Google Instant: The Death of SEO?

There is a lot of chitter chatter going on in the world of Search Engine Optimisation regarding Google’s latest venture; Google Instant. A quick look at the blogosphere and forums reveals concern from across the globe that the new search enhancement (which shows results as you type) could signal the death of SEO. The last time we saw this kind of fuss Chicken Licken was off to see the king!

Over recent weeks we have received a number of queries on the subject so I thought I would put together an article just to clear the air, and restore calm.

Google Instant is the latest enhancement for search engine users, the facility predicts the customer’s search as they type and displays results related to what Google believes you are searching for, key stroke by key stroke as you type into the search box.

On consideration of the known facts I believe the impact of Google Instant will not be as negative or as harsh as some people think. There is a long history of changes and refinements to the ways search engines work and the SEO industry has witnessed as the concerns about previous Google enhancements fell by the wayside as Search Engine Optimisation either learns to work with the new technologies or is unaffected by them.

It’s early days as of yet but there is every indication that there has been little negative impact to search result patterns since Google Instant’s introduction. In fact our good friends over at SEOMOZ have recently published an article based on research that shows the launch of Google Instant has created less effect on Search Engine Optimisation than the average algorithm rankings update!

SEOMOZ offer some compelling data that supports my view that it’s business as usual in the world of SEO and long tail search queries are still very much in use, returning results at a similar rate to before Google Instant started. In fact the data even demonstrates an increase in the use of 4, 5 and 6 word phrases.

This data supports my belief that people’s search methods will remain largely unchanged. After all, long tail queries are important to people who have made their mind up about what they are searching for and “live” results will have little effect on what they type. This concept of “live” results appearing as you type may be new, however we have been subject to predictive or prompted queries for some time without any dramatic effect on Search Engine Optimisation.

All things considered, I am confident that the current use of long tailed search queries will continue in most cases, after all when people have already made up their mind on what terms they will use in their search (according to their own thoughts and ideas), the majority of searches will continue in spite of recommendations.

My own testing with the system has identified the possibility of some really positive effects Google Instant may have for people who are already ranking highly for very short tail keywords. When I tried searching the term “mountain bike repair” using Google Instant, by the time I had typed “mountain bike” Evans Cycles appeared as the highest ranked result. Evans is a national chain of cycle retailers who do offer repairs. However by the time you finish the query to “mountain bike repair”, Evans does not rank at all. Although this goes against the statistics it does show a great example of how the owner of the right short tailed phrase could pick up some extra traffic to their site.

In conclusion although it is still early days for Google Instant and the technology employed is relatively unproven, the experience of previous changes and the data on offer show that it stands to have very little negative impact on Search Engine Optimisation and the way people search for results.

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