On September 8, 2010, Google announced a new feature to its search engine at a press conference in San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art. The new feature, called “Google Instant,” shows live-updating search results as the user types in their query. As Google puts it, this creates a search experience “faster than the speed of type.”
Google automatically changes the search results it is showing based on what their recommendation engine thinks a user are searching for. As a user types in more and more of a query, the search results change and get more specific, ideally showing the results the user is looking for before they even finish typing their search query. According to Google, the average user took over 9 seconds to enter a search query before the launch of Google Instant. Instant saves an average of 2-5 seconds per search.
That’s somewhat impressive, but nothing compared to the 11 hours of time it will save per second worldwide. That number really speaks for the huge volume of search traffic which Google gets. Google was quite optimistic about this new product at their press conference, and seemed very proud of the huge difference it will make in search times. The public reception seems to be generally positive, though not overwhelmingly so (see USA Today for an analysis of the public reception).
Due to the large amount of information presented at a very high speed, some users feel overwhelmed by Google Instant. It also isn’t good over slow internet connections or on mobile devices; however general user response seems positive. It’s hard to say exactly what kind of an impact this could have on the SEO world, although it’s clear that there could be a pretty big one. For one thing, users aren’t going to be typing in full searches as much, instead they’re going to be stopping as soon as they get relevant information – which could even be several words short of the query they thought they were going to use.
Also, because they get instant feedback, they will be much less likely to type in misspelled keywords. They will also not have to revise searches – if their original query isn’t specific enough, they will instantly be able to add detail, without having to reenter their query and pressing enter or clicking a button. This could mean that users are only going to the sites they want, and the pages that rely on misdirected users for traffic will now be much less used. It will take some time for all of the effects of Google Instant to be clear, however it is clear now that there will be some impact from it, in both the world of the general user and in the way web designers and SEO experts design pages.