Does Google Instant make any difference to your website?

Look on any online marketing website and you’ll probably be greeted by a host of news articles, blog posts and comments that edge towards Google Instant being the end to SEO as we know it, the end to competitive marketing for small businesses and that single letter keyword searches are the future.

Google Instant works by predicting what the user is writing and displaying different pages of search results as the search is conducted. It is without question that this new format of delivering search results is quicker and indeed will challenge conventional search engine marketing practices. Now, more than ever before, it is important to be in the hallowed top 3 on the first page, as it’s predicted that users will change their searching habits and will not spend time clicking through pages of search results.

The one thing that stands out when using Instant is the fact that sponsored links get a higher prominence in the first half of the search page. PPC (Pay Per Click advertising) will become more competitive as businesses pump more money into Google AdWords to ensure their message is seen by more users. The cost associated with popular search markets, such as Travel and Finance, is likely to sky rocket as the larger firms secure their place with their big budgets.

So what should businesses look at when assessing the challenge of Google Instant throwing its virtual spanner in the online marketing works?

1) Has it actually affected your viability on the internet? There is no point changing anything if Google’s reassurances are true. The search engine says it will not affect the current rankings as this isn’t a change to the index. This change is about how the index is displayed and offered to users.

2) Track where your traffic to the website is coming from – use of Google Analytics and other tracking devices is invaluable. Specifically look at the keyword performance, which ones have been strong and new keywords that are generating quality traffic. Bounce rates – users who enter your site and leave straight away will become interesting as you will be able to assess how users are finding your site through Google and whether Instant is bringing you visitors of a different quality.

3) PPC costs will rise as it gets more competitive and Google will probably have a strong emphasis on ‘impressions’ – this is if your ad has appeared on a search result page for more than 3 seconds – this not only will distort performance figures, but it could lower your quality score, meaning you have to pay more for future clicks. If you are over spending on certain PPC keywords but not converting these into quality visits, investigate further into more targeted ad campaigns.

4) Look at alternative search engines. Bing may not have the majority of the online search market space but it is still a viable search engine with often good conversion rates. By spending some time optimising for alternative search engines you will be widening your net.

5) Stick to the main principles of online marketing. Keep focused on the primary rules of marketing – ‘find your target market.’
At the moment only a small proportion of people are using Google Instant (it appears to only kick in when you log in as a Google user – ie you have an Adwords account or use gmail) so follow its developments before it gets rolled out further and you’ll be a step ahead of the game.