I was having one of those tired, uncreative days when I depended too much on technology to do the things I was paid to do. A wine agency had hired me to set up Adwords campaigns for an obscure but highly touted wine in a particular market. Knowing what I did about the dangers of over-buying on negative keywords, I decided to rely entirely on Adwords' keyword suggestion tool.
Over the next week the campaign was anemic at best. I found myself including any related keyword just to achieve a small base sample. Could it be that people just weren't interested in highly rated, inexpensive wine? Knowing the real answer, I went back to see what Adwords and I had done wrong. This is where I happened upon a painfully obvious and elegant tool: Google Instant.
For those who are unfamiliar with it, Google Instant offers lightning-fast insights into what people are potentially searching for. The way it works is by providing search results "on the fly," along with an auto-complete function in the text box itself. If you don't see the search results changing as you type, this is either because Google Instant is not available in your region, you're on a mobile device (not yet available), or (more likely) you are simply not logged in.
Play with Google Instant for a bit as a marketer, and you start to "feel the magic" referred to in Google's instructional video.
For ads that employ the full terms that Google pushes users towards (let's say "cabernet sauvignon" while we're on the subject of wine), your display ads will show up even if the searcher has not finished typing his or her query. This means if I've purchased Adwords placements for "cabernet sauvignon," and a user types "caber," there's a chance my ad will already be appearing in anticipation that the user will eventually type the entire term. Once the user strays away from what Google anticipates, the ads disappear accordingly. So, if the user is actually looking for "caber toss," as soon as they place a space after "caber," Google will be off the cabernet scent, so to speak, and onto different quarry.
After having run a few successful wine marketing campaigns, with Google Instant as my guide, I certainly recommend it as a keyword-brainstorming tool.
There are also some not-so-obvious ways that Google Instant can help marketers. I've only dabbled a bit with these tactics, so the jury is still out. (Here's a plea to readers to share experiences with us in the comments section!)
By purchasing five instantiations of an incomplete word, my ad appears five times by the time the user arrives at the final "destination term," at which point there is often myriad competition. These incomplete keywords are extremely inexpensive, and usually with 0 competition. The only warning is that your "incomplete word" ad will often sit nestled among the "anticipated term" ads.
Yes, users may skip directly to the auto-complete word. But, those who don't will have been exposed to your ad numerous times, almost as if it was a filmstrip, flashing by as they type. Certainly there will be low conversions, but with enough impressions "en route" to anticipated terms, it might pay off.
To take this feedback mechanism one step further, finish typing your keyword, keep your cursor in the search bar and press the space bar. In the case of "cabernet sauvignon,"all the ads disappeared, and Google Instant provided brilliant keyword examples in its auto-complete: "cabernet sauvignon food pairings," "cabernet sauvignon and cheese," and a few others. In all cases, there was 0 competition for these longer tail terms.
I will keep readers posted over next few months as I experiment with some of these strategies. For some deeper technical insights into some other recent Google Instant success, see this insightful article in a November edition of Search Insider.