Commentary

How Google Instant Changes Behavior

Performance-Chart-BWhile I don't find myself searching more or less or any different as a result of Google Instant, a study by Marin software, a paid search platform company, suggests something different.

 

The study released Monday analyzes the influence of Google Instant on paid search campaigns. For those living under a rock, Google now predicts search queries and begins serving up results as searchers type, reducing the amount of time it takes to perform a search.

While I don't find myself searching more or less as a result of Google Instant, the study suggests the tool made a difference in the way many others search and click.

The study compared data for the same set of keywords from the two weeks prior and the two weeks following the launch of Google Instant in early September. Marin found that overall impressions for paid search ads increased by more than 9%, while clicks increased by more than 5%. The findings suggest searchers search and click more as a result of Google Instant.

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So, Marin wanted to determine whether Google Instant might skew behavior toward popular categories leading toward more expensive broad-match clicks. The study analyzes data by match type across Marin's 8.3 million keyword set and looked at paid-search performance for the period of two weeks before and after September

The analysis determined broad-match terms still count for 70% of all impressions and about 47% of all clicks, exact-match and phrase-match terms gained ground after Instant was launched. Impressions and clicks for phrase and exact-match terms had higher percentage increases when compared with broad-match terms.

Overall advertiser costs rose by less than 2% for the time period studied as a result of increased click volumes. Despite increased costs, advertisers have benefitted from Instant. The average cost-per-click rates fell by more than 3%, prompting advertises to spend more.

Will the tool that aims to shave minutes from consumer searches boost company revenue? The estimated 2% revenue increase would provide a welcome uptick to the $30 billion in revenue analysts expect Google to report this year.

Surprising findings based on Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's senior vice president for product management, remarks during the company's third-quarter earnings call earlier this month. He explained Google did not create Instant to make money, but rather provide searchers with a better experience. It turns out the new search tool is pretty expensive, costing a bundle in additional hardware.

PerformanceChangesGoogle Instant did lead to an increase in impressions and conversions across the board, according to the report. Ads for shorter queries benefited more than ads for long queries, indicating the predictive nature of Google Instant may bias users toward searching for common phrases.

Based on Marin's analysis, Google Instant did not skew user behavior toward more expensive broad-match clicks. Instead, the reverse happened, according to the study, with exact and phrase-match clicks gaining popularity, and a drop in overall CPCs as user's favored lower-cost exact and phrase match terms. Marin suggests the change is due to Google providing a larger proportion of exact and phrase-match search phrases for shorter token searches.

When analyzing the impact of Google Instant on query length patterns, Marin found impressions and clicks increased more for short searches compared with long. The increase in short-search impressions and clicks seems to suggest a post Google Instant world will see more short searches than before, according to the study. By helping users refine search queries through predicted search phrases, Google Instant appears to have changed user behavior and biased it toward shorter search phrases.

4 comments about "How Google Instant Changes Behavior".
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  1. Joellyn Sargent from BrandSprout LLC, October 26, 2010 at 6:37 p.m.

    Interesting data. I would love to see a longer term analysis, rather than just two weeks, to see if these results hold out.

    My gut feeling has been that Google Instant spells the end of the long tail, and I'm curious how Google determines which longer queries to populate.

  2. Chris Nielsen from Domain Incubation, October 26, 2010 at 10:09 p.m.

    "The average cost-per-click rates fell by more than 3%, prompting advertises to spend more."

    What proof is there of this? From what I just read, they were spending about the same, with increased clicks and lower CPC.

    The thing that is missing from this and other discussions about what changes "Instant" has is the conversion numbers. All the other numbers mean nothing without knowing what the conversion numbers are. 8.3 million keywords and no conversion numbers....?

    I don't think this will kill off the long tail, but it may shorten it as users start to see what most people are searching for. It should help to refine what they look for and use things that make more sense to search with.

    What amazes me is that Google does all this fancy stuff, and in the end it will have less impact than if they just teach people to use quotes ("") when they search. Of course if they did teach people how to search, the impressions would go down and do would the clicks, so that would not be good for business, would it? :-)

  3. Ellie Becker from E.R. Becker Company, Inc., October 26, 2010 at 10:46 p.m.

    Every journalist knows that in reporting survey results it's important to look at who's funding the survey. In contrast to the findings of this survey by a paid search platform company, a study by SEOmoz recently found virtually no significant affect on organic search results since Google Instant launched. Given that finding, why would paid search increase?

  4. Mustafa Syed from iProspect, October 29, 2010 at 1:18 a.m.

    Google instant will in effect kill it self.
    The suggestion engine works only if people make a lot of searches. If people are being suggested exactly what to search, it will decrease the overall unique searches and there will not be enough suggestions or the suggestions will become inaccurate. This won't happen over night but I guess over time the average cpc will go up as more advertisers compete for the same broad match keywords.
    Too early to say but I guess more revenue for Google as we fight for the same keywords.

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