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How to work out what Google Instant means for your business

September 9, 2010 4 Comments

If you do your own SEO or pay per click advertising, here's how to work out what Google Instant (where Google shows results based on what you've typed so far, without having to hit the search button (NB you need to be logged into a Google account to get it to work in the UK)) means for you.

Search for your brand

Start by typing your brand name in, one letter at a time, and watch what happens. The moment anything relevant to you appears, study it and work out if it's likely to mean changes to how people interact with the search results.

If you're a small business with a distinct brand like Juzi, you'll probably be ok.

But if you have any of your keywords in your brand, or you bid on Adwords on only part of it, you might need to take action.

Keywords in your brand name

Let's say your company name is Before, you would hoover up all the traffic when anyone typed [credit card comparison] into Google as you were first (After all the paid ads, but first anyway).

Now, once the searcher gets as far as typing [credit card] a bunch of results appear for the search term [credit card deals]. This is what Google's guessing you're going to type so it shows you those results (the black text is what I'd typed - the grey text is what it thinks I will type - and what the results underneath are for.).

Credit card deals results

Credit card deals results

None of the natural results are - they're all big brands optimised for the term "credit card deals".

Many searchers who intended to search for [credit card comparison] will stop typing and just click on an advert or moneysupermarket's top natural result.

Your traffic will probably vanish as a result of this, so you'd better come up with a plan B...

There's a warning here around targeting your brand name on keywords the big boys play with. And if this happens to you, you'd better spend a lot of money on SEO /  advertising. Or change your name.

PPC advertising

There can also be problems with your pay-per-click advertising.

Imagine you want Premier Inns. (No screenshot as I can no longer get it to do this - but it did it yesterday, honest). Anyway, yesterday, once you get as far as typing [premier], the screen filled up with results, such as the Premier league. There were no natural results for Premier Inns. But at the top of all this was a PPC advert for Premier Inns.

I think this is probably unnecessary expenditure - there's no way people searching for [Premier Inns] are going to get lost at the [Premier] stage, so why bother bidding on it? They're a big company so can afford it. If you're a small business, make sure you're not paying for traffic by bidding on contractions of your name - Google Insights makes it more likely people will click on PPC ads as they see them much earlier in their typing.

Rude words in your brand

There's a filter on Google Instant to stop rude stuff appearing - if you start searching for Analytics, you don't get anal results half way through.

If your brand name has naked in, though, you won't get Google Instant results. This might look odd to searchers. You'll have the same problem if you have funbags or jubblies as part of your brand name (where do they get that rude-word filter from?!!?) Underwear is OK, though.

Your non-brand keywords

Next, type in your key keywords - those you want to rank highly for as they convert well.

Watch to see if relevant results come up on related keywords before yours.

For instance, my mums website ranked well for [St Albans offices] in traditional Google - where people had to type in their whole search term and press search:

St Albans offices - results

St Albans offices - results

And for [St Albans office] (so STOP RINGING HER UP and offering to make her number one on Google).

St Albans office - results

St Albans office - results

However, start typing those terms in and Google shows results for [St Albans office space] once you've typed as far as "St Albans office".

"]Google Instant results for [St Albans office]

Google Instant results for [St Albans office

With that search term, my mum's nowhere. Damn you Google gods.

But the results for that search term are highly relevant to [St Albans office/s]. As they are so relevant, searchers will probably just click on these.

I don't think "long tail" multi-word searches will vanish. But they may well concentrate on fewer terms. Before, where there were 7 or 8 searches of fairly equal volume / conversion around the "St Albans office" theme, now that trafic is likely to get rolled up into the "St Albans office space" searches. So all link my mum's website using the words St Albans office space.

Take care!

To use Google Instant in the UK, you have to be signed in to your Google account. This means your results are personalised - based on your search history. They're not what other people are going to see - especially if you use search as a shortcut to get to your site.

So to do these tests, set up a new Google account (and to be on the safe side, use a computer somewhere else. Maybe I'm just paranoid).

Then head for

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