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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)

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

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterNathan

I have to disagree on this one. Google Instant is just an instant preview of the most relevant (SEO) results of the keywords you are typing. It's just an extra feature, but the core remains the same.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterCarlos

It's really amazing to see how the old "SEO Is Dead" link bait still works..

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJosebaU

Nice link bait, and I respect much of what you write. But even for a smart fella this is retarded.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbob

It will have an affect, but dead? pleeeaze. I thought you were above this sort of thing

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjen

Isn't that what SEO is all about? Link, link, link.....

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarista Uno

Bravo, sir. This post is complete nonsense but it's been retweeted over 1300 times already.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSergey Brin

This is the good post on the topic of SEO. Optimization of website is not an unnecessary work. In this cyber time you will leave back if you not create a network for your business. This is possible with optimized your website.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbest seo services

Ha ha. The content is total rubbish but superb and perfectly timed link bait. I salute you sir ;)

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterjbutcherseo

The blogger should be named "SEO King" of 2010!

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarista Uno

I see some people talking about optimizing for individual letters now in addition to regular words. This is not going to work. Google is making a guess when you type each letter and returning the result for the word that they guess you are going to type. They aren't returning a result for the letter by itself. This will also mean that people who target misspellings are going to probably get less traffic than they were before.There are lots of implications for SEO. It will not kill it, but merely alter the keyword focus. Keywords will become even more competitive.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKathy

Steve, you should really read up on Google Instant before you say something so stupid. If you had taken 10 seconds to read the FAQs ... you would have found this: Q:Does this change impact the ranking of search results?A:No, this change does not impact the ranking of search results. How did you think they were generating the "instant" results?? Did you think they went from their tried and true algorithm to Magic?? Seriously, next time you want to generate some content for your site ... at least put an ounce of brain power behind it first.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterScott

Instant will take seo/sem to the next level! How important is good seo after this? Real important.If your an seo, who's the majority of your clients, big business or small business? I'm going to assume small business since we all can't convince Geo rgia tech and Lowe's to hire us. Now more than ever, small businesses will need to be optimized to the gill for short tails. Maybe you done good for " Myrtle beach boat charters and fishing" now if you expect to compete, you better have "mrytle beach boat" hitting a lick.Yes, it may be tougher but, have'nt we needed a new sales pitch for a while?

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTravis Summerlin

I don't think this will kill SEO at all. What it will do is put more emphasis on "relevant content" than on "rankings." If the architecture of your client's website is strong, and the theme is clear throughout, then the right visitors will still find you.It seems to me that Google Instant is designed to help better funnel searchers into what Google thinks is relevant. Remember that 40%+ of all searches that occur on a daily basis are brand new keyword queries. It has been a struggle for Google to handle these searches in the past. Now it will be easier.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMarketing Steve

This might be a long shot... but if Google instant increases the number of impressions on my Adwords ads (and potentially lowering my clicks), does that mean my quality score could drop?

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrandon

After reading this post I realize I've been duped once again by a "click bait" headline that leads to a nonsense story that does not support the contention of the headline.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStephen Da Cambra

Hey Steve, come to think of it, aren't you the same guy that said in 2007 that the pageview was dead? And that blogging was dead? And that Wikipedia was dead?Right, I get it now... you're an idiot.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBarry Adams

I dont think this will kill SEO. For one the its yielding the same set of results for the same search term when its fully typed in. What it does do though is yield other results that that show up for the abbreviated version of your search terms before you complete them. Below is a post about seeing the results popping up as you type feels like taking to your grandmother!

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterlimeyboy

I'm with Sergey Brin, if that's really him: "Bravo, sir. This post is complete nonsense but it's been retweeted over 1300 times already." Your post is more than ill-considered but it sure did gain you some attention. 100+ comments on this one compared to 3 comments on your last post. I guess the key to being famous is to trash the livelihoods of a few thousand people who participate in social media. And, of course, to be wrong. But I also agree with the people who have said you're a smart guy. So I'll think about it for a few more minutes before dismissing this post altogether.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKirk Cheyfitz

Since SEO is just as much about tagging completed phrases as it is words, I'm not sure how Instant would make SEO irrelevant.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Yeah, I can't see this making our job any easier although, I don't want to speak too soon until I've had the chance to fully wrap my head around this. At first glance I think we all need to start by rethinking our keyword research to go after non-competitive letters instead of full keywords and phrases. For instance, if you type in c then you will see craigslist so they have already dominated but if you type in q there are far less competitive sites that offer somewhat of a chance to get an impression. Oh, and speaking of impressions... I can't wait to see what our webmaster tools are going to look like next week after all the new data is in. Impression should go through the roof while CTR dramatically drops.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZack

Sounds like you don't really know what you're talking about. Just because people can respond to feedback and change behaviours doesn't mean that people will still group think and search for certain products or items with the same words. It doesn't change the fact that if your website isn't optimized or created in a way which best puts forth the keywords you wont show up for the searches.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJay

correction: typing to quick, meant to say people wont stop group thinking, or thinking similarly about certain products or services and how they look for them. note: i havent read anyone else's comments i might just be repeating what someone said

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJay

This doesn't kill SEO at all, it make effective SEO that more more effective and important. All my clients are coming up as number 1-3 even faster. Maybe you just do black hat SEO which should be killed anyway..?

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterwerd

yep, i'd have to agree with one of the other commenters listed above. the title is more about link bait than actual truth.people have been modifying and adjusting their search results for years. over the last ten years, the average words used within the search box has increased every single year. seo is not even close to being dead. as a matter of fact, i have two clients (that i have optimized for long tail terms) that have seen a 15% increase in traffic to their respective sites this week. as for the "no two people will see the web the same" comment, it's been that way for years. between personal preferences and IP location tracking, these technologies are nothing new. google has made a strong effort to personal results for years. with respect, i'm not sure if the writer has a strong understanding of the material he's writing about.

September 9, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWendell Waldron

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