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Google Instant not worth your 2 to 5 seconds

September 30, 2010 by  

Google Instant.  You’ve probably heard all about how you’re going to save a load of time with it so you’ll have more time to, oh, I don’t know, use Facebook or Twitter.

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.

Conductor did some good research and, I thought this was interesting, commented that many users find Google Instant distracting and are turning off Google Instant.

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.

Conclusion

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?