Google Instant 101

Google Instant launched almost two weeks ago at an event held at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco and on YouTube for the rest of us.

Essentially, Google Instant allows you to type your search query as before, but for each keystroke you get a prediction of what you are looking for and instant results below. Notice as I start typing in the word “bicycle” it gives me a list of keyword phrases that I am probably searching for complete with organic and paid results.


What Is Google Instant?

Google opened up its announcement by first providing some search statistics. Evidently, it feels we are not searching fast enough. Google says:

“Google Instant is a new search enhancement that shows results as you type. We are pushing the limits of our technology and infrastructure to help you get better search results, faster. Our key technical insight was that people type slowly, but read quickly, typically taking 300 milliseconds between keystrokes, but only 30 milliseconds (a tenth of the time!) to glance at another part of the page. This means that you can scan a results page while you type.”

The next part of what Google Instant does is predict what we are searching for and serve up recommendations. Again, from Google:

“Smarter Predictions: Even when you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, predictions help guide your search. The top prediction is shown in grey text directly in the search box, so you can stop typing as soon as you see what you need.”

Depending on your location and search history, you will see slightly different results. Mostly, however, for the first letters of the alphabet you are going to see big brands from AOL to Zillow. Take a look at these two videos to get a better idea, then go to and try it yourself.

Introducing Google Instant

Video Intro with Bob Dylan

Benefits to Google Instant

According to Google, there are three benefits for searchers. One, of course, is faster searches. It will save two to five seconds per search. Second, are instant results – for each keystroke you get a set of results to choose from. Third is that the predictive nature of Google Instant will provide smarter searching that will help guide users to their intended content.

As Google Instant expands to the browser and mobile devices, it will provide more benefits. Aside from teenagers, most of us aren’t the best at typing into a mobile device. This will help “predict” what we are looking for and instantly display the results.

Predicted Search

At the heart of Google Instant is a predictive algorithm that attempts to guess what the user is looking for and then display the results. However, this is not the first time Google has jumped and helped us with our search. Remember back in the day when we typed in a misspelling? Google came to the rescue by asking us “did you mean mortgage” and then gave us the choice to see results with the correct spelling. Google Instant evolves beyond this and takes us to the next level. As with any new tool, it will take time to adapt and get used to. Additionally, we as marketers will also need to evolve our skills to match the user experience.

How Will Google Instant Impact Internet Marketing?

This is probably the biggest question marketers are wondering. According to a statement by Google, SEO will not be affected, since its ranking system has not changed. It does, however add a new dimension to marketers. Not only do you want to aspire to be on the first page, but you want to be listed within the first few letters and be on the first page, preferably the top.

Impact on SEO

There is a big discussion going on among marketers about the demise of SEO as a result of Google Instant…Jonathan Allen does a great job of breaking this down on the SEW blog, so I won’t go into the details. Suffice it to say that some believe that SEO is dead and others believe it isn’t. It may represent some new challenges, but SEO best practices are still in force. Much of SEO is helping to provide a better user experience to the searcher and the search engine. So we as marketers should simply adapt to the changes and find new opportunities to reach our audiences.

Impact on PPC

Some suggest that PPC competition will increase. This is because as you type you get “instant” results, both organic and the PPC ads. So, depending on how big your browser window is, you will only see the top four to five ads. Searchers are not likely to scroll down to see results for every prediction. So those spots at the top will likely be sold for a premium since they will be viewed more often. Since there will likely be more searches, it will also open up more ad inventory.

To learn more about the kinds of things marketers need to know about Google Instant, please take a look at another article by Jonathan Allen called “10 Things Marketing Teams Need to Know.”


As new technologies like this introduce themselves, we naturally evolve and learn to work with them. I am a big fan of human behavioral analysis and finding ways to create a better user experience. Google has done it with its search engine and we should continue to find ways to do it with our customers in how they interact with us online and offline.

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