Yesterday, we hosted an incredibly popular webinar called “Google Instant: Major Change for SEO.” It was attended by over 1,500 viewers, and by the end of the webinar, we had collected close to 200 questions. If you missed it, you can watch the webinar on-demand in our archives ! We couldn’t answer them all, but I’ve done my best to answer some of the most common questions and address some of the major changes we feel the release of Google Instant has brought about. I’m no Google, but I hope these responses were quick enough for you ;)
1. How is Google Instant going to change my ranking for keywords and keyword phrases?
In releasing Google Instant, Google made no change to the ranking algorithm. This means your rankings for specific keywords immediately before and immediately after the release of Google Instant would be unaffected. What Google Instant does change is the user experience and how people interact with Google. Because Google is now predicting what people are searching for and displaying the results before the user even hits enter, more and more website are going to be targeting predicted keywords. This will most likely cause these keywords to become more competitive and, in turn, make it much more difficult to maintain a high ranking for these specific keywords.
2. How does Google Instant affect my SEO strategy?
Because Google Instant presents results before the user even hits enter, there is little reason for the user to visit the second page of search results or possibly even scroll below the fold. It is also much easier for the user to just rephrase the search they are attempting if they're not getting the results they're looking for. This makes it much more important to rank on the first page and, more specifically, in the top three results for specific keywords and keyword phrases, since these are the results that are going to be getting the majority of the traffic.
3. Are there any specific aspects of SEO that are heavily affected by Google Instant?
We believe that page titles and meta descriptions will now play a more important role than ever. Even though the page title is just a minor part in a website's SEO relevance and the meta description doesn’t affect ranking, these are the two items that a user will see as they scan the page when they search. If you can write something compelling, grab searchers' attentions, and stop their search process, you will get a better click-through rate. If the keyword is present within the page title or meta description, it will be bolded and even more likely to grab searchers' attentions, so make sure to focus on creating great page titles and interesting, relevant meta descriptions.
4. How does Google Instant affect my PPC strategy?
Once again, the importance of ranking in the top three positions is increasing. When thinking about the effect Google Instant is having on PPC, it is important to remember that Google is still a business with the main objective of making as much money for its shareholders as possible. The increased competitiveness due to the desire for companies to rank in the top three will most likely lead to higher CPC costs (and more money in Google’s pocket). This makes it even more important to do thorough keyword research before you start your campaign and to constantly monitor your keywords and analytics to adapt to the ever-evolving search ecosystem.
5. How does Google Instant affect the definition of an impression?
Google now defines an impression as an instance when a user clicks on the page causing the search results to be displayed, when the user hits enter, or when the user types in the search box and pauses for 3 or more seconds.
6. How will this affect my PPC campaign?
Users that use Google AdWords do not pay on an impression basis. Google AdWords charges users on a CPC (cost-per-click) basis, so your spending will not be affected by the new definition of impression. However, what is likely to occur is that the total number of impressions will go up. This will cause your click-through rate (clicks/impression) to decrease since the total number of impressions is likely to increase.
7. Should I optimize for short tail or long tail keywords?
There is no clear-cut answer as to whether you should optimize for short tail or long tail keywords. The factors you should consider when trying to decide are how competitive the short tail is versus how much traffic the long tail keywords receive. You should also look at the traffic each type of keyword drives to your site and try to determine which keywords drive the most qualified leads (the ones that are most likely to convert to customers). The key to this is keyword research (please excuse the horrible pun). Once you have the data to analyze the cost and benefit of optimizing for each type of keyword, you can make an educated business decision.
8. Should I optimize for partial searches? For instance, if my keyword starts with a “W” and weather is the first keyword Google Instant returns when a user types a “W,” should I try to optimize for this keyword?
No, you should not try to optimize for keywords that are not relevant to your business or the product you are offering. If someone is searching for something else and your website did pop up as a result, it is unlikely that they would not be a good lead anyway. You should continue to focus on the keywords relevant to your business/product and continually monitor your keywords and analytics to see which ones are producing good results and which ones are performing poorly. Then focus on the well-performing ones.
9. How will Google Instant affect the Bing and Yahoo alliance?
We don’t really see this as a play by Google to try to completely knock Bing and Yahoo out of the game. Google’s main goal is to try to return the most relevant result to the user. This means attempting to return more personalized search results, an area that companies like Yelp and Facebook have been trying to secure. Early polls show that not many people have strong enough negative feelings to actually switch away from Google, so it is likely that if people used Google before, they will continue to use Google. Only time will tell how much more search traffic Google gets because of the Google Instant change.
10. How does Google Instant affect people who use browser-based search boxes?
Google Instant does not affect how users interact with browser based search boxes. Users who use these search boxes must continue to type in their query and hit enter in order to display search results. It is important to remember, however, that once a user hits enter, they will be taken to Google and any subsequent searches will take place using the Google Instant interface.