Google is usually quite good at implementing small changes to their search engine that remain unnoticeable. But Google Instant is probably one of the biggest changes made in 2010 and the switch is already on by default! So what is it?
Below is the definition given by the Adwords support forum.
[blockquote]Google Instant helps users find information faster by showing relevant results as a query is typed. As users get this immediate feedback, they’re able to refine their searches more quickly and find the results that more precisely match what they need. As a result, we expect increased user engagement with our search services, including ads.[/blockquote]
Now two things are important in the above definition. In Google’s opinon, Instant was released:
- to help users find information faster and more precisely.
- to increase user engagement with their search services, including ads.
Let’s reflect on that.
1. Helping users
I have now been using Google Instant for a few weeks like the rest of the world, but I am not convinced it helped me search more accurately. When I begin my search, I already know what I am looking for, or at least what my ‘search query’ will be. In fact, if you’ve been working on computers for a few years, you probably are a fast typer, in which case you’ll already have pressed the Enter key before the reading the Google Instant suggestions.
However, Google has been openly supporting a faster web. Fast loading times are dear to Google and sites that aren’t optimised for speed can definitely lose organic rankings or receive lower Quality Scores in Adwords.
It has been brought up that if everyone used Google Instant globally, it would save more than 3.5 billion seconds a day(!). As you can imagine, this would considerably reduce server usage, especially for a company who owns over half a million servers spread in 40-60 data centres around the world! Google may already have the largest IT carbon footprint on the planet and reducing its firepower may have become a priority. Indeed there’s a lot to gain: More sustainability and a lower electricity bill!
2. Increasing user engagement
What is an increased engagement in ads? The only way people engage with a text ad is by clicking on it. So if we understand this sentence properly, Google expects increased clicks with Google Instant.
According to Google, the impression count has changed with Instant. An impression is now counted when a user begins a query and clicks anywhere on the page (a search result, an ad, a spell correction, a related search); when the user chooses a particular query by clicking the Search button, pressing Enter, or selecting one of the predicted queries; and lastly when the user stops typing, and the results are displayed for a minimum of three seconds.
That sounds like a lot of conditions to trigger an impression. My initial thought when reading this was that the impression volumes would increase with Instant. As a result, Click-through rates would go down, Quality Scores would follow and decrease and finally average CPCs would go up.
This brings me to my 2nd conclusion to this article: Google may raise its CPCs in order to lift its own revenue. A few extra cents per click, multiplied by billions and billions of clicks annually worldwide and you’ve got yourself some extra millions to play around with. Google already broke its own record with over $20 billion in ad revenue in the first 3 quarters of 2010. Oh and by the way, over 95% of Google’s revenue comes from Adwords… Just food for thought!
[success] Conclusion 1 (less cost) + Conclusion 2 (more revenue) = My third conclusion (more profit!!) Oh and yes, Google Instant will become permanent. Wanna bet? [/success]