It’s been a couple of weeks since Google Instant launched, and the question on most marketer’s minds has been “How will this affect Search Engine Optimization?” Well, data is now available, and the outcome seems to be less significant than expected. After a rush of “SEO is Dead” comments, it looks like SEO is alive and well and should remain that way. However, Google Instant does have an effect on the way your search results are displayed, thus impacting optimization.
First of all, according to Eli Feldblum, data shows that users are more likely to scroll down on page 1, increasing traffic to those listed lower on the page, but users are less likely to continue to page 2, decreasing traffic to those ranked later. Further, a Google search used to reveal seven or eight results “above the fold;” now, with the addition of the Google Instant suggestion dropdown, there is only room for four or five results in that same space. However, according to Feldblum, this has had a “barely-discernible” impact on those three or four results that are no longer immediately visible. Perhaps users are scrolling down more because they are used to having more options to choose from.
In regard to keyword usage, keyword variety has fallen more than 15%. This is because Google Instant suggests more popular search phrases and shows those results as the user types. At the same time, organic traffic has risen nearly 5% for all. Conductor released the following data showing the impact Google Instant has had on traffic by search term length… and again the results are “barely-discernible.”
Perhaps most interestingly, or at least ironically, is the impact that Google Instant has had on “mature” searches; here the change is much more than “barely-discernible.” As we know, Google Instant does not suggest or show results for “adult” keywords, so the change in search doesn’t really affect their traffic. For the sake of clarification, let’s say “adult” searches are rated R and “mature” searches are rated PG-13 (in other words, mature results will appear). Feldblum predicted that “mature” sites would see slightly more traffic because “as a searcher types a keyword phrase that starts out mature and gradually gets adult, the searcher might be enticed enough by a site showing up in the progressive results that has mature, but not adult, content.” Well, it turns out they are “enticed enough;” there’s been a traffic increase of over 20% for mature keywords, including a 25% traffic increase for keywords containing the word “sex.”
So, it seems that Google Instant has had some impact, but not to the magnitude that people predicted. However, it may still be too early to tell. After all, users are probably still adjusting to Google Instant. The point was made early on that Google Instant isn’t changing SEO in itself, but it’s changing the way people search (which will, in turn, impact SEO). A couple of weeks may be too soon for people to develop “Instant” search habits, so these results will likely change over time.