What Google Instant means for your SEO content strategy

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You may have noticed that Google operates a little differently now (and if you haven’t noticed yet, you soon will.) Google Instant, the latest search enhancement on the block, shows results as you type a query into the search box. What makes this different than Google Suggest is that the search results change on the fly, adapting to what you type. It’s localized and personalized – but there are no algorithmic changes. That is, the tasty SERP filling is the same as before – it’s the wrapper that’s changed.

Google claims that the new feature will help people search faster and refine their queries more efficiently. (As interesting cultural commentary, Google mentions that the average time it took to type in a search query before Google Instant was nine seconds. Are we so busy that shaving 2-5 seconds off our search time is that big of a benefit?)

Let’s see what this means. My search term was “hockey gear.”

Immediately, you notice one thing – PPC ads are highlighted with the current layout. The suggestion drop down box pushes many of the SERP results below the fold, and emphasizes the PPC ads at the top. A huge chunk of above the fold organic screen real estate is gone (although the screen goes back to “normal” after you’ve finished typing and chosen your search term.) Although long-term terms are represented, users will see results from “head” terms first.

Of course, there are posts saying that Google Instant is the death of SEO (been there, heard that.) And some may feel that, by default, SEO copywriting is dead along with it. But it’s not – not by a long shot. At the same time, the new interface seems to make some “foundational” SEO steps even more important. Let’s talk about what that means…

  • Keyword research means checking out actual search results. One thing that Google Instant encourages us to do is expand our keyword universe as Google sees it. That means that keyphrase research is more than just using a tool and calling it good. It means checking out what Google suggests (taking into account personalization and localization) and going from there. BlueGlass has a great post about how use Google Suggest for keyphrase research.
  • Consider keyword modifiers. Popular head terms are always competitive. However, adding a modifier before the main keyphrase changes the game – and makes the search listing easier to get. For example, here’s a listing for “amsterdam hotels”:

As opposed to the search for “cheap amsterdam hotels”

  • Titles are more important than ever. Assuming people adjust to the ever-changing nature of Google Instant (and the jury is still out,) people will be quick-scanning the SERP. They’ll be looking for relevant results, yes – but they’ll also be looking for “what’s in it for me” statements.  If you review listings for the “cheap amsterdam hotels,” you’ll see that one listing promotes 80% off, and the other promotes rooms from 20 Euro per person. Boring, “keywords-separated-by-commas” Titles may not fly in Instant’s lightening-fast world.
  • If you haven’t optimized your content now, what are you waiting for? No, magical Google fairies will not take your so-so content and propel it to the top of the search engine charts. If you’ve waited to make your content search engine friendly, you probably won’t want to wait any longer – especially if your company relies on holiday sales.
  • The long-tail is dead. Long live the long tail. As I mentioned earlier, it seems that Google is pushing folks towards more profitable (for them) “head” terms. However, just because Google suggests something doesn’t mean that people will click on it. At the end of the day, people will still refine their search – and that refinement means long tail terms. Ian Lurie from Portent Interactive and blogger at Conversation Marketing has said, “Long-tail search is going to be more important, since folks can just keep typing until they see what they want.”  Yes, Google Instant’s on-the-fly results seem to add some extra “noise” to the refinement process – but we’ll see if people act on these suggestions, or tune them out like “banner blindness” (would it be “results blindness?”? or disable the feature.  Or heck, this could be the “enhancement” that drives folks over to Bing. We shall see.

What say you about Google Instant? How is it changing the way you approach your SEO content marketing?

For more information, read:

Search Engine Land’s Google Instant: The Complete Users Guide

FOX Business: Google’s Instant Search Could Boost Ad Prices

Search Engine Land’s: Will Google Instant Kill The Long Tail?

WebProNews: Does Google Instant Mark The End of SEO?

ReadWriteBiz: How Will Google Instant Affect Your Company’s SEO?

If you’re near the Seattle area (or just want to visit) there’s still time to sign up for the SEO Copywriting For Businesses Hands-On seminar on September 15! This small-group seminar is interactive, hands-on and fun – giving you personalized attention, step-by-step exercises and instant feedback. Plus, everyone who attends receives a free 3-month subscription to the online SEO copywriting training! We’ve held over the early-bird special price (saving you $200!) so sign up today!

Heather Lloyd Martin

Heather Lloyd Martin

Named the “Pioneer of SEO Copywriting” by Forbes Magazine, Heather Lloyd-Martin is a top search engine optimization expert with more than 15 years experience.

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