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Will Google Instant affect the search business?

By Kapil Ohri , afaqs!, New Delhi | In Digital | September 14, 2010
The new search service unveiled by Google could have serious ramifications on the search engine optimisation (SEO) business as compared to search advertising

Last week, Google announced its new search service called Google Instant. Compared to the existing search process on Google - which suggests search terms and displays search results only after the user clicks on the 'Google Search' button or presses the 'Enter' key, the 'Instant' version not only suggests search terms but also displays search results as soon as the user begins to type or key in words in the search bar.

This implies that a user will start getting the results even before he finishes typing his full search term or presses the 'Google Search/Enter' key. The Google (Instant) search bar will display the prediction or suggestion of keywords, while the corresponding search results will be presented below the search bar.

For instance, if a user enters the key word 'coc', Google Instant will suggest words like 'Coca-Cola', 'coco', 'coconut' and 'coconut water' and simultaneously show search results for 'Coca-Cola'. Now, if the user adds the character 'k' to 'coc', the search suggestions and results displayed below the search bar will change instantly. In the case of 'cock', it shows results related to cocktails.

Similar to search results, the search ads served via Google AdWords programme on the right side or top of the search results page as sponsored links, will also begin to appear as the user keys in keywords, even before the user finishes or enters the complete search term. Thus, a user will get to see different and more search ads during the search process on Google Instant.

For the same example mentioned above, the user will see an ad titled, 'Employment in Coca-Cola' when he keys in 'coc' and as soon as he adds the character 'k', he will get to see an ad titled 'Designer Cocktail dresses'.

To begin with, Google Instant services will be available in a few markets such as the US, the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Russia. In India, the service is expected to be launched after some time. Till then, Indian users can experience it through Google.com, instead of Google.co.in.

Though Google has clarified in its blog that there will be no impact of 'Instant' search on the ranking of search results, yet many digital experts believe that the new search system will mostly affect the websites which depend on the search engine for traffic.

"In the US, various websites have already started reporting fluctuations in their traffic figures," claims Milind Mody, chief executive officer, eBrandz, a search marketing company based in Mumbai, which has offices in the US as well.

He adds, "Google Instant search will have more impact on the organic search business (search engine optimisation) as compared to the paid search (search advertising using Google AdWords programme)."

Elaborating how the search optimisation business can get affected, Bhaskar Thakur, co-founder and chief executive officer, RankUno Interactive (a Pune based search marketing agency), says, "Earlier, the focus was on choosing the right set of keywords to make search engine optimisation (SEO) effective. However, from now onwards, the relevance of each word of a search term will become important and search agencies/advertisers will be required to focus on the order of keywords of a search term."

He adds that search for terms such as 'Delhi five star hotels' and 'five star hotels in Delhi' could predict different results while the search process is on - based on the order of keywords. However, in the earlier Google search system, both keywords/search terms were treated equally.

Clarifying it further, Mahesh Murthy, co-founder and chief executive officer, Pinstorm, says, "The challenge for search agencies/advertisers will be to optimise and create content/pages related to each word for a long tail search term."

Will Google Instant affect the paid search business? Murthy says, "The keywords selection process for AdWords based advertising will become more strategic and advertisers will have to expand or increase the number of 'ad groups'." An ad group represents a grouping or collection of keywords for which a search ad is being served. Thus, the advertiser will end up buying more keywords.

Thakur believes that the Google Instant search system is actually an opportunity for advertisers. "Search ads will be displayed even before the search process is over, so there could be more opportunity for companies/brands to serve their search ads in advance, even before the search process ends," he says.

However, brands serving ads on search will need to be careful as the system may count impression even for searches which may not be apt, says a search marketing expert.

For the record, Google Instant is not available on mobile phones as yet.

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