Tag Archives: search marketing

A Look at the Impact of Google Instant

While we agree that the arrival of Google Instant does bear consequences for the search marketing industry, we don’t share the view that it is a complete disaster. The change is simply the latest step in the continuously evolving (and highly competitive) web search market. Google has always been an innovator in this space and, say what you will about some of their recent business moves, their search has always moved forward, towards more complete, more accurate results. Google Instant is simply the next step in that cycle of innovation.

Moreover, Google Instant, by itself, is not the defining event in this most recent series of enhancements. Rather, we believe, it is the combination of Google Instant with the revisions in the predictive query feature that will have the biggest impacts. While Google may have made it faster and easier for people to search, they have certainly raised the bar for smaller firms, or for those who simply have not put the effort in building their sites into something Google considers to be highly relevant.

Several things seem likely to result from these changes:

(1) The low rent business of gaining page views through typo squatting seems to be doomed. Fewer and fewer users will wind up on these deceptive domains due, primarily, to the predictive query feature.

(2) Big brands are favored by Google Instant. On this point, however, let’s not mix up cause and effect: The big brands pop up first because they grab more search volume to begin with and the predictive query mechanism is based on the popularity of the search terms. It’s a logical result.

(3) The predictive query mechanism is going to be very influential. It will steer people along more common lines of research. The bell curve for queries relating to common topics will get taller and a little fatter. People may, in other words, be willing to settle for more generic search phrases.

(4) Though the bell curve will get taller, the long tail will also get longer (and possibly fatter). We think it reasonable to assume that, with a useful predictive search functionality, more people will be able to refine their searches more narrowly. This will drive more traffic into more specific searches, giving people who are properly optimized — and have relevant quality sites — a better chance at showing up on the first page.

(5) Search marketing will have to become more dynamic. Search marketing professionals who wish to be aggressive for their clients will need to be both more sensitive to trending query patterns and more agile in chasing those queries.

(6) Your Google PPC stats may be impacted. Google Instant means that ads may cycle more frequently, generating more impressions. As the users types letters, AdWords display, and they also change as new letters are added to the query. Google is aware of this and has been discussing the issue on their various media outlet sites, so, while they are trying to take efforts to marginalize the impact, it is indeed likely you will see increased impressions.

(7) The long tail will be less attractive for PPC advertisers. Why? Those willing to accept AdWords for their results are going to click out as soon as they see a relevant ad, therefore the value of delaying display until very specific queries are entered decreases.

(8) Good Page Titles are going to become more important. Page Titles are already a key element. Having page titles containing your target keyphrases will be more likely to grab attention and generate clicks.

So, what does it all mean? At this stage it is too early to say with certainty; everyone continues to watch and test. But, as the old saying goes, the only thing that stays the same is change. Google will continue to refine tool and those of us who work in this field will have to continue to watch, learn and test different approaches in hopes of gaining a competitive advantage.

F is for Facebook

What is Google Suggest? You’re certain have seen it, but may not know it by name. Put in simple terms, Google Suggest is the auto-complete functionality you see when you type a query into the Google search box. As you type, Google attempts to suggest possible query phrases to you. As soon as you begin typing, the system displays up to ten suggestions and, as you continue to type, the system refines the suggestions.

Google Suggest exampleThe suggestions you see are drawn from Google’s knowledge of the most popular search queries. In the screen capture on the right, you can see the results from typing “ap” into Google.com.

For the purposes of this article, Google Suggest is interesting for two reasons: First, with the arrival of Google Instant, predictive search becomes very important to all. Google Suggest gives us some insight into what we can expect when Google Instant makes its appearance here in Asian markets. Second, as Google Suggest is tuned to reflect local search popularity, it provides us with a way to gain some insight into variations between local search audiences. For those of us working in Asia-Pac, this is particularly valuable as many of our clients’ target markets cross national boundaries.


Google Instant asia pacificLooking at Google Instant, we can see several improvements in the Google Suggest functionality. Compare the screenshot at left with the one above. Both show the same two letter search (“ap”), but as you can see at left, Google Instant provides true auto-complete right inside the search box. You will also note that the suggestions display is limited in number to only five. The Google interface has been improved as well, and the suggestions no longer interfere with the first search result. At left, you can clearly see the first search result (Apple), while in the screenshot above you will note the top results are obscured. The predictive auto-complete and the improved interface will have a particularly powerful impact on user behavior, as now the user is both being actively guided in query formulation by Google while at the same time being encouraged to click on the top results associated with that query.


Perhaps more interesting, at least to those of us who work with search marketing, are the insights we can gain into the regional variations in Google query patterns. Google has, over the course of the last year, continued to refine the localization of Google Suggest.

We thought it might be interesting to run a little survey of regional variations, so we went to each of the Google country-specific search engines and tried out Google Suggest. We surveyed Google in six countries in the region and just for kicks, we checked Google Hong Kong in both English and Chinese to see if their were any differences. The survey covers the following:

To run our little experiment, we entered each of the letters A through Z and grabbed the first suggestion for each. We put it all together in a spreadsheet; you can see the results in the table below.

The ABCs of Google Suggest in Asia

Click on the chart to view a larger size.


The results for Google Suggest across Asia show varying degrees of similarity. Of all 26 letters of the alphabet, only one gives the same result across engines. The letter “f” pulls up the same suggestion across the board: Facebook. Solid testament to the strength of the Facebook brand in Asia. Further evidence of the brand’s strength is found in the results for the letter “w,” where “www.facebook.com” is the most popular query in three of the seven markets.

Only two other brands manage to achieve a majority result in any of the other categories: “ebay” is the most popular query for the letter “e” in all markets except Indonesia and Thailand. “youtube” also manages to dominate the “y” query in all markets except Malaysia and Indonesia, where “yahoo” was the top result.

Aside from the three examples cited above, there is a moderate to high degree of variance in the results set. The letters “i,” “l,” “r,” “t,” and “v” share no common results, with country-specific variations often reflecting either local brands, like “longdo” (a dictionary popular in Thailand), “lta” (the Land Transit Authority in Singapore), and “lelong” (an online shopping site in Malaysia). Other variations come from topical news stories that were hot at the time we did the research. The result for the letter “v” in Indonesia being a classic example; the result, “video ariel dan cut tari,” reflects search volume relating to a semi-scandalous sex video featuring two local celebrities.


For search marketers, the disparities in the results sets emphasize the need to be sensitive to the regional variations that exist in Asia. If your clients are concerned about markets outside their immediate country, then it is essential you take a look at how the results vary among the countries.

The second lesson we take away concerns synonyms and homonyms: when selecting related terms for optimization, it is important that you assess the popularity of the variations in order that you select the optimal choices — and you don’t miss any opportunities. You can also see in the chart an interesting result in Thailand, for example, where the most popular query for the letter “u” is “utube.”

Third, looking forward to the arrival of Google Instant in Asia, as we highlighted in a post last week, the predictive query feature is going to be very influential and you will need to do your research to see what users are being shown as they type in your target queries. The Google Instant results are visually more compelling and will have an impact on pushing users into narrower search patterns, focused on popular terms.

We hope you enjoyed this little exercise. We would be remiss not to give credit to FastCompany for the inspiration for this piece, with their article, Google Instant Redefines Your ABCs.