Google Instant: What Every Advertiser Needs To Know

At the recent OMMA Global conference, several people asked my opinion about the new Google Instant. Following is a brief description of what it is, and our early take on it.

With Google Instant enabled, Google.com will predict your search query as you type and instantly show updated organic and paid results. It shows predicted search terms in a drop-down box, and displays in (real-time) search results below the drop-down. 

Google says this innovation will drive deeper user engagement and a better search experience. At the same time, the search marketing community has ignited with questions and anxiety about whether Google Instant will kill search engine optimization (SEO) or influence search keyword advertising.

Will Google Instant kill SEO? My search colleagues and I tend to agree with Danny Sullivan, who recently noted that SEO Is Here To Stay, It Will Never Die." He says that SEO has always changed over time and will continue to evolve as search itself changes.

And how will Google Instant influence paid search? We're taking a wait-and-see approach as the service rolls out and users adopt it (or don't). However, there are a few things we recommend in the short term.

Don't get swept up in the hype. Google Instant is interesting and will potentially influence the way we people search and marketers do paid search. However, we've yet to see broad user adoption. Moreover, Google Instant is limited to Google.com, and does not work: from your browser's search box, the Google Toolbar, iGoogle, other sites that access Google search, or if you've turned off Google Instant. And for people who do access and adopt Google Instant, we've yet to see how their behavior changes. Google Instant may be significant in the long term, but we don't know yet.

Keep an eye on impression count. It's unknown whether impressions will go up or down. If you manage your campaigns to impressions (reach) or click-through rate, you may want to dial down while you and Web users adjust to the new experience. According to Google Adwords Help, ad impressions are counted in these situations with Google Instant:

·      The user begins to type a query on Google and clicks anywhere on the page (a search result, an ad, a spell correction, a related search).

·      The user chooses a particular query by clicking the search button, pressing enter, or selecting one of the predicted queries.

·      The user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of three seconds.

Discover and optimize variations. This has been a best practice for some time: take advantage of the Google keyword suggestions feature that is now also boldly surfaced in Google Instant. Evaluate your top 20-30 keywords by typing them in slowly. Take note of the suggestions and variations that surface, and test and optimize around those potential variations.

Avoid traffic expansion through partial keywords. There's been lots of buzz about using partial words in order to leverage Google's predictive text to get additional traffic. Doing so could result in very low click-through and quickly lead to Quality Score problems.  Use the predictive text and suggestion feature as a way to research new keywords, but resist the temptation to use partial words as new keywords.

Include keywords in headlines. It's always been a good idea to include keywords in your headlines. Many ads have a bold word in the headline, corresponding to they keyword which prompted the ad. You should put your most common keywords in your headlines to ensure you benefit from the bold, more visible copy. If your ad is more visible, it will be more competitive and effective, especially in the context of Google Instant.

Keep an eye on your competitors. Some business categories can be extremely competitive. Therefore, it's important to keep track of your competitors' ads and how sophisticated their keyword buying strategy is. Keep track of how they're adapting to Google Instant.

It's most important to remember that Google Instant is not a revolutionary change, and does not require any drastic changes to your SEM strategy. In fact, any knee-jerk, defensive changes to your campaigns could actually cause great damage. You should keep updated as Google Instant continues to test and roll out this feature, and adapt your campaigns accordingly, closely monitoring your performance along the way. 

What are your thoughts on Google Instant?  As a user? As a marketer?

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3 comments about "Google Instant: What Every Advertiser Needs To Know ".
  1. Karl Hourigan , October 1, 2010 at 2:01 p.m.

    Hi Max,
    I agree that for now it's best to follow the Hitchhiker's Guide and "Don't Panic". Having said that, Instant is a very interesting development.

    We've just conducted an eye tracking study on Google Instant, so I've had an opportunity to watch people interact with it "up close and personal". The interactions and comments we collected during the study will certainly be of interest to search marketers.

    My colleague, Ian Everdell, will be sharing what we discovered at SMX East on Tuesday, at the "Google Instant’s Impact On SEO & User Behavior" discussion. We'll be publishing more about it next week.

  2. Kim McCarten , October 3, 2010 at 9:36 p.m.

    Couldn't turn it off fast enough ...

    Based on the PBS doc about Google as a company, and what I've seen from them, they don't ask themselves this critical question often enough: just because we can/know how, should we?

  3. David Thurman from Aussie Rescue of Illinois , October 4, 2010 at 9:51 a.m.

    I found it interesting and somewhat helpful for what I was looking for. Time will tell, but for now I will leave it on.