comScore: How Google Instant Influences Search And Advertising


About 22% of Google searches in October were done using Google Instant, head terms continue to gain importance, and searchers see more ads per search session. This is according to comScore Search Evangelist Eli Goodman, who unveiled research Thursday on the impact of Google Instant on search and advertisers at the MediaPost Search Insider Summit in Park City, Utah.

Goodman told attendees the number of core searches across Google's search engine rose from 17.0 billion queries in August to 17.7 billion in September to 18.4 billion in October. The research firm uses August and October because the two represent full cycles of either no or full Google Instant for the entire month.

Search penetration in August 2010 reached 82% vs. October 2010 at 83%. Sessions per user for the months came in at 19.5 vs. 20.1, and the key driver queries per session came in at 2.5 vs. 2.75, respectively. Goodman says queries per session and queries per user attributed roughly half to Google Instant. This analysis is limited to Google Web Search, as opposed to core search.



The research also looked at the impact on query length. There are two types of queries that can be measured: typed vs. suggested by Instant. comScore has seen two interesting phenomena take place. First, Google Instant is effectively reducing the amount of typing users do, a prime objective of the feature. But it also reduces the length of the queries submitted by 17% in terms of characters and 3% in words.

Instant appears to drive users toward head terms, as demonstrated by reduced query length and an increase in branded searches. The search tool exposes searchers to more ads, although the influence is likely dampened somewhat by lower click-through rates, Goodman says. While it's way too early to say with any certainty what the impact will be, comScore did find that searches in Google Instant are 15% more likely to have ads because more are brand terms. The number of ads per search is not statistically significant.

While Correlation isn't causation, Google has increased loyalty since launching Google Instant. Looking at how Instant impacts loyalty, comScore looked at that primary user base and share of requirements. The research firm examined the percentage of each engine user base that relies on the engine as their primary tool -- more than half of their searches. In this scenario, Google saw a small increase in those months.

comScore also looked at the average share of requirement for each engine. So, Google users conducted an average of 76% of their searches on the engine in October, compared with 72% in August.

Squashing another misnomer, Goodman says "the system is not being gamed in any capacity" and comScore has not seen any issue with Google pushing out any categories. When Google Instant launched, the blogosphere lit up with the belief that the engine would favor certain topics to their financial benefit. Not true, he says.

Google Instant, like slide shows and contextual search, is a clear example of the evolution in search. While no measurement system is perfect, comScore believes it has found a good way to measure impact. Goodman defines "Explicit Search" as searches entered with user intent. "Implicit Search" is when query results are presented. And although the searcher takes no action, the query counts because of the three-second rule.


5 comments about "comScore: How Google Instant Influences Search And Advertising".
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  1. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, December 10, 2010 at 8:13 a.m.

    I'm confused by this observation: "...searches in Google Instant are 15% more likely to have ads because more are brand terms."

    Surely there are many more searches on generic, category terms than there are on branded terms. Why would Instant 'rank' (e.g. display) more branded terms than generics in their Instant terms list?

    Unless, of course, because more sponsored ads would thus appear in the results, as the research also finds.

    'splain, Lucy...

    @tkennon |

  2. Laurie Sullivan from lauriesullivan, December 10, 2010 at 10:29 a.m.

    The terms are more popular or frequently searched on and have more advertisers bidding on them. They don't necessary have "brand" names in them.

  3. Thom Kennon from Free Radicals, December 10, 2010 at 5:56 p.m.

    No Laurie, the quote claims the Instant results are "15% more like to have ads because *more are brand terms". that's my point - no way brand searches outnumber generic for any given category / basket of search terms.

    Either the quote is wrong or Google is jiggering the Instant results to be brand heavy even though the aggregate user search behavior wouldn't reflect that.

    @tkennon |

  4. Greg Longmuir from Sales, Marketing Online and Reputation Management Executive, December 10, 2010 at 10:38 p.m.

    I am not so sure the results are accurate, first of all, the more brand name thing is because Google counts each letter as a impression if it is up more than 3 seconds. This means that a brand like Kohls which is the first result when you type a K, so of course they will show more brands with just 1 letter. 2nd, the study does not take into account those who look at the keyboard when typing vs those who dont, the ones who do probably don't even know about Google instant. 3rd, I would have loved to seen some data on the affect of long tail searches which I am sure are taking a big hit and also are one of the vest converting search terms.

  5. Eli Goodman from comScore Inc., December 13, 2010 at 9:37 a.m.

    Hi Thom,

    To clarify, the statements regarding brand terms and the increase in ads should be thought of as mutually exclusive. In our initial observations regarding the top 1000 searches that were submitted, there was about a 5% increase in the number of brand terms that were delivered. Regarding the increase in ads displayed per search, it isn't necessarily related to brand terms, more that instant favors "head" terms, which can be both branded and generic, and effectively have more ads associated with them than longer tail phrases.

    If you would like further detail, feel free to email me directly at

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