Google Instant – Findings of our Panel of SEO Experts

On the 9th of September Krishna De and I organised a panel of SEO experts for an online discussion on the newly launched Google Instant and it’s impact on business owners.

Thanks to John Ring, David Quaid, Jill Whalen and Joost de Valk for joining us on such short notice and to Jessica Bowman, who couldn’t make the session, but provided some of her insights in advance. We were very lucky to get a great panel like this on such short notice.

View replay of webinar here:

The main view seemed to be that whilst the new interface will have an impact for many users, it probably will not be necessary for SEOs to change their strategies much — but mostly it’s a bit too early to tell and business owners shouldn’t panic, but as Jill Whalen commented, “watch the analytics” and see if there is an impact.

“Rankings will stay the same. Behavior may change.”
– from Google Instant Launch
In case you haven’t heard – and may not have yet experienced it for yourself, Google Instant, is Google’s new interface where search results appear on the screen as you type your query in the search box. It combines Google’s auto-complete feature with showing relevant results as you type.

My advice to SEOs and site owners is to go back to the basics of SEO:
Ensure that the title and description tags are carefully crafted to attract a click from the user quickly. This new interface may mean that users will focus more on the top of the page and that it will be even more important to be at the top of listings. When developing Google Instant, Google’s research via eye-tracking showed that users already focused mainly in the area around the search box. Your organic listings will also be competing with AdWords listings that appear above the organic listings, which also seem a bit more prominent with Google Instant.
As many listings will be dominated with universal search results (i.e. map of Local Business listings, image results, etc.), it’s important to make sure that you are getting content into these results as well. Optimise your images, videos and blog posts; and don’t forget to submit your own Local Business listing.
Look again at your keyphrase research and ensure that the phrases coming up in Google’s auto-complete are in your list of targeted phrases. More focus on auto-complete with instant results will mean that more people will be searching on ‘long tail’ (more specific) phrases so these will be an important part of the list. On our panel, David Quaid stated that he believed that users will be corralled into using certain search phrases, those that come up in the auto-complete, which will be most likely. There was also concern expressed by many on the internet that bigger brands, that will come up quickly as users start to type, will get an even larger share of clickthroughs.
If you haven’t already optimised the speed of your pages loading, after Google’s announcement earlier in the year that speed will impact on ranking, this would be a good time to check again. See Joost’s post at http://yoast.com/site-speed-ranking-factor/.
On our panel, John Ring provided some great advice for AdWords advertisers, his area of expertise. His main point is that it’s important for you to review your keyphrases and ad copy carefully now (in a similar manner to SEO advice above); and to watch analytics to see if this change impacts your results. There is concern that the number of impressions will shoot up and that users will be clicking on more generic phrases as they’ll show up first (opposite to what is expected for for organic searches).
Have a listen to the replay and check out the great discussion on the topic. Get in touch if you’d like any further advice or assistance on making sure your site will get best results.
Here’s a few helpful links:
Thanks to Krishna for moderating so well and handling the technical side of everything.