Google Instant and the end of the world

Google Instant rolled out just four hours ago and it’s already been overreported. Depending on who you ask, it’s a good thing, it’s a bad thing, your PPC is screwed, [random SEO thing] just became a lot more important, the sky is falling. Collectively, the industry is freaking out.

When Rob Ousbey broke the news of the live updating SERPs test being spotted in the wild (before we knew what its name would be), I predicted then that it would put a lot of emphasis on the head as searches that were initially intended to be long tailed would be abandoned midway through when a page of apparently relevant results appeared, drastically reducing the click through rate on long tail SERPs. Then at the Mozinar, Rand Fishkin noted that SEOs had the same fear when Google Suggest was first announced, but that what actually happened was an increase in click through rate. My guess is that it also increased the volume of searches as users were presented with related queries they hadn’t previously considered.

Matt Cutts, though not the most unbiased source in this whole deal, commented that he was finding that he was actually conducting more research as a result of the Google Instant SERPs, and that rang true for me. Which leads me to the following.

Now, stick with me here. I have a wild prediction here.

Everything will be just fine!

The first search will tend more toward the head. However, the searcher now sees not just the Google Suggest box, but also a page of title tags and descriptions. Those SERPs may contain words and related ideas the searcher hadn’t considered. Now after or instead of clicking into one of those head query SERPs, the searcher refines the search based on the new information presented. And that search? Long tail all the way, baby!

So basically, I think it will increase search volume. The head will come first, but the tail will follow shortly thereafter.

That said, it’s kinda fun to play with. Use Google Instant to search for “pink baboon fur” for an interesting look at how the updating SERPs can quickly shift directions.

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