Google Instant: More of the Same

Reprinted with permission from the blog archives.
By: Dane Christensen

A lot has been written about Google Instant since it was released a couple months ago, so I may be a little late in adding my two cents. On the other hand, I have the benefit of having absorbed all the thoughts and experiences of those who have used it so far. So here is my well-considered, non-reactive take on the impact of Google Instant for both search engine optimization (SEO) and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising. Actually, since they’re both big topics, I’ll break this up into a two-part post.

First, let’s do a brief review to summarize the collective analysis to date. Because Google now displays organic and paid search results immediately after the first words you type, those results are naturally going to be weighted toward your own personal history and the most popular terms. Many have theorized that this will naturally drive clicks toward those sites that achieve top positions for the relatively few “fat head” keywords, while sites that achieve lower rankings (even on the first page) or rankings for “long-tail” keywords will see their Google traffic decline.

But while some have argued that this shift will diminish the importance of SEO, I contend that it will makeSEO even more critical. Only now it won’t do to just be in the game. You have to win, or die.

The thing that too many SEO practitioners fail to consider is Google’s unwavering focus on making search more useful for searchers, not for SEO specialists. By providing the most relevant andpersonalized results faster, Google has allowed end-users to avoid a lot of the confusion they experience when perusing long search result sets.

Now this is a more subtle thing, but Google is really pushing humanity to organically create a kind of classification system for the world’s knowledge. Instead of asking for things in a million different ways, people are gradually, inexorably learning that there are standard phrases related to the concept they’re searching on. Whoda thunk it? The search engine is morphing into a directory!

And that’s a good thing. People need ways to filter out the noise and zero in on what they want. Assearch marketing professionals, we all need to accept the fact that “the tail” is getting shorter all the time as Google Suggest and Google Instant help people focus on actual “key” words.

So how do we up our game now that getting a top 20 ranking just isn’t good enough? Well, as Google has made very clear, the underlying algorithm for determining search results hasn’t changed. So it isn’t that you need to do anything different. You just have to do it more and better. So what do you do?

You write. Figure out what those few keyword phrases are that your target audience is learning to search on and write page copy and blog posts that incorporate those exact key phrases liberally, within the bounds of keyword density.

You write quality content. Produce the kind of content that other people link to because you are adding value and reflecting well on the sites that link to you. The page rank formula still weights incoming links from high quality sites heavily in determining your position. You can try to fake it, but there is no substitute for clear, concise and compelling content.

You write quality content frequently. Google is just like all of us in that it likes the latest thing. Google places a lot of stock in websites that maintain a steady flow of updated content. That’s why it loves blogs so much. In general, the latest information tends to be the most relevant. And think about it, aren’t you a little irritated when you do a search and find posts from four years ago? Google doesn’t want to post results from four years ago. You just have to give the search engine something more current to index.

You push your quality content into the social sphere. You need lots of incoming links, and the fastest way to get that done is by getting people liking, digging, tweeting, and stumbling upon your content all over the place. Of course, the more familiar people are with you and your work, the more likely they are to associate themselves with you through their social network. And that comes back to you producing constant quality content.

Sound like a lot of work? Well, no one ever said getting top-three search engine results was easy. (Well, some people say that, but they lie!) It requires a significant investment in time and energy, but now as searchers zero in on those top results, the rewards of achieving a top-three position are greater than ever.

In the next installment, I’ll discuss the significance of this new dynamic on PPC advertising in AdWords.