Dealership Marketing

Google Instant. Are we in Trouble?

A lot of speculation has been floating around since Google launched Instant yesterday.  The death of SEO, the increase or decrease in long-tail, the beginning of the end of the world!!!

Don’t know what Google Instant is?  In short geek terms it is “SERP while typing” while in general terms it is simply giving you your Google results before you hit the ENTER key.  If it isn’t working for you yet, it will be what Google is from this point on, so just go to Google to try it.

Now that you know what it is, let’s get back to the speculation.

Q:  Does Google Instant kill SEO?
A: No.  It does not kill Search Engine Optimization, but it definitely changes things.  According to Matt Cutts (Google Search Quality Group who occasionally addresses concerns) who commented on how Instant changes SEO:

I think over time it might. The search results will remain the same for a query, but it’s possible that people will learn to search differently over time. For example, I was recently researching a congressperson. With Google Instant, it was more visible to me that this congressperson had proposed an energy plan, so I refined my search to learn more, and quickly found myself reading a post on the congressperson’s blog that had been on page 2 of the search results.

And what Matt is talking about leads us into the conversation around short and long tail search changes.  If you’re not familiar with that, Short Tail is a query like “Toyota Camry” while long tail is a query like “2006 Toyota Camry LE Automatic Power Window Regulator” – it is a difference in how specific the query is.

Q:  Does Google Instant Kill Long-tail Search?
A: It is too early to tell, but there will more than likely be some behavior changes in how people use Google.  You can join a discussion on whether Google Instant kills long tail search on the forums.

Personally, I think Google Instant is going to make people more efficient in searching for things.  I think, with time, people are going to be doing multiple searches for things when they’re not just using Google as a phone book or a replacement for their address bar in the browser.

Q:  Does Google Instant kill Pay Per Click (PPC, SEM, Paid Search, etc)?
A: No.  Absolutely NO.  Where do you think Google gets a huge chunk of their money from?  If anything, it increases the relevancy of PPC ads just as much as it increases the relevancy of the organic results.

Q:  How do I better prepare my website for Google Instant?
A: There is no secret formula to it.  Even if there is a secret formula to it, Google will change things later to close that hole.  They’ve been doing that since day one.  However, if you concentrate on content and don’t get completely consumed in the other SEO areas you will always be ready for any changes that come.  People consume content.  For a search engine to remain successful, it must provide people with what they want.

My last DealerRefresh article on the Death of SEO might be soon was not written to be taken literally.  It was written to show that content is what matters more than anything when it comes to SEO and that content will pull you through any major change that might come down the road.  Got it?  CONTENT, CONTENT, CONTENT should be primary and SEO technicals should be secondary.

Q:  Will people continue to use Google Instant?
A: I am including this question in here because of Joe Pistell ( and HUGE contributor to DealerRefresh).  He thinks people are not going to like it because 98% of computer users type by looking at their keyboard.  I find his simple point to be very interesting as Google Instant could, on that statement alone, become a love/hate tool.  I hope that Google Instant will be the first of many tools to encourage people to not look at their keyboards while typing, but this is just my personal hope.  By the way, try not looking at your keyboard while typing – you’ll be amazed how much faster you type and how quickly you will stop making typos.

And what about all those people who search from a Google Browser plug-in or the Google Bar?  They won’t experience Google Instant.  But I am one of those people, and I am trying to break the habit because I find Instant very useful!  What do you think?

Matt Cutt’s Quote from his blog
Mashable’s Google Instant Poll

Who knew an argument with Jeff Kershner, in 2005, would lead to Alex becoming a partner with him on DealerRefresh. Where will the next argument take ...
E just published a great resource list addressing &#039;Google Instant&#039;. Check it out at: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

The &#039;experts&#039; don&#039;t really seem to have a clue, they certainly have no consensus. It&#039;s a brand new game!

Here are the high points:

Yesterday Google implemented their new search experience, Google Instant and the SEO and Tech blogs lit up like a Christmas tree. It&rsquo;s nice to see something get these folks excited for a change. While the notion of instant search isn&rsquo;t new, Yahoo had it in 2005, Google commands the vast majority of search engine market share so such a major, public change to the Google interface warrants attention.

Essentially, in Google&rsquo;s quest to improve user experience and increase speed, they&rsquo;ve already lowered the time it takes to return results on a query. The actual act of searching and refinement of queries by users is what takes time, so Google Instant is designed to shorten the time it takes for users to find what they&rsquo;re looking for by showing search results as you type. If you&rsquo;re logged in to Google, those results are personalized as they have since personalization was implemented.

Personalization has meant that different users searching on the same phrase can see different search results. That change affects the kind of SEO that focuses on specific queries and &ldquo;ranking&rdquo; over matching customer-centric keywords with useful content. Good optimization for search has everything to do with holistically viewing the SEO opportunities of any content that can be searched on (digital asset optimization) and presented to searchers. SEO has evolved as marketing designed to engage customers and help make it easier for the search engines to do their job and for customers to buy what it is they&rsquo;re looking for. Good SEO drives revenue and business growth and is so far beyond the notion of &ldquo;rankings&rdquo; that people who say SEO is &ldquo;irrelevant&rdquo;, sound a lot like those that say the &ldquo;world is flat&rdquo;.

As with any big change there are the FUD (Fear Uncertainty Doubt) perpetrators when Google announces something new: (Google Instant could lead to blackhat SEO problems and Google Instant Makes SEO Irrelevant). But there are also clever, interesting and smart insights coming out of the search community. Here are 10 posts that cover all aspects of Google Instant ranging from what it is, to how to get the most out of it as a user, what the impact is on SEO and PPC and suggestions on how to leverage Google Instant as a marketer.

Matt Cutts &ndash; Thoughts on Google Instant - Q: Does Google Instant kill search engine optimization (SEO)? A: No! Q Will Google Instant change search engine optimization? A: I think over time it might. The ability to explore the query space and find out new things will inevitably lead to changes for SEO.

Nine by Blue (Vanessa Fox) &ndash; SEO is Dead and/or Irrelevant With Google Instant? &ndash; I&rsquo;ve always advised looking at audience needs and building a site that addresses them holistically rather than fixating on ranking for a single keyword phrase. And that strategy continues to be a sound one in light of Google Instant.

Search Engine Land &ndash; Google Instant: The Complete User&rsquo;s Guide - Does Google Instant &ldquo;Kill SEO&rdquo; or Impact Rankings? In my opinion (Matt McGee): no chance. As long as humans use search engines (like Google) to look for information online, that content will need to be optimized. A well-rounded approach to content development and optimization should actually benefit from Google Instant.

SEO Book &ndash; How Google Instant Changes the SEO Landscape - Google instant only increases the value of a well thought out SEO strategy. Why? Well&hellip; it consolidates search volume into a smaller basket of keywords. It further promotes the localization of results. It makes it easier to change between queries, so its easier to type one more letter than scroll down the page.

Google Webmaster Central &ndash; Google Instant: Impact on Search Queries &ndash; &ldquo;With Google Instant, you may notice an increase in impressions because your site will appear in search results as users type.&rdquo;

Fast Company &ndash; Why Google Instant Is Good for Microsoft &ndash; How could Bing ever set itself apart with Google&rsquo;s reactionary mindset? The answer now is to simply stay where they are &mdash; remaining, in effect, as Google Classic.

AdAge &ndash; Google Instant Changes Game for Brands &ndash; At first blush, the real-time results appear to give more prominence to the web&rsquo;s biggest brands. Google execs were quick to note that natural search results, and techniques companies use to land higher in Google search results, won&rsquo;t change. But Johanna Wright, director of product management for Google Instant, said one difference is that they will direct users to &ldquo;page two&rdquo; results faster. &ldquo;As you continue typing and narrowing your search, the instantly changing and refreshing results below the search box will be giving you more relevant results,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;So if you previously looked on the second page, now those same results come to the top of the pile for you.&rdquo;

Google AdWords Help &ndash; What is Google Instant? - Although Google Instant won&rsquo;t change the way ads are served, ads and search results will now be shown for a new &ldquo;predicted query.&rdquo; Google Instant might increase or decrease your overall impression levels.

Search Engine Watch - Google Instant &ndash; 10 Things Marketing Teams Need to Know &ndash; Google Instant is of equivalent significance to marketers as the Universal Search update, which previously amalgamated their video, news, blogs, maps and image search properties into one search engine results page (SERPs). As was the case then, lost real estate for organic search results presented new opportunities for the savvy marketer. The same is likely to be true now.

FeedBlitz - SEO: Three Things you must do NOW with Google Instant - Disable Search Personalization, Search for your company / product / service and for pages you don&rsquo;t control, make a comment that links back to your site, Repeat for competing companies, terms and products. Start a quick-hit SEO project and Tune your site for these terms.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the preference towards brands and the change in impressions will have on marketers ability to leverage Google Insight in new ways. Some marketers have already published tips on how to track Google Instant using Google Analytics, which will assist in developing insights on what has impact and will be instrumental in learning what to refine.
Matt Murray makes a good point about the changes Google Instant makes to screen real estate: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

Some other good points in there as well - thanks Matt!
  • E
    ed duval
  • September 9, 2010
I don&#039;t like it and I turned it off today, just a mere 24 hours after release. It is annoying and does nothing more than list a bunch of junk I have no interest in seeing before I actually get the results I want. I have a feeling it will go from being a default to something you have to opt in for. Kind of like the Binged up background image feature they released and so many people hated. Seriously doubt it will last.
I have to agree with Joe on this one, many folks type in what they are looking for and then look up... Even if this starts narrowing down the search phrases that folks are searching for, imho it makes it easier to search engine optimize to those phrases. Content will always be important, as well as the importance of back-links (which Google sees as others users&#039; recommendations) pointing back to your site...
Google named it wrong. It should be called:


&quot;It&#039;s Here And You Will Like It Because Our Architects Can Do It&quot;.

The idea has value, but at what cost? What were they thinking?

I&#039;ll tell you what they&#039;re thinking, it&#039;s yet another opportunity to shove Organic SERPs below the fold and raise PPC revs. They use the excitement of a new tool to hide their true intent.

I&#039;m with Ed and I&#039;ve created a post in the forum yesterday titled &quot;Google Gone Wild&quot;. I stuck my flag in the sand to mark the first day I ever thought Google has Gone Wild and lost its way.

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
  • E
    ed duval
  • September 10, 2010
This confirms it, the feature is hugely unpopular with members of /.

you can read the comments here ; <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
  • C
    Cody Faubion
  • September 10, 2010
Wow, today was my first experience with Google Instant search, and I was amazed. I thought it worked pretty quickly and liked the way it predicted what I was looking for.

True, it may change the way people search, but I don&#039;t think it would kill the long tail search. People who use those long tail search terms usually have something specific in mind before they begin a search anyway. They know what they are looking for, and they are searching to find it.

Alex is right on the SEO too. Content is king. Especially if you can find a way to keep your content fresh. With that, like you said, everything else is secondary.

As far as most people looking at their keyboards when they type, I feel that may change. The younger generations, especially Gen Y, have grown up with computers and the internet and began learning to type in the first few years of grade school without looking at the keyboard. As this generation continues to come up and get into the market, they are also the ones who will be the mass online shoppers.

I, for one, am very excited and am looking forward to seeing what impact this will have on search.
  • G
    Gilbert Chavez
  • September 10, 2010
Great article as usual Alex! I think this also re-blues the theory in having a dynamic web site so that once a consumer lands, they stay!

Joe Pistell&#039;s idea is without merit. I think that is a very narrow and cynical point of view. 98% is huge number even as an estimate. Most people click in the search bar and wait to see what words come up. Google is not going to engineer this without data and research behind it. People don&#039;t get wrapped around the axle about all the technical aspects behind a search like we do. They type in a few letters and see the other stuff follow and look at what they are searching for.

Keep up the great work and get ready for winter in Vermont!
Gilbert says: &quot;...Joe Pistell&rsquo;s idea is without merit. I think that is a very narrow and cynical point of view... Most people click in the search bar and wait to see what words come up...&quot;

Gilbert, I&#039;m blushing! I LOVE to look in the face of popular opinion and dare to speak out of place. If you want to call that cynical, ok... I rather like that label. :)

Now it&#039;s my turn with your myopia... ahem, sorry, your observations. Gilbert, you&#039;ve mistaken anecdotal evidence for fact.

You say &quot;... most people click in the search bar and wait for the words to come up...&quot; MOST PEOPLE Gilbert? You&#039;ve made an error sir. One in 10 people use the search bar. FYI: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

Gilbert, you mention that people don&#039;t get wrapped around the axle about technical stuff, and I TOTALLY AGREE.

Here is a great sample of the audience that I try to serve every day: <a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>

I love that video. It keeps me grounded and helps me every day when I design solutions to sell more cars.
  • S
  • September 10, 2010
Alex, great post and I agree it comes down to the content.

SEO is secondary to content, but doesn&#039;t necessarily mean it has to come in that order.

Yes it is true you need content in order to perform SEO, but if you don&#039;t consider SEO prior to creating the content then you could be missing many opportunities.

I&#039;ve found the best way to start is with an overall analysis or audit of what you currently have in terms of content. Then you can look at your stats, primarily keywords driving traffic and rankings of those keywords tracked weekly.

If you are ranking highly for 2011 Lexus IS 350 then your reports should be showing many different variations and modifiers of this query.

Ideally, you&#039;d have one page for each major keyword term (word or phrase) and it would be optimized for that query. So you may have 2011 Lexus IS 350 in the title tag but your h1 tag has 2011 Lexus Models - IS 350

After you&#039;ve done well with the onpage stuff the real work comes from link building, and simply looking at who you&#039;re trying to beat and what their onpage and offsite SEO looks like.

If all this sounds like too much work, now you have an idea of why it&#039;s important to rank for the terms that actually convert and engage the user because if you rank really well but everyone just bounces don&#039;t expect to maintain or improve until your quality and page structure (site nav) improves.
  • S
  • September 10, 2010
@Joe Pistell - loved the example of people looking at the keyboard and the video - it&#039;s awesome that you know your customer but is there ever a point where you think you could be losing some higher quality customers by this?

I am not saying that your customers aren&#039;t high quality, I&#039;m just saying why not specifically seek out the influencers on the web who can tweet about your service, or a blogger that writes a post that gets seen by thousands. Perhaps you do, and you were just generalizing the majority of the population and their computer usage.

Its just surprising to me that more and more dealers aren&#039;t building relationships with those who could lead to a lot more sales through word of mouth.
  • G
    Gilbert Chavez
  • September 10, 2010
Joe you have the perspective of an old school car guy, but it&#039;s about Internet stuff not car stuff. Kind of a holy than thou because you have some technical expertise behind how search works. Good for you. Calling everybody stupid because they can&#039;t tell the difference between a browser and a search engine is disparaging to the consumer. No error here. Instant is going to be a huge hit and already is. The average surfer see the words pop up and is fascinated by what comes up. Saying that 98% of people are too stupid to have to look at their key board to type is just condescending.
  • J
    Jeff Kershner
  • September 10, 2010
Google&rsquo;s Autocomplete feature where drop down suggestions while you type has been around for a while. I&#039;ve always liked the feature, and I would say it has influenced my searches by maybe 30%.

Now Google has launched a new eye catching feature that changes the fact that you need to type your entire search term in and click the enter button to get your results. Assuming you don&rsquo;t look at the keyboard when typing the whole search term.

I personally like the feature and agree that it will help educate the average user on how to really search. It amazes me how many people truly do not understand search, how it works and how you use it to find what you are looking for.

With that being said, I agree with Matt in that we now have less real-estate for organic placement especially with local search while this will benefit Googles pockets as paid search now has even more prime placement.
Mashable Headline Reads: &quot;POLL: Google Instant Wins Popular Vote from Mashable Readers&quot;

<a href="" rel="nofollow"></a>
The Headline is accurate, but, is that the real story?

--53% Like

--47% Unsure or Don&#039;t like

The results are mixed at best AND the poll results exactly mirror the &quot;hot and cold&quot; thread we have here.

If I was the lead project manager on Google Instant and saw these Mashable Poll results I would be looking for other signs of discontent in the stats to confirm/refute the poll.

In this classic DR debate, Google will tell us which debaters were right. There are 2 outcomes. Instant Search remains the default, or, Google sets the default back to &quot;old school&quot; and let Instant Searchers &quot;opt in&quot;.

It&#039;ll take Google several weeks to pour over the data and make the call. It took Google a few months to tun off the &quot;fade in links&quot;.