Given the goals of Google’s most recent updates to its search engine, it’s clear that the company is primarily interested in two things when it comes to search: relevance and speed.
Now, it appears that instead of focusing on getting users faster results, it would like to predict the future – with Google Instant.
Google Instant is designed to bring users results while they type in their search and differs from Google Autocomplete, which has been around since 2008, in that it is the results that are being completed rather than the typed search.
Designers say Google Instant can save users an average of 2.5 seconds per search and uses regional cues as well as algorithmic data to predict what people are looking for even before they finish typing. It is thought this may also have the indirect benefit of leading people who may not know exactly what they need to the right place, and do it faster.
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A new study by market research firm Rosetta shows that Google Instant has little to no influence on search behavior. In a nutshell, people are more focused on the search bar as they type (or on the keyboard) than on the instantaneous results their unfinished typing is creating. Even so, if the new function manages to save even half the estimated time on searches, given the sheer amount of searches Google processes it will mean huge savings for its data center.
It may also have a significant impact on the work of search engine optimization (SEO) experts and Web marketers. Google Instant’s predictive nature and new visualization scheme could easily have an impact on where users end up in their searches. The instantaneous predictions may distract people from refining their search, and the new results images could further increase the importance of higher positioning on the results page.
Paid Search (PPC) program specialists may also notice the change. Experts are waiting to see how Google Instant impacts “impression volume” for ads that pop up as a result of a search prediction even though the user did not intend to search for the thing advertised. Google has taken steps to minimize this, but still allows for impressions on ads that remain open for three seconds or more, which may occur in slow searches and thus mistakenly inflate impression volume.
Of course, it is too early to tell what the new crystal ball will do for (or to) search-engine users or people in the industry, but rest assured Google will tweak it as soon as it becomes too predictable.