Prior to Google’s launch of its Instant Search feature in September, search engine pundits were predicting how it would affect optimization campaigns. Immediately after its release, opinions ranged from “Google Instant will have no influence on SEO” to “Instant makes SEO irrelevant.” One of the major concerns was that the new predictive search option would funnel searches to fewer keywords. Has this proven to be the case?
Conspiracy theorists opined that Google was trying to drive traffic towards fewer, more expensive “head terms,” or short term keywords, which would result in tighter competition and higher prices for pay-per-click campaigns. According to a study conducted by Marin Software, Instant has resulted in more queries and clicks, but searchers are moving away from long tail keywords. Shorter phrases are getting more attention. Until the launch of Instant, most searchers were using 3 to 4 word keyword phrases to narrow down search results and obtain more relevant data. This was a plus for those planning SEO campaigns because it allowed smaller websites to gain visibility with less competitive keywords.
Back to the primary concern with funneling results to fewer keywords. There is no clear consensus. According to some SEO experts, Instant actually increases the variations of keywords that can lead traffic to a site, while others say that fewer keywords are being used. This has not had a noticeable effect on traffic volume or keyword competition, however. According to Search Insider, keyword counts after Instant’s launch were virtually unchanged, and those expensive head terms aren’t getting any more play than they were before.
Google makes changes in its search algorithm and page regularly. Most of these changes escape the average user’s notice. Instant has received a lot of attention and appears thus far to be improving search speed. The effects on SEO have not been catastrophic, despite some dire warnings, and good, solid optimization campaigns continue to thrive.