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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 don't think this will kill SEO, but it may help prevent SEO trickery that usually leads you to crappy sites anyway.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRi

So long as Search Engines use a formula to derive results, people will try to optimise their sites to best meet this formula. Hence SEO.However what will hopefully change is that optimisation will focus more on quality and user satisfaction than tricks.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLiam

Steve, when are you going to respond to the many comments questioning your analysis? Your title is SVP, Director of Insights, and no one who has commented is complimenting your so-called insights.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjohn brown

The author has no idea what he is talking about. stop writing stupidity.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjeff

Hogwash, this simply changes the user experience for the better. SEO is still as important as ever.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterElla

I think this is a classic case of PR- - looks like Google has hired Edelman to drum up some blog posts from web savvy SEO enthusiasts...WAIT, is this a fake Google blog to see what the SEO's think of Google?Doesn't sound right to me...Also, how much money does Edelman spend on Google Ads every quarter? I bet they get 'em free. zINGGGG...I MEAN...Bing.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMike

"Here's what this means: no two people will see the same web...making optimizing it virtually impossible."I disagree. It makes optimizing more interesting. It changes the game -- again. It was always a game, you know! Black hat, white hat, Aliweb, Excite, Looksmart, ODP, Altavista, Inktomi, Yahoo, Google, Bing. The winners in SEO were the most clever and the most nimble.But the real winners in SEO? The ones who played to the smart rule, the rule that always works: Do well for your visitors and you will do well with the search engines. Played that way, we are benefiting our customers and the search engines' customers. So the search engines want us to win.More and more, good SEO has less to do with exploiting the search engines' machinery and more to do with content, and making content serve customers. What that means is that SEO experts have to be partners of the people in our companies who write quality content.To me, that's a good thing. It makes my job more interesting but more important, it makes my job more relevant because instead of spending resources gaming the search engines, more of my time goes to being an editor and publisher. One of my jobs is to get product managers to do what they should be doing anyway -- making technical articles, application notes, FAQs, and videos, that our customers will find interesting and educational. Search engines are almost an afterthought -- almost.May you live in interesting times!

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMoe Rubenzahl

Steve, congrats on the clever headline that gave you a lot of of traffic... but clearly you have not looked at SEO since 2001.In 2001 Google's Amit Singhal completely revamped the search algorithm to incorporate additional ranking criteria and “signals” more easily.You said "no one will see the same web anymore." Correct, but this is not new, it has been this way for many years. Google's Universal Search takes into account different signals and gave different results to users... and this was before the Twitter deal from last year that gave user real-time search.Stop to think about how Google Instant has to make predictions. It reinforces good SEO. Any company needs SEO in order to have a domain, subdomain, directory, blog, social channel, news article, stock symbol, https, local, etc rank. If they do not, a competitor with better SEO will rank.Thanks for your post, you encouraged me to start a blog to cover this topic: and share with clients the new SEO opportunities. @EveryLetterSEO

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEveryLetterSEO

I want back the two minutes it took me to read this post! I'd also like you to return the IQ points I lost for having read it. On second thought... you keep 'em! If you buy into this drivel, you obviously need 'em!The death of SEO has been shouted from various rooftops for years! Every time some major SE change is implemented, someone takes up that banner again. Normally, it seems to be a case of rushing through their analysis, or simply being jaded. Not sure what your reason is, unless, as has been said, this was nothing but linkbait.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoc Sheldon

This has to be a joke?

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentermattritter

I presume then that Edelman will stop selling the service to their clients then? You're better than this off-the-cuff need to be first out the door with a pronouncement on something new. It's better to be right than to be first. You just lost a few points...

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWilliam Foster

Although I strongly disagree with Steve Rubel I have to applaud his genius. This article is being spun and fueled across a multitude of platforms . In my opinion Steve is playing Devil's advocate a little too well. This is proof that Steve is a topnotch PR guy!! I wish I had thought of this before you did but alas you are the master of PR.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMik Pam

I think it will take a lot of time for searchers to get used to this kind of search but i don't think it can make a lot of difference because people only read once the engine stops doing its search. To me its more of a nuisance then any common sense.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSEO X2

SEO is dead. Long live SEO

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBob Morris

The instant feedback has been there quite a while. If you think this is the game changer, you missed the boat a while back. And with the suggestions, it drives more people towards the same content, rather than the other way around. Instead of guessing at terms and stumbling upon things, people will get the feedback that drives them toward the narrower scope of what -most- people are looking for. The "organic" keywords will be the existing things that people search for that have short-term relevance, which increase in traffic as they're suggested to more people. If you're already paying attention to things like Twitter's trending topics, you're already on the right track.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMerennulli

The whole ranking stuff is a golden goose for Google. So why would Google kill it?

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarista Uno

I think its going to make SEO work more challenging because in this feature people will get the results at same time when they will start typing there query on Google and the length of the keyword will be shorter, this means now we will have to optimize our websites for shorter keywords phrases, and thats not a simple job at all.It will help specially those people who dont know how to search on Google they will get there problem's solution at they same time when they are tying there query. Which will results into shorter keywords phrases and faster results. There is nothing to worry about SEO Jobs because now everybody will try to focus more on small keywords, that will require more and more SEO efforts then before.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterManoj Salwani

Am not sure if Google Instant will make SEO irrelevant but am sure its going to be a whoel new challenge for SEO'ers.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterShubert

It's basically a spell-checker to speed up the search, it seems to me. I don't think it would change, at least not drastically, the data generation process.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarista Uno

If you push on a door and it doesn't open, you might first check that you there isn't a big 'pull' sign.Great way of generating some buzz and comment juice for your article but in reality SEO has always, and will always, evolved to deal with whatever 'innovative bit of genius' Google chucks at it.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKate Toon

So we all know that SEO for google is becoming wayy way too generalized for the average person. I honestly believe that niche searches or more targeted markets will become more popular especially with these concepts " " targeting facebook using clickbank and such for their advertising and $ making.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathanEberly

I'm not entirely sure that this is an opportunity to optimise any differently as Brett put earlier. Quote: 'We can now rank for 'letters' instead of just words. It opens the door to a whole new type of optimization.'The new search simply returns the most popular match for the letters you have typed so far. For example, if i just search normally for 'cruise' my search result starts with avwell known cruise company as expected. If i use Google instant search when i get to 'crui' it has already delivered that exact same well known cruise site - however... if i simply search for 'crui' and hit enter, i get completely different results beginning with some italian site Crui. This new method seems to work on the basis of the prediction rather than what you have literally typed.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarla Prosser

Google instant will presonalise search results..? Still not sure how. And when it comes to death of SEO. plz. Not so soon :) Its just a beginning of a new game.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaniel

Lots of controversy here. This is causing a real buzz in the SEO community. Not sure what the impact will be yet but have written up my thoughts here:

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSEO Training

why getting worried? you can still find out the most searched terms no matter what, this is not dynamic SERPS, results just change in real time according to the keyword you much hype for nothing :)

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commentersemwired

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