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Google launches ‘Instant’ search results

From today, if you have a free Google account and you’re ’signed in’ when you search in Google, the search results will change as you type. Google is basing the results it delivers on what it knows about your web preferences.

What does this mean for businesses? I’ve just tried it out myself and at first it’s a little unnerving to see the results change as you type. Google claims that we read 10 times faster than we type. The effect is that we scan as we type and may change our search accordingly. Matt Cutts, a Google engineer and blogger noticed that as he searched for a Congressman, his search changed when he noticed a result about that Congressman’s involvement in an environmental campaign.

From a marketing and search engine optimisation perspective, there are several implications. Firstly it looks like the top 3-5 Google results will be more important than ever. They’re the results that are visible as you type. Our objective as a search engine optimisation company has always been to get top 5 Google rankings for our clients so we’re not too concerned about that. Of more concern is that we don’t know what proportion of web users have Google accounts. If search results vary for those with accounts, how will we know what proportion are seeing what they ’should’ see? Ultimately it’s down to traffic - keep a very close eye on your traffic figures for the next three months.

If you’re an Adwords advertiser, you’ll know that your click costs are affected by your ‘click through rate’ (CTR) - the number of visitors who click on your ads as a proportion of those who see them, otherwise known as impressions. Google will count any search result shown for 3 seconds as an impression which may have a negative effect on your CTR and hence your budget. People are speculating that Instant will favour better known companies but we’re not convinced - if your web preferences are for smaller companies, that’s what you’ll see.

We’re guessing that one of the reasons we’ve had to wait for Instant and the main reason it’s hooked to accounts is to limit the data that Google searches. For example, if you’re seaching in Birmingham (and assuming you have an account and Google can track you) there are fewer relevant search queries to return whilst if you’re searching all Google (ie no account) the amount of data to search and return is just too much as yet, they’ll get there though…..

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