Earlier today, Google officially announced Google Instant- a real-time search experience that predicts search results as you type. As with most announcements, the long-term impacts are not yet known, but let’s look into the important parts.
The driving force behind Google Instant is to improve the user experience, namely in the speed department. Google dropped a whole bunch of research and stats about how long it takes users to find information, and Google Instant is designed to speed up that process. This importance on speed is in line with Google’s recent algorithm change to place importance on page loading time for websites. It’s clear that Google wants users to find the information they want in a timely manner, whether on your website or searching at Google.com
Effects on SEO
It is much too early to determine the long-term, even short-term effects Instant will have on SEO, but some people have already addresses some concerns. John Ellis at Search Engine Land thinks long-tail keyword searches may be dead:
With our example, starting the query with “Las”, shows ads for Las Vegas. Some of those ads are for hotels. Why would a user continue typing if they see hotel ads already? As an advertiser this forces me to bid on “Las Vegas” to compete. Thus, making me put more dollars in Google’s pockets. This kills the need to bid on long-tail keywords. Users may never even get to “Las V…” much less “Las Vegas 5-star Hotels”, “Las Vegas hotels on the strip”, “Las Vegas hotels on the North Strip”, etc.
Others, like Matt McGee* (also at Search Engine Land) think SEO will not be greatly affected and perhaps SEO may even benefit from Instant:
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. More than SEO, it should impact how users search and find valuable information and/or the products and services they’re seeking. Good SEOs will adapt to any changes in searcher behavior that Google Instant brings about.
Optimizing your website for search has been and will continue to be extremely important. If anything, Google Instant puts more of an emphasis on this than ever before. People will be spending less time looking at search results, so you’re going to want to be sure you’re business is positioned high in the results to be found.
*Matt McGee has a great write-up on Google Instant- Check out the User Guide.