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Google goes instant

A couple of months back Google raised the search game with the introduction of Caffeine and today, continuing with the coffee theme, launched Instant. Founder, Sergey Brin said, yesterday, that he wants Google to be the “third half of your brain”. Yuk.

Most of the world that simply uses Google won’t really feel the effects of the change, although they certainly will see the difference. If you cannot see the instant results (you have to either be on Google.com or logged into your Google account) then you visit this enabled link to see it at work

Instant was announced on August 31st and less than 2 weeks later it has been deployed to most of the western world web. We know they have been working on it for a while but anyone in the traffic space should be more than a little worried when huge innovations and leaps in technology get announced one day and then launched the next. Makes it very difficult to keep up with the game, never mind stay ahead!

With the biggest impact being felt in the traffic world, the traditional agencies are now scrambling to form a coherent plan of action, as their world is turned upside down. There are likely to be two major areas of impact.

PPC Advertising

Traditionally only one set of adverts was shown for each search but with the move to dynamically adjusting results, the adverts themselves will change. Traditional PPC sellers and agencies are going to have a bit of a nightmare as this change will mess around with various measures they are typically measured on, such as number of impressions, click-through rate etc. In the old version of Google one set of adverts is shown and recorded as impressions, in the new search lots of adverts are shown but not all are counted as impressions as Google has (yet another) calculation for what it defines as an impression (Google says ad impressions will only count in three situations: the user clicks anywhere on the page after beginning to type a search query, the user chooses one of the predicted queries or the user stops typing and search results are shown for at least three seconds…ugh!)

In the short term this will produce some confusion and the companies with deeper pockets will simply pile more cash into the PPC pot. Those on tighter budgets could then suffer. Instant is simply a technology extension of Google Suggestions so it is likely that the search display algorithm will favour adverts more lucrative to Google’s business. It is also fair to say that maybe this should have been predicted.

The Instant predictive results are also skewed to where Google thinks you are; Google are simply killing two birds (mobile internet and geo-location) with one stone so the role of locality is moving centre stage.

One prediction of this change is that the gap between the top 3 adverts and the rest will grow even more. This suits Google nicely

The SEO world

Hated and loved in equal proportions, this black-sheep of the family has defied every prediction of it’s early death over the last 10 years. Quite a few are predicting that Instant will kill off SEO and although, personally, I’d like to see it die replaced with measured e-PR I don’t think this is the death knell of SEO.

More of a re-focussing. The fundamentals of the ranking algorithm have not changed, just its display technology, so in reality no real difference should be seen. Except, the new display technology is going to have an effect on how people use the search engine and it is thought that people will keep on adding words to the search terms until they see what they are looking for (oh brother, when will Google grasp the bull by the horns and go semantic?).

So, the Long Tail is going to steal some traffic away from the head but only if it’s results-rich because Google won’t show the prediction if it regards it as insignificant. Does this then spell the end for the skinny long tail?

So now it is even more critical than ever to appear in Google suggestions, an absence here could spell disaster in the same way as dropping off the front page used to do a few years back.

Summary

Nice new display technology and kinda kicks Bing in the teeth a little to show who is boss. Not all will use it and Google may elect to abandon it if it’s not a commercial success. Does it really change search? No, not at all but it will certainly throw reporting, KPIs and targets into disarray for a while. Will it kill SEO? No, not here either but it is marshalling SEO ever and ever closer to clean, content driven electronic PR. Which is good.

The semantic web search is next, it’s already creeping up on us. Google have recently bought Freebase owners, Meta Data. No doubt web 3.0 will be introduced slowly into the world. Or maybe Google will simply bang it up with a few days warning. Who knows.

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