How Google Instant Affects SEO and What It Means for Your Website

by Michelle Salater on September 30, 2010

Whether we like it or not, Google is changing the way we search . . . again. This time, Google has revamped its search process so that users can conduct more targeted searches at a faster pace. This new form of search, called Google Instant, has created some concerns for companies regarding their website SEO, and rightfully so.

Before we discuss SEO, let’s first look at what Google Instant is. Basically, when you start typing a search term into Google, a list of suggested search terms pops up beneath the search box to help you receive more targeted search results. As you type in your search terms, the actual result page changes as you type, based on the letters you’re putting into the search box. Therefore, you can continue looking at the results as you are typing to see if you’re on the right track and if you need to tweak your search terms.

See below for what Google now looks like when you type in your search:

Take a look at the video below to gain a greater understanding of what Google Instant looks like when you search:

Now that you have a better idea of what Google Instant is, it’s time to dissect its impact on SEO.

Organic search is still as important as ever; however, the way we optimize web pages may have to change based on the Google Instant layout. When you start to type in a search term, a list of suggested terms appears below the search box. This list pushes the results down the page, so that users can only see paid advertisements (related to the search) and one or two organic search results. It is not until the user clicks the enter button to choose a specific term that the results will stop changing and the list of suggested terms disappears. Once the user has chosen a specific search term, the paid advertisements will move up the window along with the organic search results. This enables the user to see more organic results than they could when they had not yet selected a search term and Google was suggesting terms for them.

So, what does this mean for your website?

Your web pages must be optimized if want your website to show up in the number one or two spot in search results for specific terms. If the user only sees a result page for a split second (based on Google’s suggestions), the user only has seconds to view that result page before they add another letter or phrase to their search term and Google comes up with other suggestions and results. And, as mentioned above, if only one or two organic search results appear on result pages while Google’s suggestion list is still present, your website would have to rank as one or two on that page if you want the user to view it before Google switches the result page.

If your website doesn’t rank in the first or second position on organic search terms, you run the risk of the user never seeing your page since the results rapidly change before the user’s eyes.

As Google Instant conditions users to search / scan results at a more rapid pace, we must shift our current SEO strategies to accommodate. Currently, meta titles are primarily used as optimization tools while meta descriptions are used to entice the searcher to click through. Now, we must take into account the speed at which search results change in Google Instant and understand that users only have a few seconds (if that) to look at results before they commit to a specific search term. This reduces the amount of time we have to catch searchers’ attention, which is why we must entice them with catchy meta titles.

My suggestion to you is to go to the Google home search page and begin playing with search terms related to your industry. Notice how quickly the results change based on the letters you type into the search box. Also, be sure to take a look at Google’s suggested keywords and terms based on what you’re typing into the search box.

Let us know what you thought of this post in our comments section. We’d love to hear from you!


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  • Nick

    that is an interesting point.

    However, I believe Google have already promised this new Google Instant search to be integrated into the address/ search bar in their Chrome browser quite soon.

    I am quite impressed by it so far to be honest.

    I’d be interested to know how many people actually use Google search from (or its regional variations). Most modern browsers have a search bar, allowing you to avoid visiting Google’s site and thus negating the impact of Google Instant.

  • webcopywriter


    You bring up an excellent point regarding the Google search bar. That’s what I use! The only time I type into the actual Google page is when I have made a search but want to change my keywords and terms to better reflect my search topic.

    I’m curious to see some statistics on Google Instant search in the coming months in terms of the changes in the way users search.

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