google Wave came out. Yes, it was going to revolutionize the world. Invites were coveted and if you had one, your other geek friends marvelled at how connected you were. Yawn. If you were in PR and not on Twitter, you were nowhere. Yawn.
Aren’t marketing people annoying sometimes? Unfortunately this kind of hype tends to cause a lot of anxiety for people whose level of Internet knowledge is lagging or non-existent. No worries. If you aren’t on Twitter, didn’t use Wave and don’t like Instant, you’re not going to be relegated to eating with your fingers, using stone clubs and picking nits out of your partner’s hair.
Google Instant will not revolutionize search. It will annoy the hell out of searchers, should they choose to use it, to the point they are going to seek other alternative search engines like Blekko or Bing. My prediction is that Google Instant will be lucky to last as long as Wave, which Google killed.
The only relatively useful part of Instant is the predictive search, which has been around with Google in another form for a while. Where’s the time I’m going to save if I have to scan the results as I type? Every letter could totally change the results. No, I’m going to continue typing my query until it’s done and then look.
Effect on SEO and PPC
To anyone running a website or optimizing them, the key question is “will Google Instant affect my SEO or PPC campaign?”
It seems that the thought that Google Instant would destroy long tail keywords (search queries of three or more words) hasn’t happened; in fact, there have, according to some research, been slight increases in long tail keyword phrases searched with Google Instant. In other words: no effect. Whether or not things continue that way remains to be seen.
In looking at Google’s Instant video one has to wonder if images and videos are going to begin to get more clicks as they’re more easily visible as one types through a query. If you’ve got a bit of expertise, doing more video might not be a bad addition to your SEO campaign.
Google Instant and Adwords PPC
While the effects on organic SEO may be minimal, it may be more important to look at pay per click Adwords campaigns.
There seems to be a bit of a trend in thinking that Google Instant will increase impressions with a resultant decrease in clickthrough rate (CTR). This naturally would lead to a lowering of quality score and an increase in average cost per click.
This is a concern I have had since I heard about Google Instant. There’s another interesting thing I hadn’t considered and that is how people may change how they type a search query. At Practical Ecommerce they suggested that people may begin to add keyword modifiers to the end of the search query such as “shoes brown” instead of “brown shoes” because typing the modifiers first brings up mostly irrelevant searches.
It’s an interesting idea, and while Google says search results will be the same, if searchers begin to enter their queries differently, naturally the search results will be different. The differences in organic search results are often subtle, but they are there when you reorder the same keywords in a search query.
Kind of gets away from Google’s preference for natural language in content.
It’s probably a little too early to tell what is really going to happen with Google Instant. It’s certainly not going to be the death of SEO. If your content isn’t optimized, searchers still are going to have difficulty finding you unless you’re one of the big brands.
My main concern is for pay per click advertising in Google. It very well could increase ad costs for advertisers with no apparent benefit. I will be watching the Adwords campaigns I manage much more closely now.
Ultimately the important question is: are searchers going to like Google Instant and keep using it? If their reaction is anything like mine, I hated it. I have turned it off. I will ensure I either don’t have my Google accounts open or have another browser open to do my searches. As far as I’m concerned, from a personal search perspective, Google Instant is dead to me. My hope is that it will go the way of Google Wave but I’ll keep an eye on it to see where it goes and how it could affect my clients
What do you think? Have you used Google Instant? Like it? Hate it? Concerns? Raves?
September 16, 2010 by Alain Saffel
Recently I’ve been exploring Blekko, a new search engine in beta testing now. It’s a search engine that promises to ‘slash through spam’ by allowing users to categorize sites with slashtags and to designate sites as spam, effectively eliminating spam from your search results. It used what they call “/slashtags” to assist in search and eliminate spam. So, what is a slashtag?
Everyday, SEO-friendly search engine
All search engine results are starting to look the same, whether we’re talking Google, Yahoo!, Bing or anything else. Blekko’s search results page gives you the usual Title, Snippet/Description and URL, but also adds a line just under the Title where you’ll typically see: tags, SEO, links, cache, IP, spam.
For most searchers, the only two parts of this line that will matter are tags and spam. Tags allows you to /slashtag a search result. There’s also an option on the page to /slashtag the entire search result.
Spam allows you to designate a site as spam with one click, saying it’s now ‘dead to you.’ I think someone at Blekko is a Sopranos fan.
SEO, links, cache and IP will be of more interest to those in the SEO field or small business sites doing some of their own marketing.
This search engine will be particularly interesting for anyone working in search engine optimization, as there are slashtags such as /rank, /seo, /domain and more, allowing users to delve into the finer details of why their site ranks as it does. This is quite unlike Google, which is basically a black box in terms of information about how websites rank, aside from Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
I like the fact that it also allows you to compare the rankings for four sites at once, giving you a quick idea what those sites are doing and not doing well.
SEO practitioners will also like the /inbound slashtag which allows you to view the inbound links to the website you’re examining. It ranks them according to the value of the link, so finding your most valuable links, and those of your competitors, is pretty easy with Blekko.
When I’m looking at new SEO tools, I always have a look at my own sites and client sites to see them in a different way. It became obvious that the index Blekko is working with is a little dated and not complete. I don’t consider this a major issue due to their beta status and it’s something I’m sure they will correct once they’re out of beta. I am sure it’s easier to work with a smaller data set.
They do have a few APIs, so there are current results from Flickr, Twitter, Youtube, etc.
I can’t really think of too much bad to say about Blekko. It’s in beta, so I don’t expect it to be perfect. It could be better documented to explain its composite measurements such as rank, and to define some of the items you see, but I’m sure that will happen as Blekko moves toward an official launch.
I think it’s an interesting concept to be quite open about SEO, as Blekko is. As an SEO guy, I know the things I need to do to get a site to rank well. Google guards its algorithm so nobody really knows for sure what Google takes into consideration in determining how a site will rank in search results. Blekko gives us much of that information. I’m not sure if it will extend to the point of making their algorithm available, and I wouldn’t expect it.
Blekko’s CEO bristles at being called a Google killer and has a pretty good explanation of why he rejects that title. That being said, I’m sure there are many in the SEO field and regular web surfers who are interested in using some credible alternatives to the now ubiquitous Google.
I’ve been eager to find an alternative to Google, and I’m cheering for Blekko. I like what I’ve seen so far and I can see it forming a regular part of my day. I have been tinkering with it every day since I got my beta invite.
As an aside, I’ve been concerned about how many different facets of my life that Google touches. Google has a great ability to connect the dots and, while I’m not up to anything worrisome, there are good reasons to worry about Google’s reach into our lives.
Google has experienced a couple major problems lately with Google employees spying on users. Another thing that should concern anyone using Google products is the USA PATRIOT Act that gives the US government carte blanche to find out what anyone has been up to.
As a search engine, Blekko shows a lot of promise and I support what they’re doing. With a couple of former Google engineers on board and what appears to be a pretty solid team, they seem to be headed in the right direction. SEO practitioners will love the data they can glean from Blekko. Great job so far!
Mashable article on Blekko – good read