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Google Instant Makes SEO Irrelevant

Google today launched an ambitious effort to speed up searching. But what they really did is kill SEO.

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 most important consideration for marketers or anyone who creates content, however, is in the bullets...

"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."

Here's what this means: no two people will see the same web. Once a single search would do the trick - and everyone saw the same results. That's what made search engine optimization work. Now, with this, everyone is going to start tweaking their searches in real-time. The reason this is a game changer is feedback. When you get feedback, you change your behaviors. 

Think about it. When you push a door and it doesn't open quickly, you push harder. When you try to drive a car up a hill and it doesn't go as fast as you would like, you step on the gas. Feedback changes your behavior. 

Google Instant means no one will see the same web anymore, making optimizing it virtually impossible. Real-time feedback will change and personalize people's search behaviors.

::LATER: Google is saying expect traffic fluctuations around organic keywords.

Reader Comments (216)

Linkbait is one thing, Steve, but looking like a thorough plum through lack of knowledge is another.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

I think this means that, like with most social media marketing, you have to optimize for people, not just key words. Although well optimized content still matters it just becomes a piece of a much larger puzzle.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTac Anderson

O'Doyle Rules!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStreko

I don't think SEO is dead, but as usual it will have to evolve in order to handle this new "instant" search. But there are a few things that will not change:1. You have to be logged in with your Google Account to use instant search and not everyone who searches does that or even has an account.2. The home page and Google toolbar or other search boxes are not going to do this (think iPhone Safari browser search box).It will be interesting to see how this will impact long tail queries since many people may find what they are looking for once they start entering their search term. Another interesting thing to watch out for is how it will impact the #1-2 spots in the results since they are going to be covered up by the search area. Or how it will impact Adwords placement under the search area.I am sure we'll all be smarter in a few days and in a few weeks we'll all forget that there was another way to search before this change...

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAmir @ClickFox

How about "Thinking for yourself makes Steve Rubel irrelevant"This is a pretty pathetic attempt at attention...seriously, just because results are instant doesn't mean there isn't an algorithm calculating what to show.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

from @MattCutts: "Ben of Mashable asks about SEO for Instant. Ben Gomes says: ranking stays the same. Longer-term, search behavior may change." I do think that long-term things will likely change radically which will require a new set of SEO skills

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPeter du Toit

I'm assuming you wrote this post to stir up controversy and get some linkbait. For that, brilliant. But your post is stupid, and the title is stupid, and your thoughts within the post are stupid.So ultimately the post is stupid. Nonetheless, I chuckled. Thanks

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercoreyeulas

...... and Cutts just said "Oy. Instant != death of SEO. SEO has change as a core part, and a good SEO recognizes, adapts, even flourishes with change."And I believe him :D.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercoreyeulas

I actually think this is going to help SEO. With Google's suggestions appearing, it means you have your keywords... these are the words people are more likely to select - however if they don't select these or they don't produce the results people expect, they will keep typing and in my opinion the long tail search will benefit as people will be able to elaborate their search terms faster...

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChicken Keeping Tim

Steve - Edelman isn't paying you to putz around...get back to work!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEric

Kudos on the excellent linkbait, Steve. Not so much on your conclusions, though.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterYankeerudy

Who cares about SEO.How will this affect MS and Yahoo? How fast can Bing catch up?

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenters3bastjan

Actually, we never have all seen the same results. Different data centers produced different results. Local will become more important! Also, I agree with other comments that long tail search will be even more important.Key is to provide the content and products people want and do it logically and you will still show up for the right keywords for your audience!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterrickhardman

Google instant is like that person who tries to finish your sentences: Trying to be useful, but mostly just annoying.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJody

The very idea of making SEO irrelevant is ridiculous. There will *always* be things a person can do to improve the chance of a site ranking well. In the future links might not play a part and results might be very personalized but Google will still have too look somewhere for clues.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon Laughridge

Steve - How do you envision searcher behavior changing? Guess you caught Ben Parr's question to Google engineer Ben Gomes:Per @mattcutts: "Ben of Mashable asks about SEO for Instant. Ben Gomes says: ranking stays the same. Longer-term, search behavior may change." It would be helpful for your readers if you update your post to include Google personalized search. Google's default settings have already created a world where people don't see the same search results for the same keyword or phrase.Since that change, SEO as an industry has continued to thrive. There's too much at stake for corporations to ignore ways to optimize their site.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKevin Heisler

I wouldn't be so quick to jump to conclusions, instant search is a bleeding edge technology therefore we really need time to tell if and how SEO will be influenced.A keynote, for how informative it might be, is hardly a way to get useful insights from such a specific point of view.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGabriele Maidecchi

SEO may become even more important as the time to get attention per search is reduced. Sites will want to optimize for Google auto-complete terms. (Hint, smart SEOs already do this.)The ability to target a series of queries will begin to be important from an SEO perspective.And look, mindless linkbait like this will continue, right?

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterajkohn

I don't think it kills SEO, I think it hurts long tail search and will mean even less people go beyond the first page of results, which will hurt many small businesses. It will also make SEO and PPC a lot more expensive for small businesses.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpodfigurny

I completely disagree. It makes SEO even more important.The only thing that needs to be known is how Google is determining the first keyword it displays.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFundraising Ideas

I sure hope this is linkbait, Steve, because, otherwise it's just embarrassing. There's a big difference between the search index and how results are displayed.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwow

I think "SEO" is naturally here to stay, because it's about the holistic view of market research, changing marketing techniques, and expertise. To think that it will change search forever is a bit suspect. People are naturally going to type out their searches completely for the most part anyway.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaulRWhitacre

Pure unadulterated link-bait. Here's where you lost me, so early in the post "what this means: no two people will see the same web. Once a single search would do the trick - and everyone saw the same results." Uh, checked a calendar lately? It's 2010 and no two people ever see the same results. EVER. Personal search history is a key factor in Google's quest to deliver PERSONALIZED search results. I've had this demonstrated to me time and time again since 2008. Most people not involved in SEO think we all see the same web results, but those who work, live and study SEO know that unfortunately what I see and what the executive VP in Ohio doing the same search see will be two different results.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike Allan

This has to be linkbait because no one could be so oblivious as to how this new functionality actually functions. 1) Write linkbait2) ???3) Profit!I won't even address what was already said above, but people much smarter than I have already pointed out how this not only keeps SEO alive, but it actually may promote new styles of it including ranking for incomplete words.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHagrin

Doesn't it say in there that traffic will be more directed to Key Words? Isn't that what SEO is all about? I feel like that takes a bit of power away from the people trying to Game the SEO system. Thoughts?

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlbanyInsurance

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