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« New Twitter Shifts the Car from Neutral into Drive | Main | September 18 is National Offlining Day »

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)

I am pretty surprised. The majority thinks it improves search quality. I don't. First: It supports big brands, thus small ones lose. Second: GI and old-fashioned searches don't show the same SERP. Sometimes it differs like black and white does.My third point is – maybe – irrelevant for the US market, but German language has a lot of words that are combinations from other words. So if a user searches he'll get displayed results that have nothing to do with his search term.Last – I think GI doesn't increase quality or comfort. Faster and more results tempt users to look more often at more results. They have to make a whole lot more decisions and must judge plenty more results/websites.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSebastian

Yet another: This will make SEO irrelevant misinformed rant. I want my 1.5 minutes back. The person who linked to this on my twitter will now be "unfollowed" due to lack of sarcasm when tweeting this link.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenteroggy

Utter drivel. I can tell this has been written from the point of view of a PR firm! I hope your PR advice is better than your digital marketing advice otherwise your clients are in really trouble!!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaul

Question is how does this impact the CTR's of PPC Ads. Natural eyepath starts at the top and goes down thru organic. The "suggestion query drop down" will cover up the top paid spots and auto adjusts, creating more refined results, while churning through PPC Ads, driving down CTRs and Quality Scores, while increasing cost per click. I agree with Brett, from an SEO Standpoint - this is a gold mind as it gives the longtail even more visibility. Regardless - people will still being their search with the same head search terms. In the end - the impact on PPC will determine if this is a Go/No-Go. Google Instant could be sitting next to Google SearchWiki, Video, & Answers before the end of the year.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterseo austin

I totally disagree with you Steve. This will make SEO more important than ever. Websites will probably spend insane amount of money on SEO to rank for the exact term AND the short version of those terms to appear first every step of the way.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJean-Francois Monfette

What a ridiculous post. This hasn't changed a thing, so what if Google offers a greyed out prediction of the word, it doesn't stop SEO in any way shape or form as sites will still be optimised for keywords and content. Very poor.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Harrison

I disagree with the premise that this change will eliminate the need for SEO. This just puts Google in a better position to compete with Social Media and it's instant updates. It enhances SEO efforts since we can have an impact much sooner with content through real time efforts - with and without social media. It's all good!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLisa Isbell

I think you're confusing search suggestions with search results. Now if my search results learn from my click history and mouse movement then that would augment SEO drastically. Search suggestions are just getting me to search results faster. Google changing search suggestions in real-time to reflect organic search traffic only slightly augments the searcher from going to one result over another.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDamien Basile

I don't like this new invention.......I hate this new search option, let's keep it the way it was..

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAanmelden zoekmachine

This post is so "out there" it has to be some a attempt at link baiting. The reasoning and "proof" provided hold no validity and I have to imagine this is just meant to stir up conversation and debate and as a result traffic. Well done.

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Deede

I agree with some of your points but you are missing a lot which we have covered here if you are interested:

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Symonds

IMHO, Anything that puts SEO scammers in the bread lines can't happen soon enough. Bye bye!

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered Commentercough

Google instant is not the death of SEO, but def disrupts and changes the game. Plus changes KPIs and metrics. Check out

September 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobGonda

So SEO's are joking about being expected to rank for letters of the alphabet. Hilarious.But shouldn't we be concerned that Google is actually ranking (providing suggested pages) for individual letters? Based on what exactly? Google's going to psychically divine what I'm looking for based on a single typed letter? Even accounting for personalized search, this is ridiculous. What it will do is expose all of us to more advertising, and more irrelevant pages. Not a huuuge deal in itself, but these random, or not so random 'suggestions', have influence on overall positioning. Online popularity begets online popularity (whether or not it's deserved), and so the big guys get another leg up.Good for their own bottom line to be sure - but how about the rest of us?

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJill

Some interesting points but if anything I'd say that Google has cut its long tail off to create more work for SEO's :-)

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Rayner

No matter what change Google make to their search, someone will always say they've killed SEO. Clever SEO's don't see changes like this, they see it as an opportunity.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex

nice linkbait

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFrederik Trovatten

In my opinion, the truth of this situation extends far beyond, and frankly, in the opposite direction of your prediction. As a provider of SEO, I can safely say that this change has the potential to greatly assist Organic listings. And this really has nothing to do with changing the style or structure of optimization. Obviously, changes will need to be adopted, but the extremity of these changes is questionable.Google maintains its strength as the primary search provider through two key ideas. The first is to offer an easy-to-use, clean interface so that browsers can find what they're looking for with little hassle or worry. The second, and possibly the more important, is Google's commitment to optimizing their search results to only produce high quality options. Realistically, how often do you search for something on Google and go past the first two or three websites to find what you wanted? It doesn't happen often, and that's because Google takes such immense pride in only showing you what has proven to be useful.So I see no end to SEO in our future. If anything, I see a field of possibility. With well constructed websites full of high-quality information, it's possible that people running SEO campaigns will actually pop up faster and more frequently than they would have with targeted keyword searches. This could really revolutionize browsing for everyone, and make SEO an even more important aspect of your Search Marketing budget.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCityVoice

I think your a bit off friend ... if all your focused on is keyword targeting SEO may be dead in your eyes. But if you focus on the three core elements of modern day SEO (Indexablity, Content Development and Content Promotion) then it's very much alive and well. You need to ensure Google can find and crawl you site. Then you need to create content that resonates with topics people are searching for. And lastly you need to promote that content so Google's algo's trust it's value for their users. How do these three things change by the way they display results. Or is SEO dead because now your ranking reports aren't accurate??? Guess your just going to have to use the data in webmaster tools, or rely on analytics for success metrics ... something that most of us have been doing for a while. Ranking reports are dead, not SEO! Ryan Adami

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Adami

SEO is fake. Take this example definition of 'modern SEO' from above:"Indexablity, Content Development and Content Promotion"Indexability: This is a direct result of web development to standards.Content Development - This is the direct result of copywriting.Content Promotion - This is the direct result of marketing.So, in essence, SEO is just any old interactive agency doing its job.I can't think of an actual SEO job for anyone to do that isn't already being done by someone else in your average agency (except to milk money from gullible clients, i suppose.)

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlettertwo

Hi, my name is Steve. I'm a stupid idiot.Sincerely,Steve Rubel

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

In my mind, Google Instant has cut off the long tail. Branding is king once more, as branded search (and implicitly, brand recognition) will be more important than ever.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterChris Fowler

Steve,This Google Instant thing is going to make Google more powerful and Search Engine Optimizers helpless.The Refined-Predication-based-search (I gave this name) is simply ignoring the original results and focuses on Long Tails.Here is my piece on Google Instant

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnkit

I guess it's time for everyone to throw in the towel. I'll stay behind and make sure everyone gets out okay.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSean R

Steve ... your and idiot .. did you even try this before you commented? Do you even read what you type? Man, you build lots of faith for your Director ability for Edelman Digital. People like you are what stunt SEO ability.... Keep building those walls dude .. I will gladly take visitors from you.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDave

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