Google and Bing continually try to improve the relevancy of searches and the time it takes to render a query or Web page, but I can't help thinking that in the short term, the changes create challenges for search marketers to design more effective campaigns. More rapid query results may save searchers time, but does that mean ads need to capture attention in less time, too?
Most of the announcements made Tuesday centered on speed and bringing mobile features to the desktop. Aside from voice search, some of the new features include search by image for the desktop, and Instant Pages, which more quickly loads search Web pages in, well, an instant. The Instant Pages technology is based on Google's prediction technology, which is agnostic to the popularity of a page.
Instant Pages launches in beta on Chrome only next week. Pages load instantaneously. Google estimates it will save between two and 10 seconds of time that searchers wait for pages to load. The feature is triggered when Google's algorithms detects in "very high confidence" that a Web site matches the exact result users seek. The ability to pre-render the top results eliminates the time Chrome users wait for text and images to load.
While Google touts speed as a competitive advantage, the company will open the source code for all browsers to take on the standards in hopes of making search on a variety of browsers a better experience -- not just across search, but all applications.
David Harry, founder of SEO Training Dojo, traces Google's "addiction for speed" back to the Google Caffeine project, which aimed to increase processing power. "In six months from now if searchers really care about the feature there may be an increase in the click-through rates for the top five results that appear above the fold," he said. "It's one more piece in the puzzle in Google's trend to speed up the Web for new features starting with Google Panda, Google +1, and Google social search."
Instant Pages helps searchers reach brand Web sites faster through a combination of technologies: Google Instant, which attempts to predict the user's search query and displays a list of relevant search phrases, and Auto-Predict.
A Marin Software study released in October 2010 found that increasing relevance and reducing search time increases the total number of searches people do, according to Matt Lawson, Marin VP of marketing. "I like to think of it like ringing a cash register -- if they can get you to the result you were looking for on running shoes, they can start you on the next search for a swimsuit," he said. "It ends up being good for Google, the advertiser, and the consumer, a win-win-win."
But how does speed influence paid-search ads? The Marin study found that impressions rose 9% and clicks rose 5%. And although cost increased slightly, cost per clicks (CPCs) declined. The findings suggest that if engines can get searchers to the information faster, searchers will search more.
It's important to remember, however, that this data reflects Google Instant, which is one piece of Google Instant Pages.
David Goldman, senior search specialist at Compass Point Media, said since search engines continually try to predict what users want, searches need to search less. Less searches means that marketers must get the most from every paid-search impression. "It puts more emphasis on the need to create very strategic and smart search engine marketing plans," he said.
Goldman's advice points to small and precise paid-search ad groups that provide very specific messaging. Custom copy should speak to specific users to trigger a response. The advertiser needs to place themselves in the shoes of the searcher and predict user intent. "The search engines try to keep impression levels high by extending the use of broad match into some questionable areas," he said. "It develops the need for very strategic Match Type strategies. With the possibility of fewer searches it becomes crucial to capitalize on all available traffic. This shift will make it very difficult for small businesses with little knowledge of SEM to compete with savvy advertisers."