For those of you who haven’t read the news or experienced it first-hand, Google launched its latest technology today: Google Instant. It’s not a foray into coffee; rather, it’s an attempt to save precious milliseconds of search time by automatically adjusting search results/listings in real time, as you type. I think this is somewhat akin to a “quick start” button on the microwave, so you don’t have to actually type in 1 : 0 0 START. Only in America are milliseconds translating into millions of dollars — but for whom?

Google claims Instant Search will save 2-5 seconds per search, since people read faster than they type. Google Instant is also designed to “help” searches locate the most relevant results. While Google may indeed have the user’s intent and best interests in mind, it may be at the expense of search engine marketers (SEMers) and their pay-per-click (PPC) clients.  A brief discussion with the Anvil Media and Formic Media team today led to the following observations about the implications of Google Instant search:

Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Over all, SEO strategies and tactics will be largely unchanged, with the following possible exceptions:

  • organic impressions may increase for more competition for popular terms
  • relevance to search query will be more important than ever
  • a need for online reputation management (ORM) services could grow, due to an increase in negative/undesirable listings in results

Pay-per-Click (PPC):

Over all, advertisers may see increase in CPC and overall spend, despite a “3 second rule” on PPC charges…

  • with real-time searches, an increase in overall impressions is inevitable, but Google’s rules may protect advertisers from ballooning budgets
  • advertisers will see associated increase in impressions for (expensive) popular terms
  • this may likely inversely cause a decrease in (more affordable) “tail term” impressions

Over all:

For competent search marketers and managers, the effect may negate itself, if you manage SEM campaigns to conversions. Despite a higher number of impressions, you may not see a significant increase in PPC costs or conversions. If you do see an increase, it should be relative, or you need to retool your campaigns. Look for a more detailed article in an upcoming Portland Business Journal column on Google Instant Search in the coming week or two. In the end, any major changes may be favorable to savvy marketers, and it may adversely affect Google’s income generated by long tail terms as well as popular terms, whose costs could be greatly inflated.