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Google's new feature calls for SEO strategy shift

Once again, Google has moved the proverbial goal post by announcing its newest search engine feature, Google Instant. And website owners will need to get very savvy with their search engine optimization if they want to score.
What is It? Google Instant displays search results as you type, in real time, making searches more interactive and immediate. As you type, Google Instant updates search results, instantly.


Why the change? Google hopes this new feature will accomplish three things:

  • Create faster search results by displaying results in real time. Google estimates users can save two to five seconds per search. That adds up to more than 3.5 billion seconds per day, and more than 21 billion hours per year.
  • Deliver smarter results. Google Instant predicts results before you've even finished typing your original query. You can refine your search quickly by choosing one of the predictions.
  • Provide instant results. Before Google Instant, users would have to type in an entire search request,
    click "return" and choose from results. Now you can
    choose one of the predicted results right away.

To illustrate how Google Instant works, let's try searching for an apartment in Portland, Oregon. As you watch this video, you’ll see the results change as additional terms are added to the search.

Tuning Your SEO to Google Instant

Google and other search engines display the title of a web page in bold text in their search results. With Google Instant, any person scanning search results will be seeing more of them displayed for shorter periods of time. That means your page titles will have to be more compelling than ever. Not only do you need to attract the searcher to your listing, you'll want them to commit to the search query while they're still typing.

You probably already use Google's AdWords keyword tool to choose relevant keywords for your website - keywords that people are actually using to find what you're selling.

Using Google Instant results to refine your keyword search is a great idea. Do a search for what you're promoting on your website to see which "long-tail" keywords Google Instant suggests. Long-tail keywords are niche keywords, and are less competitive than broader, "short-tail" keywords. Short-tail keywords are searched more often, but it's hard to rank well for them - there's just too much competition.

In our apartment search example, a short-tail keyword might be “Apartments.” That's a keyword many people are searching for, and one that lots of website owners are working hard to rank well for.

A long-tail keyword phrase would be “Apartments in Northwest Portland.” The more general "Apartments" will produce more search results, but if that's all you have in your title, your web page could get lost amongst the competition. It’s important to consider which long-tail keyword phrases Google will favor when you're crafting your keyword strategy. They'll be both more specific to what you're offering, and easier to target for good search rankings.

Once you've determined which long-tail keywords are best for your website, make sure you use them on the relevant pages on your site. For example, if you advertise Northwest Portland apartments on one page of your website, and "Apartments NW Portland" pops up in Google Instant, you might consider using that keyword phrase for the title of your Northwest Portland apartments page.

Google Instant and Pay-Per-Click Advertising

If you're running pay-per-click advertising campaigns with Google, the new instant search results could have an impact on your ad costs.

Google AdWords costs are based in part on how many impressions your ad receives - that is, how many times your ad is viewed against search results.

Google will count an ad's appearance as an impression any time a searcher chooses a specific query, or whenever someone stops typing and results are displayed for at least three seconds. Now that Google Instant displays so many iterations of results and ads in a single search, your ad could easily get a lot more impressions. But these impressions are pretty fleeting, and could be displayed to people who aren't looking for your product.

Because the number of impressions relative to how many times people click on your ad helps determine cost, it's quite possible your ad costs will rise. That underlines the importance of advertising against the right keywords to start with. It also means you need to write compelling ad copy, just as you need compelling page titles in the new Google Instant world.

You can use the free AboutUs Website Visibility Report to check how search engines see and display the title of your home page, and how they're seeing its keywords. Just enter your website's name in the search bar on AboutUs.org, and check out the audit on your website's page.

Don't Worry, Be Relevant

The bottom line is, most of your SEO strategies that have been working for you will continue to work. Companies that provide good, relevant content on their websites and earn their visitors' trust over time will still win attention, links, traffic and personal referrals.

Learning to do SEO and online marketing well means embracing the changes, and learning the new techniques that will help you succeed. With time and experience, that learning gets a little bit easier, and your skills will get better.

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